Saturday, May 9, 2020

I Smeared Makeup All Over My Face

So when I work shift work during non-isolation times, I find that there are a few direct results from 14+ hour days:
  1. Less posts here 
  2. My apartment looks like a tornado hit because I pretty much am only home long enough to do laundry and run the dishwasher (good thing I don't have a roommate to judge me!) 
  3. Working off of like 4-6 hours of sleep makes me do some silly stuff 
On the topic of silly things I've done while working shift... One morning I tried this new liquid lipstick. I'd heard a lot about this brand, and I picked a shade from Amazon since stores aren't open when I'm out of work. I know, it seems weird for somebody who considers herself to be a serious engineer to be talking about makeup. But as much as I enjoy destroying stereotypes and don't feel makeup is a necessity, I also enjoy trying out different lipsticks when I'm feeling sassy.

Anyways, of course the first time I decided to try my new liquid lipstick was at 4 in the morning in my car right before I left for work (don't worry, I wasn't doing makeup and driving).

When I arrived at work and stopped by the restroom I realized that (a) this color was wayyyyy too dark for the spring like weather we are having and (b) the edges of my lips looked like a drunk girl at 2 am on a Friday night had done my makeup. So, I tried to wipe it off with paper towels in the bathroom and somehow just ended up spreading it ALL OVER my face. I was equally impressed with how pigmented the color was, and mortified that I was looking a lot like Miranda Sings right now.

So I tried to run to my desk to get some lip balm (pro tip, in case you didn't know, those super hydrating lip balms are great at getting lipstick off), and just when I got to my desk my boss came up and started asking me for critical project updates.  I couldn't figure out how to handle the situation so I just super rudely pretended to shuffle through papers and kept my back to him and my head down while I answered questions. Being kind of a jerk is better than turning around to reveal what looks like a child playing in her mother's makeup bag, right? Luckily he knows me well enough by this point that I don't think it was too offensive, but I wouldn't exactly recommend this move if you are at a new job. 

Anyways, the short of it is that I was able to sprint back to the bathroom and get the clown makeup off of my face. AND I had a great story at lunch that day. I decided that what could have been considered a terrible start to my morning was really just a few minutes in the span of my day. The good thing about having a busy day is that you don't have much time to be embarrassed about fashion disasters.  I've  also learned that maybe bold new makeup choices are not the right choice for 4 am... Looks like I'll be reaching for chapstick until life settles down again! 



PS. What makeup disasters have you had at work?  

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Tips on Landing an Engineering Job From the Other Side of the Table

Things have changed for me over the past few years, and I've been lucky enough to have gone from the nervous prospective engineer trying to find a career pat to spending a lot more time on the hiring side of the interview table. I know many of you may be struggling to find positions after major organizational cuts, or graduating in a world of no career fairs - and I figured it's a good time to lift the curtain a little bit. So here is the big secret... interviewers really want to hire you (assuming you are a smart, motivated, team player). If we are interviewing, it is because we need somebody on our team. So why aren't you landing the interview or the job? And how can you turn that around?

1. Your resume is poorly written or organized. Your resume is a reflection of you, and the best work you can produce. If it is littered with spelling errors, has pasted job descriptions out of the job postings for your previous jobs, or the sentences don't make sense - it makes you seem careless at best, incompetent at worst. Have multiple people review your resume before you send it out, and make sure it is something on which you are proud to have your name.

2. You don't seem like you are interested in the job. This could mean you send a cover letter or a resume geared towards a different job, you are difficult to reach, or you aren't able to communicate why you want the job in the interview. I want to work with people who want to stick around, and are excited about what we do. State clearly at some point that you want the job, and why you want it. That means you should do your homework on the company and the position ahead of time, and have a good idea of what the job is. Bonus points if you follow up with the interviewers to thank them for the interview- about 10% of people seem to do this anymore, and it certainly displays interest.

3. You come off as unprofessional. For me this is strongly tied to "you don't seem like you are interested in the job". Unprofessional behavior can be a sign of lack of maturity or competence- and can range from lack of personal hygiene, to being late for the interview, to being rude to the admin staff before or after the interview. One time, there was a phone interviewee who sounded like they were going for  a walk through the park (wind, huffing and puffing up stairs), and then banging around pots and pans. Take the time to make sure find a quiet space for phone or video interviews, and make sure you research or ask about expectations for dress for the interview if you are unsure.

4.  You don't have enough experience. I know, I know. This is sounds like the great conundrum of me asking for you to already to have done the job before you get your first job. But, while direct work experience is certainly great - you can also build your chops as an engineer on your own time. Make sure you are an active participant in your senior design project or thesis, take the time to actually build and design things on your own, join a build team at school, program a PLC to make yourself grilled cheese, participate in the concrete boat challenge - be an engineer. Don't just list labs you were required to do for class. Show that you can and enjoy to apply what you have studied. Then, sell that experience to the panel through your resume and interview. Practice common interview questions with a friend or family member - and make sure that you can clearly communicate how awesome you really are.

