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Parenthood Balancing Act

19 Jun

I was going to call this post “Parenthood Anxieties”, but figured I use that word TOO often in many of these posts! It often just dredges up more anxiety to acknowledge that it is ever present, so I decided to try another point of view.

I know there are many different balancing acts that need to be juggled as we enter into parenthood. Learning how to be a parent doesn’t always come easy and throw in two parents who work full-time will only add to the challenge. So what happens to all of the personal passions that each parent has? Perhaps they will fall by the wayside once that little one is placed into your arms… But what if those passions are something I don’t want to lose completely?

I’m very passionate about Outreach and I love volunteering whenever I can. I love talking to middle school, high school and community college students about engineering and what it’s like to be an engineer. I loved mentoring high school students in an after school program encouraging the Architecture, Construction and Engineering professions. I find myself constantly Googling organizations and schools that are highly involved in promoting STEM education to see what kind of volunteer or job opportunities might become available.  I’m worried though, that once the little one arrives, all of this will fall by the wayside.

I’ve thought about a career change including potentially going back to school to get my secondary teaching credential, but the timing just didn’t seem right being 5 months pregnant and all. It’s also a HUGE change from what I’m currently doing. With our family growing, I’m not sure I’m brave enough to take the risk (and the significant pay cut!). So for now, that idea is on the back burner. I figured I’d let The Hubs go ahead and finish the things he needs to do to get his Professional Engineering License first and hopefully that will put us in a better position to make a decision on what I should maybe pursue next.

I”ve also thought about working for one of the many STEM education non-profits being formed with the push for increasing STEM education awareness nationally. Problem with that (in edition to the probable pay cut) is that most of the time, there are only people with education related backgrounds working there. Seems sorta counter intuitive to me to not have ANY employees with engineering related background. I don’t have any experience with curriculum development or the like, which many of these places require.

I could try to find a teaching job at a community college or as a lecturer somewhere since I do have a Master’s Degree, but do I have what it takes? I’ve never written a lesson plan, assignment or test in my life, so the challenge seems daunting. I feel like I would need to go to school or something to LEARN how to actually do this (although I think many in the teaching profession would beg to differ since apparently those programs don’t do much for them.)

I could also find another engineering job with a larger company that has a more establish Outreach program and where it is encouraged to participate in these sort of activities. Currently, my company rarely knows about the Outreach I participate in as they are mostly activities I have found through SWE or on my own. Most of the time I take vacation time whenever I want to speak in classroom or go to an event. I guess I could be proactive and start up something here, but again that sort of thing is not really encouraged. We’re here to work on just work stuff. Maybe I’m just in need of a culture change.

Theses have been things I’ve thought about for awhile now, but now with a baby on the way, the process and decision seems that much harder to make and the status quo seems that much easier!

If you have a family, how have you been able to balance both your family life and pursuing your personal passions?


Mistakes and My Ego

18 Oct
Image Source: myLot

I’m not very good at making mistakes.

The other day at work, I sent a coworker some calculations that I worked on for a couple hours the night before. I had worked really hard and did the best I could to make sure that the answers made sense before I sent it to her. It was SOO hard for me to hit the send button because of my uncertainty and confidence about the correctness of my answers. But after checking through them again, I sent it off.

Well, turns out I did the calculations wrong. Chemistry calculations that should have been simple (at least in my head should have been simple) I got WRONG.

That alone created a downward spiral of thoughts in my head…

“You thought you were so good at chemisty…well obviously not…”
“How could you think you could become a chemistry teacher when you can’t even do simple problems!”
“You should have known better.”
“People are right to think you don’t know what you are talking about.”
Etc. Etc. Etc.

This is the way I’ve always been…or should I say… the way my EGO has always been.

My Ego has been flaring its ugly head lately. I don’t think that this is necessarily unusual, I just think that I am more aware of it after watching Oprah’s first Lifeclass last week.

It showed up again over the weekend, when I didn’t get the expected reaction from The Hubs after his surprise weekend. I mean, the surprise wasn’t for me, so why should I get so incredibly upset when things didn’t work out exactly like I had planned.

So yesterday, I decided to rewatch Oprah’s Lifeclass on The Power of the Ego so that I could take some notes and really learn how to keep my Ego in check.

Here were some of my favorite quotes from the class. Things to remember and to know when my Ego is flaring up..

  • “I don’t think it’s possible anymore for others to hurt me. They are are just giving their observations. I am giving them meaning.” – Wow. When I heard this, it totally made sense to me. Something I need to remember! 

  • “Know the truth of yourself to disconnect from Ego.” – I sometimes think that I really do need to learn more about myself. I think most of the time I’m probably identfing with my Ego and not my true authentic self.

  • “The Ego feeds itself in wanting.”

