Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Why Masters Degrees are Useful/Important

Hey everyone! 

I hope it's been an awesome year for you all, and your summer is going well!

I just want to start off by saying, that this piece is totally my opinion and based off what I have experienced and seen in industry.

As engineers, I believe it is part of the job description to never stop learning. Ok well it's part of our job as living human beings,  to never stop learning. You get the idea.

I completely understand what I lovingly refer to as "burn-out-itis."

It happens. We make it through undergrad, we feel like we can never go back to school ever again, we never want to set foot on the same college campus again. All of the above. We have internships that teach us "everything we learned in school is useless" once we get to a full time job because "we will learn what we need to know as we go."

Anne's inner skeptic: "So what's the point? Why does it matter? Why should I care?"

Well starting off, it's a pay increase/experience jump. You will start out a level 2 with a masters degree (depending upon where you go), and automatically get paid more than someone with a bachelors.

Anne's inner skeptic: "Ok but the degree costs money that I don't have, #studentloans, and balances out the pay I would receive up front as I'm paying for the cost up front."

There's multiple options for getting a masters degree.

1. Several schools offer programs online that allow you to work full time, gaining real world experience, while also taking classes.  There are still several companies out there that are also willing to pay for the degree which makes the cost out of pocket negligible.

2. There are also plenty of scholarship opportunities for minorities in graduate school #ladiesinstem.

3. I know what you are going to say. "Anne, fellowships are super hard to come by and I don't know many people who get them for masters degrees"  Yes. You're right. They are harder to come by, but that doesn't mean there aren't opportunities and or ways to seek them out!

4. Hold a part time job while you are a student to help ease some of the debt.

5. Do some of your masters degree while finishing your undergraduate and have scholarships pay for it.

Personally, I did options 1,4, and 5 to make it through my degree, and yes my time was precious, but I didn't have to pay a thing!

Anne's inner skeptic: "Ok, so WHY should I care again?"

1. It gives you an opportunity to focus your interests, and your career. Maybe you were one of those kids that really loved Heat Transfer, and you wanted to dive deeper into some of the reasons why the conduction constants are the way they are. Maybe you were a controls kid, who wasn't satisfied with just learning simple linear controls, and wanted to dive deeper into the non-linearities. First step to figure this all out? Learning. Easy place to learn? School. Good opportunity? Graduate School.

2. It gives you an opportunity to figure out what you like and what you want to do (at least a non-thesis option does). Yes, there are some people who graduate with an engineering degree and either A. can't figure out what they want to do for a job, or B. are just not ready to give up the college learning lifestyle. Continuing on to graduate school satisfies both of those cravings.

3. It sets you apart early AND later on in your career from your coworkers. Having that degree is a distinguishing factor on your resume. Having that extra knowledge and that extra education helps you to stand out against others when looking for jobs.  In competitive market places, and startup environments, this helps.

4. While working, sometimes it's nice to be able to take advanced classes that further your learning or help out with abstract concepts while working on them.  This one is HUGE for me.

Anne's inner skeptic: "Ok, ok you made your point. So when's the best time to get one? What if I just want some time after undergrad to relax a little?"

Most people will recommend going straight into grad school. Once you are in the mindset of learning it is easier to just continue forward and chug along getting the degree out of the way. At the same time, each person is different. Let me just say as a full time engineer working mandatory overtime and going to school, it is ROUGH. I am definitely able to handle it, but I do have to sacrifice some of my social life to make it happen. Each person is different. That is for you to decide.

All in all, despite sacrificing time for friends, family, reading books, binge watching netflix, and picking up new hobbies, it's definitely been valuable for me to take this time to get this degree!

