Tag Archives: women in engineering

Volunteer Service: What Makes Sense?

Volunteer

For many of us volunteer service, whether it’s for a nonprofit or a professional or civic association, is a natural evolution of our professional career and personal passions.  If you’re good at what you do (and I suspect you are!) you may have many opportunities to serve.  How do you choose?  Here’s the process I use, in this order.

Is it in your company’s best interest?  If this opportunity furthers your company’s visibility and credibility and fits the corporate culture, then this is probably a yes.  The benefit doesn’t have to be direct (lead to business) so don’t focus solely on that.  Start first with company fit as there is very little volunteer service that doesn’t impact job hours.  Unless you’re the CEO, you’ll usually want to get a higher-up’s buy in.

Does it speak to you personally?  Ideally, the closer it aligns with your passions the more rewarding, and successful, your experience will be.  Service, of any kind, must be genuine.  A few years ago, I joined a small non-profit board because a trusted colleague asked and because I thought I could help, not because of any passion for the work.  My service lasted one year, with little reward and not much effective service.  Don’t waste their time or yours unless you have great interest.

Can I commit the time and effort for what they need?  First, get a clear picture of what this is.  There’s a great article that my colleague Jeff Jowdy wrote that outlines some solid questions.  Ask these and any that help define your obligations.  And, this is important, if you can’t commit, DON’T DO IT.  Recently I was given an incredible opportunity to serve my profession on their state licensing board.  It passed the first two questions with flying colors yet it was clear to me I did not have the time.  I made the tough decision to resign from another commitment (finding a replacement first so as not to leave a hole).  This was truly a tough choice but doing otherwise would have been a misstep.

This is my process.  Do you have any other questions you ask yourself when called on to serve?  Let HerSavvy know!

About Laura Reinbold, PE

Ms. Reinbold explores ways shecan help build our communities, from the geoprofessional side of the engineering profession.

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Biting the Elephant

I love project management: Planning towards a defined goal using the budget, schedule and resources available.  And I’m good at it.  People have always complimented me on my ability to get things done.  For me, it’s not rocket science.  In fact, it’s not that difficult.  I call it “Biting the Elephant.”

Elephant

When faced with a large project or personal mountain ahead of me, from winning a large geoprofessional job to planning a conference, I break it down into manageable tasks.  Simply, I make a plan.

The more I plan, I find, the easier it is to “git ‘er done.”  Frankly, the plan may change (and usually does) but that’s not important.  Wrapping my brain around what steps it takes to succeed gets me halfway there.  Then, I just have to do it or pull in the resources needed for what I can’t accomplish.  That’s called follow-through and it’s critical to Biting the Elephant.  Great plans are wonderful but they mean nothing without action.  Like Nike:  Just Do It.

So, when faced with what seems like an insurmountable task, take a breath, make a plan, see it through and enjoy seeing your hard work realized.

About Laura Reinbold, PE

Ms. Reinbold explores ways http://www.ttlusa.com can help build our communities, from the geoprofessional side of the engineering profession.

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please… Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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The Simplest, and Best, Career Advice I’ve Got

Advice

How often are you asked for advice by those in your profession who are just starting out?  I get that a fair amount, more so from women because I am in the traditionally male-dominated field of engineering.  When asked (and, even when I’m not on those occasions when I think it might be useful!) I offer the following three-step advice:

  1. Know what you want.
  2. Earn it.

And…. Wait for this…

  1. Ask for it.

In my experience, it’s that third step that just doesn’t happen.  Most people, women more often than men I’m afraid, think that if they work hard and earn their achievements, advancement will naturally follow.  Wrong! But it’s not necessarily because you don’t deserve it.  Nine times out of ten, whoever is in the position to make this decision simply hasn’t thought about it.  Yet, by asking and making a respectful, well thought-out case for yourself, you might give them just what they need to move forward.

Just remember: You have to EARN it first.  Once you’ve earned it, go for it!

Oh, and what happens if you are told, “No?” In my experience, even if your proposal gets a “No,” it was usually given respectful consideration and, as a result, some other opportunity will arise, because good employers really don’t want to tell good employees, “No.”  The new opportunity might not be what you had envisioned, but take the opportunity, perform well as you always do, wait for the next opportunity, and ask.

Don’t believe me?  Here’s one top leader’s account.

About Laura Reinbold, PE

Ms. Reinbold explores ways http://www.ttlusa.com can help build our communities, from the geoprofessional side of the engineering profession.

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please… Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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Working the Room

Group

I do a lot of networking.  Not just a little, I do a LOT.  My job is to connect the dots between our company and our clients so that we can literally help build our communities.  To do that I rub elbows with a lot of industry colleagues, every week.  Because of this, you’d imagine that it comes naturally for me to “work a room.”  You know what working a room is: navigating a networking event (think cocktail party for business) and connecting with colleagues or even perfect strangers in a meaningful way.  Well, I’ll tell you a secret.  I used to be horrible at it.  I was the one huddled on the sidelines with the one or two other people I knew, awkward and (I was certain) obvious.

