Michelle Mason

As a general overview, I work for a small non-profit technology consortium that partners with, at any given time, universities, state or federal government, small businesses, research institutions, or corporations to produce important developments in the energy, defense, and transportation fields.  There are two very important aspects to my job: proposal writing and program management.

To get an idea of what proposal writing is, let's say the Department of Energy (DOE) is looking to grant money to a project that can develop a way for military bases to use renewable energy.  The DOE sends out a solicitation for this project on their website. My company teams up with the appropriate aforementioned partners (sometimes one, sometimes all -- in this case, a solar panel company) to develop a project and propose to the solicitation.  It can take days, weeks, or months to write a proposal, depending on the size, budget, and duration of the project.  Some projects are worth tens of thousands of dollars while others are worth millions.  Part of my day to day job is looking for solicitations we can propose on or actually writing the proposals themselves.

Program management is what comes after the proposal development stage.  Since we are competing for the grant money, sometimes another company will beat us out.  When we do win a project, the program management starts.  On a daily basis, I make sure the money we received for the project is being used correctly, we are on time with our proposed schedule, and the product is working the way we said it would.  This could mean managing a couple engineers for a few months or tens of engineers, finance managers, other program managers, etc. for a couple years.

A day in my life consists of emails and conference calls to team members on various projects to check off goals or create new ones. Some days will require a trip to the factory/lab/job site for an in person check-up.  We sometimes have monthly or quarterly reports to turn in or PowerPoint slides to create and present.  This job also requires some traveling as face to face interactions are often more desirable than phone or email.   I currently have 10 different programs, varying from electric vehicle conversions, lithium battery studies, waste heat recovery systems for diesel engines, renewable energy storage and distribution, and more.  At my job, organization and communication skills are absolutely vital.  

I was never the type of person or student to take things apart and put back together, but fell in love with physics and calculus in high school, leading me to choose mechanical engineering. At my university, I became really passionate about clean energy, all the while still keeping focus on reading, writing, and communication skills.  I liked to brainstorm ideas and lead projects.  I knew I never wanted to be a cubicle engineer that plugs formulas in all day doing the same thing.  My profession has allowed me to work with many different technologies and environments while making the world better for our future generations.