When I first encountered the engineering world, I thought it was exclusively a man’s job. I wondered if I could do it. Soon after, I realized I was just like them, and anybody could do the work.
Here’s how I figured it out.
Out with the Insecurities
You might be here because you find working in a male dominated field a huge challenge. Don’t feel discouraged. Read this to make your journey less complicated and more fun.
The only real limitation you have is in your mind. No one can tell you what you can or cannot do, so stop thinking you can’t do things.
Get rid of this insecurity first.
Realizing You Are on the Wrong Path
It’s normal to feel like you don’t belong or that this engineering thing is not for you. There might be some sort of uneasiness if you’re not sure what you want to do.
I once felt the same way. I used to be an accountant. I was always lacking the motivation to push forward and had many problems doing the job. I ultimately don’t regret it, it was an experience that made me gain knowledge.
I am grateful in that it taught me I had chosen the wrong path.
My first old PC at work on a very small table
If you’re at an earlier stage of your life find a mentor, ask him or her to orient you. Take the experience to heart so you can make a great decision.
And it’s not only for people just starting. Here is something I learned when I was 25 and finally decided to pursue life as an engineer.
Figuring Out I Was an Engineer All Along
Ever since I was a kid I felt the need to fix things. If anything was broken at home I would happily tend to it right away to get it up and running. When someone talks about tech, be it devices, computers or cables, I’ll be the first to jump into the conversation.
As I was realizing my love for engineering I discovered my YouTube history was full of videos about techie stuff and fixing things. Software was the first branch of engineering that popped into my mind when I finally decided to make the jump.
Does any of this ring a bell? If you have similar interests this might be the best moment to pursue the career you really want.
Not being particularly good at it isn’t as bad as you might think. Be confident that you’ll get there soon enough.
Once You Are in the Engineering World
If your mind is made up it’s time to stay strong. Many will comment on your decisions.
Do not fall prey to ill-intentioned comments.
Some people might feel threatened by your presence in a space they feel belongs only to them. Show them with hard work and a kind attitude that you are there to succeed and help them succeed, not to take their job.
In this process not every comment will be easy to digest. Here are some examples of this,
- This is a man’s job.
- Are you really going to carry heavy computer parts?
- Women are not smart enough to be engineers. That’s why there’s so few of them.
- Are you a lesbian?
- You only came so far because others have pitied you and helped you pull through.
Let them have their say and carry on.
Do not be discouraged. Don’t have second thoughts. And remember that anyone can learn anything. Particularly you!
The Road is Long but Fun
As you carry on you might encounter a whole different set of situations,
- Closed-minded teachers and coworkers
- Bare with it, there is nothing to be gained from arguing with people who aren’t really listening to what you have to say.
- Having to work twice as hard
- You might have to work harder to prove your worth. You will be rewarded though, the more you do the more knowledge you gain.
- No trust from your peers
- You will gain confidence from your hard work, but that might not be enough to earn your peers’ trust. Keep at it. The better you get, the less people will doubt you.
- Getting only “menial” duties
- Do not be discouraged if at first you are assigned the “lesser” duties. Whatever you get, take it to the next level. For example, during my internship other women and I were assigned to documentation at first. This was perceived as the “safe” job for us, girls. We did a great job of it and learned a ton in the process.
- Take risks and make every task your own.
Along the way, I made a lot of friends. Did a bunch of things I never dreamt of doing. Participated in conferences. And, finally, it got to the point where others were asking me about women engineers.
Hang Five and Learn to Ride the Tide
I didn’t realize until I was a working engineer that other people were giving me the hardest time of my life and annoying me on purpose. But from my perspective, they were really making me go to the limit and push on harder to be the very best version of me.
I should thank them greatly, because, I ended up better prepared than most of them. Hard work really pays off!
One of my coworkers, he is now convinced that women are awesome engineers
After five years in school and a plethora of mid-range jobs, I learned,
- To love pushing harder to achieve greater goals
- To be more passionate about my choices
- Working hard gives you twice the reward
- No matter how small you feel, there is a lot you can do and change
What to Do?
If you are still trying to figure out which way to go, try this,
- Think about what you loved as a childhood or as a teenager.
- Think of what you like to do in your free time.
- Talk to somebody who already works as an engineer.
- Research the field and try to figure out if people the field are happy doing it.
The answer might not be simple. But if it spark your curiosity, then stay with it and learn more.
Do It and Do It Well
Once you decide you want to become an engineer, give it your all.
Put in twice or triple the effort. Whether or not you get recognized for it, you’ll learn a lot and will end up ahead of the game.
There’s always something new to learn, tech advances, new projects, all opportunities to become a better professional.
Be a Mentor
At some point, you will be able to inspire the younger folks who come up behind you to pursue engineering. Always share your knowledge.
Be a mentor to someone.
This are some of my classmates and friends, i’m very proud to have share so many years working a side with these two ladies that made it all the way to graduation.
The women in the picture above are successful engineers working in different fields. As you can see, it’s possible. By the way, they are very happy, and you will be too.
And Finally …
You will encounter many obstacles from people who will judge you and try to convince you you not to follow your dreams.
Don’t listen to their excuses, DO IT!
You’ll never really know if it’s for you if you haven’t tried it. In the end, it’s all about you, not them.