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Feature Questions

Were you the only girl in the room?

I’ve heard some engineers say they were the only woman in a class or club in college, or after college on a project or team at work. Has this happened to you? How did you deal with standing out like that and not having any other women around?

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Here you can ask those questions you still have about engineering careers. Read profiles of practicing engineers in the I'm An Engineer section and ask someone a question directly, or submit a question here to have EngineerGirl staff try to find the right person to answer you.

We cannot give you actual engineering advice. If you need help designing that booster rocket for your own spacecraft or other project, you may find a resource on this list of other Engineering Q&A sites, and we encourage you to seek the services of a professional engineer for any engineering services you may require.

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  • Added Friday, December 21, 2018 at 2:25 AM

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    I like being with people, but I don't like to be the center of attention or push for my own way. I like to think about things and work out details before I jump in with an answer. But I often hear that women need to speak up and be more aggressive to be successful in their careers. Is that true for women in engineering? I’ve also heard that ...

    Answers 29
    Maria Marenco, Robert Bosch
    Answered Tuesday, January 22, 2019 at 12:10 PM

    You don’t have to change the way you are, no matter what you decide to study or where you work. What I think happens in these work areas where there are fewer men than women, is that you feel constantly insecure. Especially is you enter a new subject, ...

    Answered Thursday, January 10, 2019 at 12:44 PM

    No, you do not have to be really outgoing. It takes all personality types to make a really great team and teamwork is an absolute necessity to accomplish great things. Most of the engineers that I have worked with during my 20+ year career have been ...

    Nicolette Yovanof Little, The Boeing Company
    Answered Thursday, January 10, 2019 at 11:47 AM

    In my experience, the best engineers and leaders know their strengths and use them to their advantage in how they interact at work. You can still be an introvert and be a successful engineer, but you will need to find a balance of speaking up and ...

  • Added Monday, February 4, 2019 at 7:16 AM

    FeatureQuestion.jpg

    I’ve heard some engineers say they were the only woman in a class or club in college, or after college on a project or team at work. Has this happened to you? How did you deal with standing out like that and not having any other women around?

    Answers 25
    Priscilla Bennett, Spire / Laclede Gas Company
    Answered 12 days AGO

    Not only in college classes, but also the work environment did I find myself as the only female working/teamed up with only male counterparts. When we learn to view others for the person, the talents, the traits, the contributions they bring to a ...

    Jamie Krakover, The Boeing Company
    Answered Tuesday, February 5, 2019 at 4:15 AM

    I have been the only woman in the room before, but luckily it is become more rare as more women pursue STEM. It can alienating when this happens, but it's less about standing out (because you already do if you're the only woman) and more about making ...

    Answered Tuesday, February 5, 2019 at 4:14 AM

    I was in college almost 30 years ago and, yes, I was sometimes the only woman in the room. But even then, it was fairly rare. I joined Society of Women Engineers as well as IEEE and many other clubs. I had the same goals as my other classmates regardless ...

  • Added Tuesday, November 20, 2018 at 9:47 AM

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    I do really well in school, but people get mad at me if I say anything about it. I don’t want to make people feel bad, but I’m also proud of my work. Have you ever faced this? If so, what did you do about it?

    Answers 10
    Margaret Byron, Penn State University
    Answered Wednesday, December 19, 2018 at 8:06 AM

    I was lucky in that I never felt much pressure to pretend that I didn’t like science or math, or pretend that I wasn’t good at it. There was a year or two where I was pretty lonely, at the beginning of middle school, because other kids made fun of me for ...

