Do what you love: advice from women in engineering

Jacintha Verdegaal

When talking to the women in our Tasker community, we’re reminded every time again how different their stories are. That a career in engineering isn’t the most obvious choice for the people around them. And that it took a lot of determination, persistence and belief in themselves to get to where they are today. 

On fire

For Lizeth Medina Balliet it was her desire to innovate that motivated her to pursue a career in engineering. “I want to come up with the next best thing that makes current problems go away”, she says. As a little girl she already enjoyed doing experiments with her kitchen set, using (and ruining) her mother’s perfume and one day even setting her desk on fire.  

Audio engineer Irene Shapes also discovered her interest at a young age. “I’ve always been passionate about recording and producing music, and started experimenting and learning by myself since I was a teenager. I was recording my band’s music, but my skills weren’t good.”

The coolest thing is to do what you love

Now working in music production full-time, Irene decided to pursue a different career at first. “I thought it would be too difficult to be a woman in this field that’s still dominated by men and therefor was sacrificing my dreams.”

After realizing this was a mistake she finally gets to do what makes her happy. “I believe that one of the coolest things you can achieve in life is being able to do what you love for work.”

Confidence and capabilities

So what would be her advice to women in a similar situation? According to Irene people are still sometimes surprised by the fact that a woman is in charge, but she never really has issues with it. “The only thing you need to do is to show your confidence and capabilities; then people will trust you and listen to you.” And most importantly: never give up your dreams. “If this is what you want, no matter how hard or challenging it is, go and get it! Because if you don’t, you’ll regret it in the future.”

Something to say

Growing her confidence is also something that Lizeth had to work on. Despite being an introvert and English being her second language, she started to get invited as a speaker to conferences. “I didn’t feel comfortable at first, but over time I grew a reputation within my industry of being someone that has something to say. Public speaking is now part of what I do.”

Advocating diversity

What makes her even more proud is the work she’s doing to promote a more diverse workforce. “Being in a field that is not used to seeing people like you is challenging, but more importantly it stops diverse thinking. And that hurts progress.”

Fighting against the world

As part of promoting diversity, they emphasize the importance of role models. Civil and environmental engineering student Miracle Chinonyerem Ezirim says that it is sometimes easy to feel like you’re the only one fighting against the world. Being the only girl in the class can feel like there’s a spotlight on you. “Getting into the world of engineering and meeting successful, powerful women inspires me greatly. Whenever I look at them, I’m like: if they can do it, why can’t I?” 

Asking for help

And when facing situations that are completely new to you, it’s okay to ask for help. “I have always struggled to ask for help and want to do everything by myself”, Lizeth admits. “That deprived me from having a mentor early in my career. Now realizing how important mentors are, I actively try to learn from anyone about many different topics, such as conflict resolution, technical skills and leadership.” 

Putting knowledge into practice

Seeing how others use their knowledge also helped Santhanalakshmi Manoharan to get better at her work. She feels that as a computer engineer, there’s too much focus on the theoretical knowledge in schools. “As a computer student, we should make our hands dirty to gain knowledge. If we are simply learning without applying it, nothing will happen. My advice would be to let students work on many projects which will also help them to get hired more easily when they graduate.”

Show up

When asked for one final word of advice, Lizeth says it’s to show up every day and to stay optimistic. “Some days it may feel that no one sees what you’re doing, but one day they will. Always be fair, because success without integrity is not success. And stop looking for the perfect balance: things will be different at different stages of your life.”

At Tasker we couldn’t agree more. If you’re ready to ‘show up’ and use your skills and knowledge for interesting tasks and projects, then make sure to sign up and join our community of experts. 

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