5. The specific gap on the team isn't the right one for you right now. Newly hired engineers are almost always brought onto a team. This part is out of your control, and is just about timing. Sometimes we've lost our most experienced team member, and need somebody with direct experience to be able to jump onto the team, mentor others, and keep up with the workload. Sometimes we have a pretty well rounded team and can afford to take somebody with little to no applicable experience, to be mentored and build up longer term organizational experience. This all to say - just because you don't get a job doesn't necessarily mean you should never apply to the company again. Now, if you bombed the interview, and showed up 30 minutes late and hadn't showered in a week - you may want to wait until people forget that impression of you or the management turns over. But otherwise, you can apply to similar postings, and see if another one is a better fit for you.

Ultimately- keep trying, and keep putting your best foot forward! Good luck out there!


Saturday, April 18, 2020

We are back!

Why hello there, it's been quite some time since I've been able to update this blog.

When I first started this blog years ago, it was because jumping from college to a full time engineering workplace felt completely isolating. The world of engineering can sometimes unfortunately not designed for women - whether that be simple things like bathroom accessibility, to more complicated social constructs. And while this blog served as an echo chamber of kinds, it also helped me have a place to have a voice, and to hopefully reach somebody else who was struggling in need of a community.

I stopped writing because I built a community of fellow engineers and professionals in real life, switched jobs to one I find fulfilling and supportive of my career, and was working long hours establishing my career. And in many ways, I worried that a blog poking fun at silly things in work would impact my career -which didn't seem to be worth the tradeoff. In a weird turn of events, although I'm an "essential worker", the isolation of the Covid-19 pandemic has both provided a respite from my insane schedule and reminded me of the need for a strong community.

So, I've decided to make the best of some of this extra free time and update some posts about life as an engineer, manager, etc., tips for helping you achieve your own success, and some of the hilarious little stories in the mundane parts of life.

If you've got any questions about being a woman in a technical field, or issues you think we should address, please pop a comment down below!


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




Monday, August 29, 2016

Can Coworkers Be Friends?

So I know that previously I've written about relationships with coworkers (mostly negative or tricky ones). But as I've transitioned from school life to work life (especially when I moved far away from my home town), I've found that some of my coworkers have become my closest friends. The kinds of friends who I talk to more regularly than my high school bffs years after I left the job (men and women alike). I'm actually going to weddings for several coworkers from previous jobs or internships this year.

Pros of coworker friendships:
  1.  You can talk to them about your day and they totally get it. Since they understand your industry, they can understand some of the nuances in your day that others may not. And since it's their industry, these stories don't bore them to tears (like some of your non-work friends and family).
  2. It's great networking! Especially when you end up moving your separate ways, you end up with strong professional connections at a range of organizations. 
  3. If you work together, chances are you have the same (crazy) schedule. If you have to cancel for work reasons, they totally get it. 
  4. They can be co-mentors. Even if they are not above you in rank, you can share honest feedback with each other to help each other improve as professionals. I talk through difficult professional situations with ex-coworkers all the time.  
  5. They have your back at work. If they see you being criticized, they can defend you when you can't defend yourself. If you are having a tough time personally, they may even try to pick up the slack at work until you get back on your feet.

On the flip side, like regular friendships- some co-worker friendships don't work out for whatever reason. Be aware of this going in, because having a frenemy at work can have a profound impact on your professional life.

Things to keep in mind when you are with work friends:
  1. Don't play into the temptations of the work gossip mill. Especially early in a friendship, don't give them ammunition to tell other people, "Vanessa said that she HATES you because..."
  2. Drinking to excess with your coworker friends on a regular basis is a no-no. Work besties aren't the ones you want holding your hair after too many shots of tequila- if only because then they'll think of you as being irresponsible. 
  3. Promotions, and changes in responsibility can impact your friendships. Be honest with yourself about which friends will support you and which ones will be jealous, and try to introduce changes in your friend dynamic accordingly. 
So, be aware of the fact that these friends are work friends - but don't be afraid of making some real connections with your coworkers. My work friends are a lot of the reason I love my job, and my ex-coworker friends are amazing. They've helped support me through low points, celebrated my successes, been a sounding board when I feel lost, recommended me for future opportunities, and all together been an invaluable resource for me. I hope that all of you find some special coworkers who will be the same foundation for you.



PS. What experiences have you had with coworkers who crossed over to friends? Are they still close, or was there a catastrophe?

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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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