    Jodie Lutkenhaus, Texas A&M University
    Answered Monday, November 26, 2018 at 3:20 PM
    I sure have, especially when I was in high school. However, I was reminded that high school was only temporary. I tried to keep my head down, do my work, and get through it. Once at college, I was able to specialize in chemical engineering, where ...
    Mekka Williams, NetApp
    Answered Monday, November 26, 2018 at 3:17 PM

    Unfortunately yes. This problem never goes away and can happen right in your own family. Here is my advice:

    • Stop hiding your intelligence immediately. You don’t have to play dumb. Sometimes you can just refrain from engaging directly in those ...
  • Alexis, New Orleans, Louisiana

    Added Monday, February 17, 2014 at 11:19 AM

    I'm a high school junior who is conflicted about what engineering to go into. I am currently in an engineering class to see what it's like to get different projects from different fields and so far my favorites have been chemical, aerospace, and mechanical. I was wondering if you could give me some insight about your field of study. What is your normal day like? How was your college experience? Are there any problems or discrimination you have faced? Thank you!
    Answers 5
    Megan Harrington, Blue Origin
    Answered Monday, February 17, 2014 at 11:19 AM
    Hi Alexis! 
    
    That's great to hear! I can guarantee that almost every engineer has been in your shoes at some point! Luckily, if you find your interests spanning across multiple engineering "disciplines," that's quite alright because there are areas ...
    Mariam Ismail, Viridis 3D
    Answered Monday, February 17, 2014 at 11:19 AM
    Hi Alexis,
    Happy to see you considering an engineering field. I'm a chemist/chemical engineer. By that I mean I did my undergraduate degree in chemistry, then switched over to chemical engineering for my graduate studies. As an undergrad though, I always ...
    Moyra J. McDill, Carleton University
    Answered Monday, February 17, 2014 at 11:19 AM
    Hej Alexis! (as we say Sweden)
    
    Engineering careers have an interesting way of changing unexpectedly.   I am now in Sweden - what an adventure!  If you had told me in high school that I would have the kind of career I have had, in industry, academia and ...
  • Elsa

    Added Monday, April 2, 2012 at 11:17 AM

    My name is Elsa and I am considering a degree in Electrical Engineering. I would really appreciate help in a question I have about this degree. Part of my research involves looking at job openings. A common theme I notice is they all require 2-10+ of experience. How do newly fresh graduates woman engineers get their foot in the door? It almost seems impossible. Your help is much appreciated. Thank you, Elsa
    Answers 4
    Answered Monday, April 2, 2012 at 11:17 AM
    I can't really speak specifically to electrical engineering, but for any discipline, don't really look at external job advertising. It gives you a good sense of opportunities and career development, but almost all companies have recruitment programs ...
    Answered Monday, April 2, 2012 at 11:17 AM
    Dear Elsa, Yes you may find that is what they say they require but they do take fresh graduates. It is easier to start working at a big organization where they recruit fresh graduates. At these organizations, they invest in fresh graduates and develop ...
    Erin Fitzgerald, Johns Hopkins University
    Answered Monday, April 2, 2012 at 11:17 AM
    Hi Elsa. In electrical engineering, as for I'd assume all engineering fields, one of the best ways to get your foot in the door is through your university Career Center. As you consider what college might be best for you, I would ask questions of ...
  • Stephanie, Salt Lake City, UT

    Added Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 9:31 AM

    My name is Stephanie and I attend The Salt Lake Community College. Recently I decided that Chemical Engineering was the best major for me. I am enrolled in a Technical Communication Class and was wondering about the types of Communication are used in the field of Chemical Engineering? What types of writings do Chemical Engineers create? Do they do a lot of reports? Do they perform mission statements? How important is oral communication in the field? I heard that a lot of people straight out of ...
    Answers 3
    Jocelyn Clapper, Cargill, Inc.
    Answered Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 9:31 AM
    I dont think being an expert technical writer is necessary where I work but one at least has to know the basics. I have to communicate with our sales team daily about production requirements, how much oil they need, how much we can produce, and this is ...
    Sunita Satyapal, United Technologies Research Center
    Answered Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 9:31 AM
    Dear Stephanie, Communication skills, including both writing and speaking skills, are extremely important. Depending on the type of job you have, you'll probably write technical reports, possibly articles for publication and material that may be used ...
    Anastasia Venable-Nappen, Johnson Matthey
    Answered Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 9:31 AM
    Stephanie, Oral and written communication is extremely important in every engineering field. You have to effectively communicate with colleges, vendors, production, and contractors when working on projects to make sure everyone is on the same page and ...
  • Grace, VA

