February 18, 2011
As a leader in her company, Stantec’s Phoenix Engineer Anita Shanker knows first-hand that engineering can be a successful career path for women. In light of “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day,” — slated for Feb. 24 as an international observance dedicated to educating women about careers in her field — Shanker has compiled the following list of successful career tips for current and aspiring female engineers.
• Build your hard and soft skills — Women interested in engineering should not only work on their technical foundation, but also develop their soft skills. The importance of being a good written and verbal communicator is invaluable in this profession.
• Know your goals, gain respect — Focus on your own career goals, then exceed them. There was a time when fewer women entered the engineering field — it was often a challenge to be accepted as an equal, but accomplishments speak for themselves.
• Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer — Volunteering your time will put you in the driver’s seat of your engineering career. Whether with industry or community organizations, volunteering will give you early credibility as a hard working, passionate practitioner while providing relationships and learning experiences that are priceless.
• Work/life balance is possible, believe it — Having a successful career as an engineer is a matter of balance. Significant others, family, and friends are what give your life passion, and passion with perseverance makes anything possible. Whatever your personal interests and passions are, there is a field of engineering where you can apply all of your skills!
• Know your teachers, be a consummate student — Determine who the key mentors, coaches, teachers, leaders, and peers are in your professional life — these people will arm you with insight to deal with challenges ahead and those challenges will make you stronger. Constantly observe, absorb, understand, and apply — learn from everything around you, understand and remember the basics behind it, and try to apply the facts in similar situations
• Act the part, be the part — To make a good impression and be taken seriously, look people in the eye when you speak to them, speak clearly and confidently, and be direct. There is always a human aspect to any kind of engineering project — communicate that element and stay mindful that the technical component of a project is only one small component.
• Question everything — Sometimes status quo exists because nobody questioned the process or took the initiative to change it. This is true for engineering designs or even day-to-day office culture. Always look for a better way to accomplish a project.
• Remember that attitude with integrity is everything — Remember that attitude with integrity is everything. You will accomplish what you believe you can accomplish. Young engineers — males and females alike — may be given simple tasks, but each is an opportunity to problem solve, be responsible, and analyze everything in front of you (and be a better professional for it).