If you have any questions feel free to reach out to me at withaplananne@gmail.com




Thursday, August 18, 2016

The stresses of starting a new job

Starting any new job can be incredibly stressful.  It doesn't matter if it's in Aerospace or not. That being said there's something oddly terrifying about starting a dream job launching rockets.  Don't get me wrong. I love what I do, but.... What if I mess up? What if the rocket blows up? What if it's all my fault, and it comes back to me, and I get fired, and there goes my career, and my life is ruined, my life is over, WHAT WILL I DO!?!?! ............

Ok, now that we've been reminded of the absolute most extreme positively worst thing that can happen, let's take a step back. :)

Here are the 5 things I've learned from starting a new job:

1. You are NOT perfect. 
Let's be real with each other. You WILL make mistakes at a brand new job. Even if you've had 30 years experience. Embracing this fact makes the world a lot less scary and takes away the extra anxiety that the type A personalities (such as myself) tend to put on themselves.  Things happen. As long as you learn from that mistake (and I mean GENUINELY learn, not just "yeah yeah I know"), and do everything in your power to rectify it, everything will be ok. No one will look at you cross-eyed in the hallway, no one will give you grief. Wanna know why? Because chances are they've made that same mistake maybe even two or three times before you.

2. Take it easy. 
We have all heard this before, but Rome was not built in a day. You will not know every little acronym, analysis, or forcing function thrown your way off the top of your head. Don't rush through your work. Rushing only causes more mistakes, and means you haven't fully taken the time to understand what you are doing. Are you able to explain the details of the work that you do? Do the results make sense? If not, there might be a problem with how fast you are going.  If you get something done quickly, then great! Give yourself a pat on the back and feel good. If it took you a while to get that analysis done or that drawing change done, don't sweat it! Patience is a virtue for a reason.

3. There is always someone better than you, but NEVER stop questioning/asking questions. 
You may work with people who have just started and know nothing, or with people who have been an expert in their field for 40 years. Regardless of the background/history/heritage, always ask questions and never stop wondering why. Innovation comes when human beings question the status quo, when we ask "Can this be better?" or "Why does it have to be done this way?" Some people get stuck in their ways, and it's a good thing that you are there as a fresh set of eyes. Seeing something for the first time means you offer a new perspective. Now I'm not saying be a jerk, and tell the certified engineer who happens to be a fellow and AIAA tech lead "You're wrong, that's not right, butt head." However, you could say "Can you explain to me why this Navigation system uses this this this and this instead of methods A,B,C,and D?" Engineers LOVE to talk about what they do. Give them a chance to tell you why, and show you how awesome your new job will be ;)

4. It's going to feel overwhelming. You are going to feel like you are drinking water from a fire hose.
But honestly, if it doesn't feel overwhelming or like a brain overload, then you might be doing it wrong. Even if you have experience in that field, take the time to learn as much about everything as you can.

Credit to Jorge Cham 

5. Stop trying so hard.  
There will always be people who don't like you at first, who feel threatened by your presence, or simply disagree with the fact that you were hired in the first place. Don't worry about those people. Focus on you. I know that's easier said than done, but let's be real. There are always people in life who won't like you, and you can't change that. Let them be. If anything, they are missing out on an amazing person and a good time ;) Give yourself some credit and realize that just because someone on the team doesn't like you, doesn't mean it's the end of the world, or that the rest of the team feels the same way. Maybe that person needs to work through some of their own issues, or they are going through a hard time. No, that doesn't make it right that they didn't give you a chance, or they treated you poorly, but let them be. Let them deal with their own issues. You just started a new job, you've got bigger and more important things to worry about.  ;)

Love from your favorite Aerospace geek,

Monday, August 15, 2016

How to survive a layoff (Part 1)

I work (as I have briefly mentioned before) for a utility,  which is arguably one of the most stable positions you can have. We don't go out of style like the latest gizmo,  or tend to suffer catastrophic failures like most highly traded companies. People will always need water, electricity, gas, telephone lines and internet infrastructure. Which is why you can imagine that the announcement that we were going to restructure and cut a significant amount of our staff came as quite the surprise.

