Answers by Janelle Leafblad
Yes, you are being absolutely realistic that you can do this! There will be obstacles, hardships, and sacrifices along the way but there will also be help to overcome them and support to sustain you through them. I think you will be inspiring to be so brave as to take steps even small, slow steps towards the life and career you really want. I speak from experience as my mother returned to school when I was young. She made college look fun and her challenges grew great rewards for our family.
My advice is to get all the information about your degree and the type of employment you will be looking for upfront. These are going to start to look like impossible hurdles but the more you know, the more you can prepare. For instance, depending upon the type of engineer youd like to become, a bachelors degree may not be enough to get you an entry level position. Also, new employees are typically expected to have the steepest learning curve and employers will want you to do some level of travel and work longer hours. College does not completely prepare you for engineering work; in fact your role as an Office Manager has probably taught you more about people skills and project management skills youll need in any employment and highly marketable for engineers.
Find out from the colleges youll be applying to who the academic advisors are and ask to schedule a meeting with them. Have a frank discussion about your goals and commitments. As soon as you begin classes, reach out to your colleges alumni office and ask them to set you up with a mentor or join a program like MentorNet that focuses on women in engineering.
Best wishes to you on this journey!