We Need You
We face a challenge to ensure that the power system is secure, sustainable, affordable, and reliable for today and the future. This is not an easy task as we move toward carbon neutral energy. We need more women in the power industry if we are going to successfully achieve our goals.
The power industry is male dominated. I was the only female in most of my college classes and throughout most of my career I was the only woman on the team. It wasn’t easy to navigate, but I knew that I was making an impact and could pave the way for others.
Today there are more women in engineering, more women in power, and more women who don’t let prejudices stop them. To overcome obstacles, you need to find your motivation. For me I’m motivated by knowing that what I do is important. I’m making the planet greener by designing by installing renewable energy and storage, I’m strengthening and protecting the electrical grid from attacks both cyber and physical, and I’m keeping the lights on.
Women in STEM need to support each other. I didn’t have any female engineers to guide and help me navigate the field. Instead, I did my best to figure things out. I didn’t always get it right, but I learned valuable lessons along the way. That’s why I set aside two hours each week to provide free coaching. I’m not a professional coach or mentor, I’m just someone who has been there, done that, and is willing to share what I can. I’m here to just listen and let you vent if you need that, be a cheerleader, provide guidance, tell stories where I experienced similar situations, whatever I can do to help. If you would like to chat with me because you are thinking about studying engineering, you are a young professional, or a seasoned veteran that just wants someone to commiserate with, send me an email.
Life as an Engineer
Now that I’ve explained why we need more women in the power industry and offered to help at every stage, let’s talk about your personal life as an engineer.
I gave birth to my son when I was seventeen, got married when I was twenty-one to a wonderful man with three children of his own, and started college. I couldn’t have picked a harder time in my life to start an engineering degree, but that’s what I did. I tell you this so that you know you can do it. I worked, went to class, and raised a family. I’m nothing special and if I can do it, you can too.
Successfully completing an engineering degree isn’t easy. You are going to give up a lot of the things other college students get to do. There will be no parties, no easy classes, and no sporting events. Your time will mainly be spent in class, in lab, or in the library studying. That’s not to say that I didn’t have friends. I developed a core study group of great guys that supported and helped me every step of the way. They would even watch my son while I worked on projects. Michelle, the only other girl in BSEE at that level, and I had three or four classes together, so we immediately became friends.
Motherhood is one of the most important roles women can be blessed with receiving, and it is also complex and stressful. My son kept me motivated, but he also came with a huge heaping spoonful of guilt. I had to work to provide for my family because I was and still am the primary bread winner. It wasn’t an option for me to pause my career to be a stay-at-home housewife. I suspect for most of you that is a similar situation. Balancing working full time with being a mom results in guilt trips. I wrote this article back in 2017 about it https://leanedon.com/happy-mothers-day/.
When the guilt trip comes, which is usually self-imposed, give yourself some grace. Nobody is perfect, and we all just do the best we can. Try to be there for the big events and during the day-to-day activities make sure you are present. Turn off your phone and leave it in the car as often as you can. I promise you that there is little you can do to avoid a work catastrophe when you are at your kid’s ballgame or recital. So, leave it somewhere and embrace just being with your family. If you leave your phone in your pocket, it will be too tempting not to check it.
I hope you learned a little about me, but more important I hope I gave you some insight and something to think about. Consider a career in power because you have the #powertomakeadifference.
Heather Eason is featured in the book “Empowering Women in STEM – Uncovering the Journey” to be published by CRC Press – Taylor & Francis Group, LLC in 2022. Heather blogs at Leanedon.com. Heather is the founder and owner of Select Solutions HoldCo, Select Renewable Systems, and Select Power Systems.