In the immediate aftershocks, I learned three things about layoffs:

The first thing I learned about layoffs is that the fear of losing ones job is palpable and spreads through a group of people  faster than the zika virus. It starts with one vocal negative person who preaches the layoff like a conspiracy theorist with a cardboard sign preaches the apocalypse. They ask people questions like "how do you KNOW it won't be you"  and "whose going to feed your family once that severance check runs out". Given, for the few people like me with no real "roots down", this tactic doesn't really work. But it does mean that everyone else starts to freshen up their resumes and then people who weren't worried before start to be concerned about what will be left of the organization when all is said and done. Will all the other good employees have jumped ship?

The second thing I learned is that,  as odd as it is,  this is an excellent opportunity for  building community (should you decide to use it). The general turmoil sets the stage for some of the most real conversations I have had with my coworkers. With nobody guaranteed a position  we start to open up about where we see ourselves in the future, we help each other with resume reviews,  we give each other advice and feedback on how we can become successful. Maybe this was unique to the people with whom I worked,  but after some time together we are a family who really takes care of each other.

The third thing I learned is that I could use this as an opportunity to get some really great feedback. I've sat down and had some serious conversations with my management where I have solicited their advice on how I should handle the whole thing, where I stand in the organization, and what they see as my career progression. As much as I pride myself in being a take-no-names go getting business bitch,  I am still oddly timid about brazenly asking for advice on how I can develop myself professionally. Something about this whole situation made me feel less awkward about scheduling time with people I respect to try to get some clarity.

So, in my opinion, step 1 of surviving a layoff is realizing that the world does not start and end with a single job. There are positive things that come along with any major change, and this may be the beginning of a great chapter of your life. So while you should take whatever action you need to be comfortable, don't listen to the harbingers of doom because this is not the end of the world.



PS. What are your experiences with layoffs? Did anything positive come out of it?

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Monday, May 9, 2016

Healthy foods to eat at work!

Being an engineer typically means working long hours. Combined with trying to float a "normal" social life, keeping up with familial responsibilities,  and doing normal "adult" things like getting your oil changed and seeing the dentist- this leaves you with what feels like very little time to prep food for the week. Sometimes this means that I end up eating not-so-great cafeteria food, or one of those frozen personal meals. I've decided that this lifestyle isn't working for me anymore because:
  1. It's unhealthy. The cafeteria food is filled with more salt, sugar, preservatives, and calories than I'd cook with. 
  2. It's not great for the environment. Frozen meals mean plastic and paper packaging, and the fuel needed to ship it to me. Cafeteria meals come in Styrofoam plates, which are also all sorts of bad.
  3. It's expensive! They are all really overpriced compared to making it yourself.
  4. The food I've been buying isn't even that good. It's usually under seasoned and uninspired  - the quality you remember being served for lunch if you went to a US public school. 
So, while I'm not a chef and this is not a food blog, here are some of the things I've been trying out recently (and liked). There are links under each of the photos to the websites where I found the original recipe. 


Overnight Oatmeal
Prep time: ~10 min including copping and cleanup
Calories: 200-300 depending on recipe
Desk eat-ability: High.
Refrigerator Oatmeal -- 8 more flavors of this popular no-cook, make-ahead, grab-and-go breakfast from The Yummy Life.
Recipes here!!
These are quick to prepare, and are good for two-three days. So you can plan ahead! Make sure to drink plenty of water the same day as you eat them, since they have chia seeds in them

Green Smoothie

Prep time: ~5 minutes ahead of time, ~10 minutes including washing the dishes the day of. 
Calories: Depends on what fruits you use
Desk eat-ability: High. Make sure this is in a spill proof container though, because if you spill this gook on yourself it is NOT a good look.  
Pro tip: blend the greens and liquid first, then add fruit. This will make it less chunky. If you are new to the green smoothie game, start with spinach. And if you are feeling really wimpy you can add a couple of teaspoons of raw coco with sweet fruit, you can feel like it's a milkshake,

Create your own yummy green smoothie with this awesome chart that breaks it all down.    — SimpleGreenSmoothies.com

Cold Brew Coffee
Prep time: ~3 minutes the night before. ~5 minutes in the morning to transfer into a non-spill container and clean the french press.
Calories: Depends on how much milk and sugar you dump in in it.
Desk eat-ability: High. Put in a spill proof container, and you can drink it on your way to work.