  • “Ego shows up when someone disagrees with you. It’s your defense.” – I’ve seen this happen in my own life. Probably more times than I can count. It comes with being a perfectionist and people-pleaser.
  •  “I am worthy!”

I’m going to try again and read some of Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth. I’ve tried in the past, but got bogged down with the philosophy of it all. Oprah said Chapters 3 and 4 really resonated with her so I figured maybe I would start in small steps there.

I think I’ll do some individual posts on additional Lifeclasses that resonate with me. This way I can go back and remember all the wonderful things I learn without hogging DVR space! 🙂

Do you ever recognize your Ego flaring up? How do you deal with it?
Are you taking Oprah’s Lifeclass? What do you think so far?

Working to Gain Confidence

12 Oct

I’ve been at my company for over 8 years. I interned here, did my senior project here, worked in various places in the organization, etc.

But still I feel like I’m invisible. It could have to do with my personality. I must admit I’m a bit of a Negative Nancy, but I always thought my smarts and good work made up for it. The benefit of being negative is that I’m conservative and take a lot of pains to ensure that if something is done, it is done right. However, perhaps it makes it seem like I don’t have enough confidence in myself, which is something I do sometimes have an issue with.

I’m also not the type to go bragging about the things I’ve accomplished. I mean I tell my boss during one on one sessions about what I’ve been up to, but he’s not much of the verbal type to share it with others.

I try to build my confidence by listing the things I’ve accomplished. However when I’m not EVER recognized by managers or peers for knowing what I know, I get frustrated and end up second guessing everything I thought I knew about myself.

Take for example …

My company has been putting together a series of internal classes to teach the engineers about the basics of our technology. I’ve gone through trainings like this before (too many to count), but it is no secret that I LOVE to learn and LOVE anything that is school related. A month or so back, I even offered to one of the upper management engineers who was going to plan these classes that I would love to help out in learning about and then teaching one of the modules. I feel like I have the capacity to do this and to do it well.

Recently, I heard that an email went around polling people who were interested in taking these new classes. And lo and behold, my name along with a couple of other engineers (no rhyme or reason so it seems) wasn’t even on the distribution list. Now maybe it could have been an honest mistake and it just slipped their mind to include me (although this isn’t the first time something like this has happened.) And obviously my interest in helping out was ignored since the planning of the classes is going on without my knowledge and with one of the organizing engineers having less experience then me. It could be possible that they think I’m too busy, but still what would be the harm in asking…

I feel like work is a lot like school. If you aren’t in the “in” crowd, well sorry,  tough luck. You can stay out there and look at us make ourselves look good and you can just look like an outsider. Seems real mature, eh?

It’s not that I’m looking to move up in the company to extraordinary proportions or anything. The Hubs and I are in the process of trying to grow our family, so added work stress and responsiblity is not what I’m looking for. I also don’t really want to look for a new job because I don’t want to start at a new company from scratch with regards to benefits.

So it seems I need to find another way to build my confidence in the workforce and I need to prevent events like this from setting me back.

Have you ever dealt with self-confidence issues at work? 
Do you have any tips on how to gain self-confidence without outside influences?

Missed Opportunities

27 Apr

It seems that I am quickly becoming the queen of missed career opportunities. Rather, I waffle on whether or not to take advantage of an opportunity and then end up missing it. Then I become  inwardly annoyed with the person who ended up getting the opportunity – in most cases someone who technically has less experience then I do (which hasn’t seemed to matter much in many of the moves I see being made).

The latest missed opportunity occurred recently. It was the opportunity to supervise one of the labs at work. Operators had approached me, asking me to look into the position as they thought I would be a good fit and would like to work for me. I did my research and went to our company website to look up the job description. When I did, the only supervisory position was a swing shift opportunity – not something I would want. Plus, even though the operators wanted me to bring my detail and organizational skills to the lab, I don’t know how I would be in a supervisory role because of my intense emotions and tendency to get very stressed out. So I sort of put the opportunity to the back of my mind.  (This was my big mistake. I now realize if I was at all interested, I should have gone and physically talked to somebody about it.) Now I find out that the position is taken and that it was in fact a day shift opportunity. I’m finding myself a little resentful although the fault sits squarely on my shoulders!

I think the majority of the time, I don’t actively pursue these opportunities because I’m afraid at failing at the new position. I also have plans for starting a family and don’t want a new career move to get in the way. Both of these are BAD reasons to miss opportunities. I just don’t know what to do to gain more confidence in myself and just do it.

Failure is something that I already deal with in my current position, so how could taking this new opportunity be any different. I read on SO many blogs (click on each for GREAT personal development stuff) that you need to take risks to reap great rewards, but for some reason I am not putting what I learn into action.