    Added Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 7:39 AM

    In your opinion, what is the best school in Virginia for someone that wants to become an aerospace engineer? Also, what classes in high school should I take to get in?
    Answers 3
    Answered Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 7:39 AM
    Both the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech have Aerospace Engineering programs that have been accredited by ABET (the board that makes sure an engineering program meets expectations for granting engineering degrees). I did not go to school in ...
    Peggy Layne, Virginia Tech
    Answered Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 7:39 AM
    I passed your question to a professor of AOE at Virginia Tech. This is what she had to say: --- Dear Grace from VA, You are quite fortunate in that you live in a state with many wonderful Aerospace Engineering programs. For example, Old Dominion and ...
    Jill S. Tietjen, Technically Speaking, Inc.
    Answered Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 7:39 AM
    Hi Grace, I am a graduate of the University of Virginia and believe that you can get an excellent engineering education at many institutions in the Commonwealth of Virginia. For aerospace engineering in particular, your two choices are Virginia Tech ...
  • Nelva

    Added Monday, April 2, 2012 at 10:02 AM

    My uncle wanted me to be in electrical engineer, but I am not really sure if that is the one I want because mechanical is the one that describes what I want, which is to make things work, like a telephone, a robot, or a speaker. My uncle did that once. He had a board of just microchips. It looked like a city, and it had a tiny speaker. Then he did something like plugging things together and it worked as a speaker. I loved that idea, say if you opened up a phone and the things that make a ...
    Answers 3
    Answered Monday, April 2, 2012 at 10:02 AM
    Something that really seemed to help in deciding what type of engineering I and some of my friends wanted to do was take a broad variety of basic engineering classes: chemistry, physics, electrical circuits, whatever. Taking some of the basics that ...
    Answered Monday, April 2, 2012 at 10:02 AM
    It’s good to know that you possess the heart and mind of a 'doctor' of gadgets. I am afraid I cannot answer Q2 and Q3 but here is my answer for Q1. Mechanical engineering normally focuses on designing and maintenance of heavy-duty machinery as well as ...
    Answered Monday, April 2, 2012 at 10:02 AM
    I actually disagree with Sandhya here. While mechanical engineers can work on big equipment that is certainly not all they do, and building robots is a task often just right for a MechE. Usually mechanical and electrical engineers will work together on ...
  • Elyssa, Waco, TX

    Added Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 9:28 AM

    The allure of engineering is the fact that I may be able to improve the lives of many people with one single development. I am concerned, however, that I will not be able to have a direct and personal level of interaction with those I help,which is why I am torn between going to medical school or graduate school for engineering. Maybe this is a belief I hold due to my ignorance about the day-to-day life in the engineering occupation, but I hope that someone may help me understand more about ...
    Answers 3
    Marjolein van der Meulen, Cornell University
    Answered Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 9:28 AM
    Working in biomedical engineering, the decision to continue ones studies in graduate school or apply to medical school frequently arises. From your question, it is not clear to me whether you are considering majoring in engineering or already an ...
    Lisette Miller, Ximedica
    Answered Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 9:28 AM
    Dear Elyssa, I can completely relate to your plight on this particular topic. Since beginning my career in the medical device industry it has been something that I've struggled with often. I believe the desire to beneficially impact those around you ...
    Shruti Pai, Center of Excellence for Limb Loss Prevention and Prosthetic Engineering
    Answered Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 9:28 AM
    This is a great question that I know many people within the field have faced, including myself. As an engineer, you are very likely to work with people in the medical field including doctors but you are less likely to work with patients directly unless ...
  • Erica