What's Cooking This Weekend?
Recipe here!!
Why yes, this is the stuff I spilled on myself


Mason Jar Salads
Prep time: About 15 -30 minutes ahead of time depending on how much chopping is involved.
Calories: Under 500
Desk Eatability: Medium. Realistically, it's quite difficult to eat out of the mason jar. It's kind of hard to mix, and an awkward angle for a fork. You can keep the same theory in a better salad container.



Prep time: 0 minutes
Calories: ~45 calories
Desk eatability: High. Not super noisy, or smelly, so your coworkers won't hate you. 

All the Winter Citrus Finally Explained. Uhh, what’s the difference between a tangelo and a pomelo again?:

Infused water

How to Make Simply Infused Water | Nutrition Stripped
Recipe here!!!

I've got more options I track on the ever-awesome pinterest here. What is your favorite food to bring to work? What should I try?



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Friday, May 6, 2016

Despite Everything

Hey my name is Anne and I am new to this blog!  I recently thought about all of the things I could say in my first blog post. But only one thing came to mind. 

"If I could do it, you could do it."

I have had this passion and burning desire in me for years to work on rockets.  I turned to my mom when I was 9 years old and said "Mommy, I wanna be an astronaut." 
She looked at me funny and said "That's nice Sweetie." We were at the Kennedy Space Center on National Girl Scouts Day. After getting home I went to my dad and said "Daddy I wanna be an astronaut." 
He didn't even look away from the TV and said "That's nice Sweetie, I'm in the middle of something." 
From that day forward I tried my hardest to do well in school and keep my grades up so that maybe someday I could fulfill my dream. 
Unfortunately every now and then I would have a rough time. 
You see my father was born in the 1950's, and sometimes his brain still lives in that era. 
So when I would have a rough time he would say "Well honey, boys are better at math and girls are better at reading.That's just the way things are, it's scientifically proven."

So he set fuel to my fire. 

I was up for a Navy ROTC scholarship in high school and I was incredibly close to signing up in the hopes I would land a Navy pilot spot. 

One step closer to the Astronaut gig. 

But I couldn't see myself in uniform, and made a vow. 
If I couldn't go up there myself I would be a part of sending others in my place.
I started applying for Engineering schools. Of course my father's response "Honey, let's be honest. You know you are not smart enough to be an engineer." 

More fuel. 

I finally started school and my first two years were awful. I failed test after test. And every time I failed, and called home just for some happiness I got the same words over and over again. 

"Sweetie, you know you can't do this. You are just not smart enough. You need to come home." 

For years I tried to beat the odds and the statistics my father had lovingly shoved down my throat. Unfortunately everyone has their rock bottom moment, but it just so happens I had years of it. 
My sophomore year of school, the year that makes or breaks you, family issues, money, life, and school blew up in my face. My father's words just kept singing in my head like a broken record. 

One night, when I was feeling down, I watched this video:

"Achieving your childhood Dreams." The last Lecture by Randy Pausch.

You just have to do it. 
You have to take the risk and keep going. 
If you hate what you're doing, and it's not what you wanted, life will be meaningless and filled with regrets. 
Sure there are so many challenges. 
Not to be cheeky but "If it were easy, everyone would be doing it."  
And who cares what he says. It's my dream and if it makes me happy then I'm going to keep chasing it. When you are gone from this world, how do you want to look back on your life? Are you gonna look back and regret not taking that risk? 
Or are you gonna look at your family and friends and smile knowing you did it?
I hit the ground running, got an internship, went thousands of miles away from home, and found my confidence in the middle of the desert (that's the location of my first job). 
I came back to school later that year to start my Junior Year and aced my classes. 
God what a feeling. 

