Introduction and My "Why" for this Blog Series.
If you’ve made it to this page, I’d like to welcome you with open arms and thank you. I could not have made this possible without you.
If you don’t already know who I am, I’ll give you a quick summary. My name is Michelle and I am many things - a daughter, a sister, a runner, a photographer, a painter, a friend, a beach lover - I could go on forever. I have many identities. And up until very recently, I did not realize that I could be more than one thing. For the last 10 years, I defined who I was as one thing and one thing only: a civil engineer.
Back in 2008 when I enrolled at UMass to pursue an undergraduate degree in civil engineering, I was determined and all in. And when I say all in, I mean ALL IN. I surrounded myself with engineers, talked about engineering most of the time, and became wrapped up in graduating top of my class with a degree that was going to have me set for the rest of my life and would ultimately, make me feel happy and successful. And I was happy and felt successful for a while! I exposed myself to so many different and amazing opportunities. I was able to land a job right out of college and pay off my student debt within a year and a half after graduating. I learned all that I could from one company to another and worked under a handful of extremely intelligent and successful mentors. I moved up in the ranks and eventually got my P.E. license and made more money at my age than most people do at 27.
Then, in 2017 I had a break down. I felt lost and didn’t understand why I was so unhappy. After a lot of self-reflection and several Ben & Jerry’s pints later, I realized that I was denying who I was outside of my occupation. All of the years leading up to this moment were spent solely focused on my ego and its attachment to my success as a female civil engineer. I couldn’t blame myself for this though. Every time someone asked me what I did for work and I responded with “I’m an engineer,” their eyes would light up and they would almost always express how impressed they were. It made me feel as if I was on top of the world and that I had an obligation to continue with this endeavor. But it also led me to neglect the other amazing parts of myself, and ultimately, made me feel like I didn’t know who I was.
In order for me to jump over this new hurdle, I decided to take a leap of faith and try new things. I finally began to discover what made me happy outside of my job, and it ended up leading me to Vision Balm. For the first time in a long time, I feel more balanced and at peace with myself than I ever have. Now when people ask me what I do for work, I tell them that I’m a photographer and a civil engineer. I still get more praise for being an engineer, but at least now I can finally admit that I am exploring other options and it’s okay.
Now, the entire point of this post and blog series is not to bash engineering. That’s not my intention at all. In fact, I still work part-time as an engineer. The only difference now is that I am able to maintain a healthier balance in my life and uncover the other parts of myself that make me who I am. My overall intention is to dive a little deeper and raise awareness among other females who are dealing with the same issues. Being a strong woman does not mean that we have to solely identify ourselves with an occupation that is stereo-typically more masculine. Engineering is a male-dominated field, and because of this, it’s easy to get caught up in feeling like you have to constantly prove yourself to others. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of being a minority and focusing all of your energy on showing people that you are worthy of this occupation and you will do whatever it takes to be seen.
So without further ado, I’d like to begin this series. I will be interviewing other female engineers throughout the year and asking them a series of questions that have been carefully curated by yours truly. I want to dive deep and educate others who may not really know what being a female is like in this industry. I want to break the “nerdy and unattractive” stereotypes that come with being a female engineer. I also want you to know that the amazing women in this occupation are much more than engineers. They are human beings who have passions and stories outside of their corporate jobs.
So here we go! Stay tuned.