    Added Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 7:55 AM

    Hi, My name is Erica. I'm a senior in highschool and am still unsure of what degree I want to go into. I am good in math and am partly interested in nanotechnology. What field would nanotechnology be placed in in engineering? Does every field in engineering involve math? Were you ever unsure of what you enjoyed so as to pick your major? If you have any advice for me I'd love to hear it! :) Thanks so much, Erica
    Answers 3
    Ursula Gibson, Dartmouth College
    Answered Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 7:55 AM
    Hi Erica, Nanotechnology is an interesting field because it so often involves collaborations between investigators from different backgrounds. That said, I think that most nanotechnology programs are centered in Materials Science/Engineering. To start ...
    Ying-Ja Chen, Pronutria
    Answered Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 7:55 AM
    Nanotechnology is a interdisciplinary field. Scientists and Engineers in physics, chemistry, material science, mechanical, electrical, chemical, and biomedical engineering are working together in this field. Some schools, such as UCSD are starting ...
    Sheila Gaudiano, Chevron Phillips Chemical Co.
    Answered Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 7:55 AM
    Hi Erica, Every field of engineering does involve math although some fields may use it more such as civil engineering when doing structural analysis. The field of nanotechnology has come about long after I studied engineering. If you are interested in ...
  • Lane

    Added Monday, April 2, 2012 at 11:15 AM

    Hi, my name is Lane and I am currently a student at the University of Pittsburgh enrolled in mechanical engineering. I came into college undecided and chose engineering as my major my sophomore year. Coming from a small town that I do, it is hard to get out there and talk to other female engineers, and I love this website that I had found. Being in mechanical engineering, I know that I can pretty much work with what ever I would like to. Engineering is a struggle for me, it takes a lot of time ...
    Answers 3
    Answered Monday, April 2, 2012 at 11:15 AM
    Hi there, Lane. I think that the sentiments you're feeling are pretty common among undergraduate engineers. I remember being very confused and/or frustrated with classes, and there were numerous times I questioned my decision to go into engineering. ...
    Answered Monday, April 2, 2012 at 11:15 AM
    I myself was uncertain about what to do, which is why I came to mechanical engineering later in life...I did an English degree first!?! It's a tough subject for anyone, male or female, so don't worry about that! As an engineer you will have many ...
    Answered Monday, April 2, 2012 at 11:15 AM
    Dear Lane, I feel comfortable with choice I made in my life. Frankly, I didn’t prepare properly or plan for my career. I just chose what I liked. I found myself to be good in math and I wished to go for engineering. I got the chance to study it and I ...
  • H.B, Los Angeles, CA

    Added Friday, February 15, 2013 at 1:06 PM

    Hi. I have a B.S. degree in Mechanical engineering and a M.S. degree in Engineering management. After working as a design engineer for a few years, I was offered a position as a project engineer (interface between management and engineering). I am 30 years old and am expecting a child; however, I would like to persue my M.E. Professional Engineering License but am not sure when i'll have the time for it. I'm planning on taking maternity leave, but of couse that's time for the baby and recovery ...
    Answers 3
    Answered Friday, February 15, 2013 at 1:06 PM

    While I did not go back to school or study for a major licensing exam after having a baby, I can provide this advice.  My view is that it is possible if you are very structured and process oriented and if you are diligent in getting your child on a ...

    Jenni Glauser, Pratt & Whitney
    Answered Friday, February 15, 2013 at 1:06 PM

    Well, I cannot give you specific advice on the PE exam since I haven’t taken it. But I have done the working with a baby/new mom thing. I agree with you to not plan on doing anything during the first few months. Hopefully you’ll have an easy baby and ...

    Khadijah Latiff, Chicago Transit Partners
    Answered Friday, February 15, 2013 at 1:06 PM
    I spent about 150 hours studying for my PE exam. Having a schedule and study buddies help (even if online). There is a forum called engineerboards.com where a lot of people go to exchange tips and solve problems together. Maybe you can find local ...
  • Leana D., Buffalo, NY