Unfortunately people can be incredibly hurtful.  

Classmate: "Hey how'd you do on that test?"
Me: "Oh I got an A"
Classmate:  "Oh you only got that A because Professor so and so loves girls." 

Classmate #2: "Yeah you only got that job because the company desperately needs women."

Classmate #3: "Sometimes you're a little too ditsy to be an engineer." 

Coworker #1: "Is it your period this week?"

Coworker #2: "Do you want some ice cream? I heard when girls get upset ice cream makes them feel better."

Despite those obstacles I made it. I graduated with honors, pulled straight A's, had 6 internships in my career, and wound up being the speaker at my graduation, talking to my dad in the front row with love and compassion the whole time. 

Aerospace is a white male dominated field. 
Every job I have ever had, there have been men/women who look down on you in some capacity (usually the older generation), men/women who stare at you as if you were the circus in town, or worse look you up and down like meat
(yes women are just as guilty sometimes too).

Here's what I have to say: It happens. It's not going to change. 
But that doesn't mean you have to let it get to you or beat you. 
That doesn't mean you should give up on the one thing you've been burning to do. 
There will always be horrible people in this world, regardless of whether they are a man or a woman. 
But it should never stop you from chasing that star, or launching that rocket. 
Bite the bullet, pull up your bootstraps and KEEP GOING. 
The choice is yours. 

Free Awesome Inspirational Video: 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Do we discriminate against ourselves?

My friend at work (let's call her Susan) was recently thinking about applying to become a supervisor. Susan exceeded all of the stipulations in the job posting including having over twice the number years of experience required. And yet, when Susan was thinking about applying she was legitimately concerned that she was not good enough to apply. Because Susan felt like if she was going to be THE female supervisor, that she had to be beyond kick-ass to set a standard for what a woman in that role can be. Otherwise, in Susan's mind they'd see her failures as a failure of women to be able to perform that role.

Yeah, from an outside perspective it's crazy for someone to feel that they represent their entire gender, race, religion, etc. But at the same time, in industrial engineering settings where there are few women in an organization, and even fewer (or none) in management - we do often hold other women (and ourselves) accountable for "representing women".

As I type this, I can hear how silly that sounds. But something about the environment makes me react when one woman is under-performing, or using what appears to be a "maiden in distress" tactic to get other people to do her job, or otherwise reinforcing negative stereotypes that are still prevalent in our work environment. Maybe it's because it brings me back to memories like when it was the middle of a big troubleshooting effort, and some guy who didn't know me assumed I was incompetent and made jokes about me being great for a secretary. And so later, I feel like a woman who doesn't "prove people wrong" is somehow losing ground that the rest of us are trying to gain. Women have been the industry for decades, and there must be a reason why we are treading water when it comes to the race towards equality.

I wish it was just me; I know that there are a lot of us who feel that way... But when I step back for a second, I realize that the women I'm judging for not "representing women" are not actually any worse than their male counterparts. Because I believe they represent us as a whole, my expectations for them (and for myself) are unfairly high. Just as my friend Susan's expectations for herself as a potential supervisor were unfairly high. As she described her "shortcomings" it was clear that she thought she should have manager level experience to perform a supervisor level role.

Whatever we want to call this mindset (which is a mix of imposter's syndrome and believing that we need to represent all women), we need to collectively snap out of it. No other woman represents us as individuals, and we don't represent other women. By perpetuating this thought process, and not applying to jobs when we are qualified (and not overqualified) we are becoming complacent in constructing the glass ceilings that limit us from progress.We shouldn't have to outperform men to be considered equals.