But I had to learn and, like any good engineer, I came up with a tool belt of techniques that turns networking from awkward into awesome:

  1. Before going to the event make a goal. It might be “Meet three new people and find out what they love to do”; or (having asked for the guest list ahead of time, which is often available from the organizers) “Connect with Jane Doe, John Smith, and Gordon Dalrymple.”  And (this is important) once you’ve substantially met your goal give yourself permission to leave.  That takes a LOT of pressure off.
  2. A valued colleague, who tends to get scared when entering a room full of strangers shared this tip: If you’re scared you tend to breathe shallowly and give off the “I’m not really approachable” vibe.  The first step when entering a function?  Breathe deeply.  It will change that vibe and change your whole experience!
  3. When entering the event, do NOT stop after coming through the front door. Walk, with purpose through the group towards the other end of the room.  While walking, scan the crowd for people you’d like to talk with and discern how you’ll join groups.  Often, there’s a bar or food table in the back of any event, so walking through is natural.  Believe me, it is a lot less obvious than standing stock still at the front door.  Extra tip: note those who are standing alone; they would probably be grateful if you introduce yourself!
  4. When joining a group enter across from someone you know or who looks nice enough to let you in. This way they will see you and can work to include you in the group.
  5. Unless you are best friends with all those in the group, extend your hand, make eye contact and introduce yourself by name: “I’m Laura Reinbold, it’s a pleasure to see you.” Especially if you aren’t wearing a name tag! Even acquaintances forget your name in the fray and those around will remember you better.
  6. Have some small talk questions ready and a story or two. A current event works great:  the latest sporting exploit; industry accomplishment in the community; or something relevant to the event itself.  One question that works well is “How are you connected to (this event) (the hosts)?”
  7. While food and beverages are usually abundant, resist eating too much or, worse, over indulging. It’s hard to walk around balancing a plate of food and a wine glass, and still talk professionally.  Choose one at a time. And having that second or third glass of free wine might be economical but it might not serve you well, conversationally.  Nurse that cabernet.
  8. When it’s time to go, or leave a group of colleagues, simply say “It was lovely to see you; I hope you enjoy the rest of your evening.” No need for long explanations — everyone is there to move around.
  9. Lastly, relax and be yourself. The more relaxed and comfortable you are, the more you will make others feel comfortable and THAT will make a great impression!

About Laura Reinbold, PE

Ms. Reinbold explores ways http://www.ttlusa.com can help build our communities, from the geoprofessional side of the engineering profession.

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Step Up To the Table

Meeting Room

Being a woman executive in the engineering profession is still a novelty. It shouldn’t be, but it is. I’m often the only woman in the board room, in the leadership team meeting, or on the advisory board. Sometimes I’m even the first woman to have been around those tables.

Last year, Governor Haslam appointed me to the Architects and Engineer’s Licensing Board. In the 100 or so years of its existence, I am the first woman engineer or architect to have been appointed. Now, you cannot tell me that in the past 100 years there has not been a qualified female architect or engineer worthy of this appointment. Many are WAY more qualified than I will ever be. And before you go blaming past Governors or the influence of men in our profession, let me tell you what I found out. Those asked to suggest nominees for this appointment have been asked before to put forth qualified women’s names, they simply couldn’t find any women willing to commit to the service. That’s what I learned. Now, perhaps they didn’t look hard enough, or ask the right women, but nonetheless, they were told, ” No.”

If you’ve read Sheryl Sandburg’s book Lean In, this propensity for women to say no won’t surprise you. Women often undervalue their qualifications; many believe that if they aren’t 100% qualified for an opportunity, they should not accept it. Men, on the other hand, believe that if they bring over half the skills necessary to the task, they’ll pick up the rest of it OTJ and thrive in the position. This plays out over and over in job searches, promotions, even asking for raises: Women are consistently less likely to put themselves forward for consideration than equally qualified men.

This self-limiting behavior has got to change, ladies. We need you to look for opportunities to step into those leadership roles that you’ve every right to pursue. The young ladies who follow in your footsteps need you to; the men who will prosper from having your expertise at their tables need you to; and I need you to. I want more women at my tables!

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Leap?

Woman-leapingI work in a profession where we strive for certainty. As engineers, public health, safety, and welfare is in our hands; it is what we promise to protect when we get our licenses. We need to know we’re making the right decisions. Technically. This has made us a people who are cautious, and rightly so, about forward movement.

However, we are also business people, faced day-to-day with decisions where there is no proof in the moment that the path we choose will be the right one. Where even past experience doesn’t give us the reassurance we need to know we’ll get the outcome we need. Things like striving to capture a new market sector, hiring an outside PR team when we’ve never done THAT before, making an investment in technology that might improve our efficiency. Not public health, safety and welfare issues, perhaps. But, decisions important to succeeding in business.

That’s when I pull out my favorite saying: “Leap and the net will appear.” When you’ve pulled together enough information, ruminated it in your experienced mind, vetted it with trusted colleagues….sometimes you just have to go ahead and act. Even without certainty, even without knowing. Even if….it might not work.

The trick is to know when it’s ok to leap….and leaping.

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