    Added Friday, March 30, 2012 at 4:24 AM

    Hi: I'm currently a double major at University at Buffalo in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering (with a minor in Physics). I'm a woman (usually one of the very few in my class) and I have a learning disorder which, most of the time, makes studying and test taking very difficult without the use of special equipment. I get GREAT support from faculty, staff, and our wonderful disability department but, I often wonder if there are any working engineers (past or present) who have learning ...
    Answers 3
    Ursula Gibson, Dartmouth College
    Answered Friday, March 30, 2012 at 4:24 AM
    Regrettably, I can offer little direct experience, but at Dartmouth I know several engineers who prevailed despite learning disabilities. The bottom line is, if you can learn the material, at your own pace, as long as you end up understanding it, you ...
    Jill S. Tietjen, Technically Speaking, Inc.
    Answered Friday, March 30, 2012 at 4:24 AM
    Dear Leana: I so admire your tenacity and your motivation. Keep on keeping on. Have you heard of Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic? I served as a reader for over 10 years - recording scientific, mathematics, and engineering textbooks. This might be ...
    Eva Regnier, Naval Postgraduate School
    Answered Friday, March 30, 2012 at 4:24 AM
    I don’t have direct experience with any of those learning disorders, and I’m not aware of any of my engineering colleagues having them, but I do have a friend with dyslexia who is a biologist. I asked her, since scientists and engineers face many of the ...
  • A.

    Added Monday, April 2, 2012 at 10:53 AM

    I am a senior in high school and interested in a career in chemical engineering. What should I know about it? How many different supervisors or leaders would a typical chemical engineer have? Also, how does your job affect quality time with your family? Thank you for your help. –A.
    Answers 3
    Answered Monday, April 2, 2012 at 10:53 AM
    When I started college I really liked chemistry and the idea of engineering, so I double-majored in chemistry and chemical engineering during the first couple years in school. Here's what I learned - remember these are likely gross generalizations and ...
    Answered Monday, April 2, 2012 at 10:53 AM
    I think my major (Environmental Engineering) has a close relationship with Chemical Engineering, and we do have several graduate students in our department who have undergraduate degrees in ChemE, so I will try to answer these questions:-) Chemical ...
    Answered Monday, April 2, 2012 at 10:53 AM
    Engineering has many areas one can excel in, be it computers or electronics or chemistry. Chemical engineers are in great demand in a variety of fields--metallurgy, pharmacy, the energy sector, solid-state research, environmental agencies (NGO or ...
  • NAMEERA, CHENNAI asked Jenni Glauser, Pratt & Whitney

    Added Sunday, December 15, 2013 at 8:24 AM

    Hi Jenni! My name is Nameera, and I'm from India. I am a freshman in high school and I'm totally interested in aerospace engineering and piloting. Actually I want to become a pilot. Can I pursue it after studying aerospace engineering? Please help me.. I was totally inspired by the interview given by you!
    Answers 3
    Answered Sunday, December 15, 2013 at 8:24 AM
    Hi Nameera,
    
    I'm not the person you asked this question specifically to (although my name is pretty close, right?) but I wanted to respond because your question is something I maybe know a little bit about.
    
    My husband's brother has always been ...
    Jenni Glauser, Pratt & Whitney
    Answered Sunday, December 15, 2013 at 8:24 AM
    Hi Nameera!!!
    
    I'm so glad you're excited about aerospace engineering!  I think it's a wonderful career choice! ;-)
    
    I think you can become both an engineer and a pilot.  Once you get into college you will be able to meet with the advisers and ...
    Zahra Khan, Columbus Technologies and Services
    Answered Sunday, December 15, 2013 at 8:24 AM
    Nameera,
    Absolutely!
    
    I think studying aerospace engineering gives you an edge when becoming a pilot because you understand how everything works so intimately.
    
    If you are interested in piloting as a hobby, you can take flying lessons anytime. ...
  • Pamela