So give yourself, and other women, a break. Don't disqualify yourself from a position before you've even given it a shot, and try to not blame other women for causing discrimination you see in other parts of your life with their shortcomings. The only way we'll be judged as individuals (as we should be) is if we start to change the rhetoric.



Tuesday, March 1, 2016

STEAM Themed Dresses!

I've previously covered why being a female engineer is awesome, but having a background in engineering can be a strong foundation for many different career paths. A great example of that is Eva (for once in the history of this blog, that's her actual name!), a cool scientist turned entrepreneur who has shifted to creating a unique line of clothes that combine the femininity of dresses, with "geeky" designs, with pockets! And who doesn't love pockets in dresses! If you didn't raise, your hand, you are lying to yourself right now.

Now THIS is an infinity scarf
But being serious for a second here, the work she is doing to show that "geeky" and "feminine" can describe the same thing is really important. Every little bit we change the dialogue can help impact our own engineering bubbles where we have to explain that an engineer "looks like" us. So hopefully, you'll support this cool project too. (PS I am not affiliated with this company, nor am I being paid to say this or share this). 

- Vanessa
My love of all things Science started when I was a kid. I found constant amazement in the world around me and wanted to know everything about everything. As a teenager, there was never any question in my mind about what field I wanted to pursue. My dream was to become a famous geneticist and to right the wrong done to my childhood hero, Rosalind Franklin, by being the first person to unlock the human genome. I tried to make my dream a reality when I went to college and obtained degrees in Biology & Psychology.

The stereotypes about female scientists started to really bother me very early in my career. Whenever I would tell people that I was a scientist, a way too frequent response back was, “You don’t look like a scientist.” I somehow managed to restrain myself from saying, “Really? Well, do you know what a punch in the face looks like, because I’d be happy to show you?!” Maybe it comes from having an awesome spitfire for a mom, but I have always viewed femininity as a huge strength. I unapologetically like wearing dresses, lip gloss, and heels. However, I also know that I’m tough as nails and don’t mind getting muddy in the name of science or discovery. I got completely fed up this notion of what a Scientist “looked like”. I worked my butt off to get where I was and I felt like I sincerely deserved everything I achieved. How could I possibly not look like I belonged in the field?Did I need to change my appearance to look more masculine so that people would accept my merits in my field? I just wasn’t willing to change who I was in order to fit people’s stereotypes about what I should look like.

Women who enter STEM fields are 45% more likely than their male counterparts to leave the field within a year, and sadly, I became a part of that statistic. There are a lot of factors involved in why I left my career in STEM, and it obviously isn’t solely because of the way I liked to dress. However, it did have a lot to do with feeling isolated and like I didn’t belong in my field. After a few career changes, I finally found my stride in e-Commerce.

Last year I joined forces with a former ThinkGeek co-worker to create a company called Svaha where we developed a line of children’s clothes featuring STEAM themes (Science | Technology |
Engineering | Art | Math). We wanted little girls to be able to wear dresses with code & chemistry experiment designs on them & we wanted to make it cool for boys to wear shirts with cats, rainbows, and butterflies! After we successfully launched the line, we started getting a flood of emails from women in STEAM fields asking us to make dresses for them too. We realized there was a missed market for women who want to showcase their love of STEAM themes.

Eva & Jaya - Creators of Svaha STEAM Angels

We are really proud to introduce our Kickstarter campaign for Svaha STEAM Angels – Smart Dresses for Smart Women. The 5 dresses in this initial line each feature a STEAM theme. We want to create a way for women to own STEAM in their own way and prove that brainy is beautiful!

Science | Technology | Engineering | Art | Math

This is highly personal for me, as I want to change how our society views women in STEAM to prevent other women from going through the isolation that I felt. I think we desperately need more smart, strong, creative women working in STEAM or interested in STEAM, and Svaha wants to do its part to smash through gender stereotypes. Please support our Kickstarter campaign so that we can create many more fun, STEAM-themed women’s clothes for years to come!!