November 4, 2010Her job: President/CEO, Rushing Company
Describe what you do in your current work situation?
Today, I have the privilege and joy to manage Rushing Company which I founded with my partner Scott five years ago. It is a role that fits me like a glove. We currently employ 25 professionals in the mechanical and electrical engineering fields. We design High Performance Commercial Buildings in the Pacific Northwest and around the world . I recently was asked by the Governor of Washington State to serve as a delegate on a business trade mission to Asia and I am a current member of the Clinton Global Initiative serving on committees to find solutions to our world's biggest problems. I serve on many community boards such as the Washington State Workforce Development Council and volunteer my time as a Peer Board Member of the YWCA.
Why did you choose engineering?
In 1982 the choice of becoming an engineer was about two things: 1) I was naturally strong in math and science; and 2) it was the highest paid profession with a four year degree right out of school. Money was very important as I was a teen parent with one small child with only a GED equivalency high school diploma.
Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have?
I went to the University of Washington. I graduated in 1988 with a BS in Mechanical Engineering. I became Registered as a Professional Engineer in the State of Washington in 1994.
What kinds of activities have typically been part of your work?
I have designed heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems for commercial buildings for over 20 years. These systems are responsible for over 40% of the energy consumption in the US. It is and has always been my passion to reduce the carbon footprint of our designs and our clients buildings. Development must continue, and we will design them better and more efficient!
What do you like best about being an engineer?
It is a non-emotional business when it comes to the facts of the design BUT it is a VERY emotional business when it comes to the business side of the business! Every project is different, very creative. I never know what is going to happen in my day. There has NEVER been a problem we, as a team, cannot solve. That is CRAZY fun!
Which of your career accomplishments are you proudest of?
I am proudest of the fact that I have had the wonderful blessing to have each of my children be able to intern at my company and work with me. This was and still is the most amazing gift in my life.
What challenges have you met and conquered in your pursuit of an engineering career?
1. Having children young while in college.
2. Having to work and have a family while earning my degree.
3. Graduating at 23 years old with two children, but not being taken seriously or having the same respect as my male peers.
4. Under paid with respect to my male peers.
5. Not given proper leadership roles with respect to my male peers.
6. Hitting the pay and responsibility "ceiling" at age 40 in my industry as a professional woman engineer.
Please tell us a little about your family.
I was paying rent at 14, dropped out of HS at 15 and I was the first to graduate from college. I left home at 16 to have my baby. Today I have three children, all adults: 28, 24, and 18. They are all college graduates or on their way to becoming college graduates! My Engineering career made this all possible.
What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (10+ years) goals?
In the short term, my goal is to continue to manage Rushing Company internationally and complete the Documentary that I am working on for the Clinton Global Initiative: Inspiring Young Women to pursue careers in Engineering. My long term goals are to semi-retire and transition our younger Principal staff into Management Leaders. I want to work more with young people.
What (or who) had/has the greatest influence on your life choices?
My three children: Evan, 28; Amanda, 24; and Anton; 18. While I have heroes that have certainly inspired me upwards, the real motivators were my children. Their joy and love inspired and motivated me everyday and still does. I always felt devinely guided.
What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering?
This is a field dominated by males. Don't be naive or surprised when you arrive and find that men sometimes misbehave. Keep your integrity high, insist that the company you work for takes its bar higher. If you truely have the passion to overlook and tolerate this wart, then you will find a very lucrative and creative career that can open many doors and options that other degrees just cannot get you.
Engineering needs the talents and perspectives of women. Just as the field of Medicine would be out of balance without a diverse amount of women, we are lonely in mechanical engineering at only 7% women. It is out of balance.
Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book.
This work can be quite stressful and anyone considering this profession must be ready for deadline management skills. I manage stress with YOGA practice and meditation. My day always starts with my dog Russell, a crossword puzzle, and a cup of coffee. We walk, drink, puzzle, YOGA, then ready for the day!