    Added Monday, April 2, 2012 at 11:05 AM

    Hi, You have a really wonderful site. I am the parent of a seven-year-old, second-grade girl who appears to have an aptitude for math, science, and engineering. Her favorite toys are building toys (tinker toys, KNEX, legos, Bionicles), she is fascinated by how things work, she is good at math, and she has scored extremely high on the quantitative and nonverbal (spatial relations) portions of her cognitive aptitude tests. Clearly, she is wired for these activities and enjoys them, too! I would ...
    Answers 3
    Answered Monday, April 2, 2012 at 11:05 AM
    Hi Pamela. It's wonderful to hear that your daughter is very interested in math and science! There are a lot of opportunities out there now, especially for girls, to participate in activities that encourage them in science and engineering. A good ...
    Answered Monday, April 2, 2012 at 11:05 AM
    Dear Pamela, I think it is great that you want to encourage your daughter to pursue something like engineering. A major reason that some very qualified girls don’t consider engineering is that they don’t know anything about it, but the best way for ...
    Answered Monday, April 2, 2012 at 11:05 AM
    A thought on helping your daughter flourish in her science and engineering like interests: many older students who are very good at and interested in these fields seem to have challenges communicating their ideas and discoveries to others, be it through ...
  • Veronica, Houston

    Added Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at 4:51 PM

    Hi, can I interview anybody here for a research project?
    Answers 2
    Answered Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at 4:51 PM

    Dear Veronica,

    Many of the engineers in the directory have indicated in their profiles that they would be willing to answer student interview questions. If you browse through the profiles you will see several that say, “I am willing to be ...

    Deya Riojas Glover, Sherwin Alumina Company
    Answered Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at 4:51 PM
    Hi Veronica. If you still need someone to interview for your research project let me know. You can reach me at driojas@sherwinalumina.com.
  • Chimuka

    Added Sunday, October 15, 2017 at 5:26 AM

    Hi, I graduated with a bachelors degree in Chemical Engineering in May and have been job hunting without any success. I did really well in school and have co-op experience with good references. I apply to several jobs a day but keep getting rejection emails one after the other, even after revising my resume several times. The job search is getting a bit demoralizing as most of my classmates that didn't do well academically or didn't have good work ethics got jobs fairly quickly. I spend at ...
    Answers 1
    Heather Hunt, University of Missouri
    Answered Wednesday, January 31, 2018 at 4:07 PM
    Congratulations on earning your B.S. in Chemical Engineering!  That's a great start to a great career.  I know the job search can be frustrating and difficult, and it sounds like you've been working hard on it for a while.  I have a few tips - some of ...
  • Sydney, Atlanta asked Seetha Raghavan, University of Central Florida

    Added Friday, January 3, 2014 at 9:43 PM

    Hi! I want to be a design engineer for NASA. I already have started building robots to practice. Is there anything else I could do to prepare for designing space equipment? Seventh grader, Sydney
    Answers 2
    Zahra Khan, Columbus Technologies and Services
    Answered Friday, January 3, 2014 at 9:43 PM
    If there is a model rocket club where you live, you could try joining that. 
    Take lots of math and science in school. 
    
    You could also see if there is a cube sat (cube satellite) club in your area. 
    For example, there is this one in California: ...
    Seetha Raghavan, University of Central Florida
    Answered Friday, January 3, 2014 at 9:43 PM
    Dear Sydney,
    
    First of all I must congratulate you on two things: making goals and coming up with a plan to realize it. This is amazing! You have the makings of a successful design engineer and a great leader and all of this in the 7th grade. ...
  • Rania, Columbia

    Added Tuesday, March 31, 2015 at 1:42 PM

    Hi! I'm 17 years old, and I want to become a chemical engineer. I was accepted to colleges that do not have engineering as a major. I realized late that I wanted to become a chemical engineer instead of a chemist and the issue is that I have a scholarship for college but cannot switch the college I am attending to. Is it possible to major in chemistry and still become a chemical engineer or should I opt for a master in chemical engineering? Or can I take classes outside of college during ...
    Answers 2
    Stacy Clark, Center for NYC Neighborhoods
    Answered Tuesday, March 31, 2015 at 1:42 PM
    If you're anything like me, you will change your mind about what you want to do a million times still during college.  But if you do decide on chemical engineering, it is possible (although harder) to go into chemical engineering without having a ...
    Surya Mallapragada, Iowa State University
    Answered Tuesday, March 31, 2015 at 1:42 PM
    It is possible to major in chemistry as an undergraduate and become a chemical engineer, if you pursue a graduate degree in chemical engineering. Taking more calculus and math courses during your undergraduate study while pursuing a chemistry degree will ...
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