As for starting a family, who knows when that will actually pan out. Four months in and I don’t even think things are moving in the right direction (i.e. – no Aunt Flo, no egg, no baby).  I need to go see the doctor, but figure she’d probably make me wait six months anyways until they would do anything. I normally see her in Aug, so I think I’ll just wait till then to see what she says. But until then, well, I guess I need to keep looking for opportunities and not worry about the what if’s of when a baby comes…

How do you all approach opportunities? Are you like me and tend to miss them or do you take the bull by the horns and just go for it?

Fresh Set of Eyes

7 Apr

Do you ever feel like you need a fresh set of eyes to look at something so that you can get a new perspective?

This is exactly how I feel with one of my projects at work. I’ve been on this project since I started with the company over 7 years ago. As of late, we have had some issues creep up that were things I never saw in the past. I’ve been investigating possible causes and solutions, but haven’t found success yet.

I’ve consulted with others to get their opinion on the situation. In some cases, people are telling me I need start from scratch and develop a whole new process to fix the problem (hard to do when this product is so mature and when I am basically the only resource). In other cases, I need someone else with more expertise to do a more thorough investigation to prove that it is nothing they are doing that could be causing the problem. This typically results in no work done because they brush it off as not their problem or priority.

I feel like I’ve done all I can and I’ve looked for all the possible solutions, but I just can’t find the one that will fix the problem. I  feel like I’m the only one fully invested in this project. I feel a bit burned out on all the problems. I feel like I need a fresh perspective.

How do you find a fresh perspective when looking at a problem for what feels like forever with no readily apparent solution? 

Do you look to others or do you have a strategy to find your own fresh perspective?

Taking Charge of My Career

1 Mar

I usually dislike review time at work. I’m not really sure why, as I know I am a good worker, have never gotten a bad review, and have always been awarded some sort of raise or bonus every year. I’m usually REALLY nervous going in and then sit there while my boss tells me what I already know (“You’ve accomplished this, this and this. Here are the business’s goals for this year.”) I usually quietly leave with a thank you and that’s it for another year.

However, yesterday was different.  You see, I didn’t even know my review was yesterday until I got in, so I really had ZERO time to worry about it. I mean, I knew it was coming, but I didn’t have time to dwell on it. Also, I was more confident because I had a plan of how I was going to address my review. This was the first time I planned on taking an active part in my review process.

And I have SWE (the Society of Women Engineers for all you non-engineers out there) to thank for that…

It just so happened that we had our SWE regional conference at a local university on Saturday. It was a time to network with other female (and some male) engineers and learn a TON about personal and professional development.

Probably the best and most interesting course I took was called “Building Your Career Skills“.

It was a course on understanding what skills are most highly sought after by HR and management in companies and how to utilize the review process to fill in any gaps that you may have as you progress in your career.

The nine essential career skills are:

1.) Technical Depth – design, test and implement solutions; be analytical and efficient
2.) Organizational Integration – understand organization and its mission; have cross-divisional perspective
3.) Strategic Vision – develop long term plans, understand how what I do affects the bottom line
4.) Program Management – employ resources, overcome barriers, prioritize
5.) Leadership – influence and persuade others, reconcile differences, communicate effectively at all levels
6.) Direct People Management – effectively manage, develop trust and credibility, provide guidance
7.) Commercial – demonstrate negotiation skills, customer experience, handle difficult discussions postivly
8.) Financial – understand balance and income sheets, deliver on financial commitments
9.) Operational – deliver product to meet objective, allocate resources efficiently, set priorities

On Sunday, I went through all of the jobs I have had thus far in my career and figured out which career skills I learned from each one. Those skills where I didn’t yet have experience, I tried to think about ways I could learn them in my current position, be it taking classes or being included in meetings where I could be exposed to these areas.

I then went into my review with specific things I wanted to learn and be exposed to during the year. My boss was very open to listening and actually agreed with me as to some of the classes that I was interested in taking. I’ll definitely be following up in a month or so to make sure that some action has been taken on my boss’s part in scheduling something (as he wanted to try to plan a class for the whole group). If I don’t hear anything, I’ll be sure to start doing the research myself to schedule something.

I feel better knowing that at least I’ve spoken up to my boss about my needs and where I want my career to go. We’ll see how it all pans out this year…

Have any of you used a similar strategy in your career? Was your boss receptive to your career needs?


9 Feb

You know the saying “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.”? I know it’s mostly used when talking about relationships, however, I’ve found its relevance in my professional life.

As you know from a previous post, I’ve been working crazy hours – like 10am to 9pm crazy. It’s been happening for about 2 weeks straight. It’s exhausting and annoying.

However, today  I am grateful for it.

Why you may ask?

Because, yesterday I was able to work a normal 8am – 5pm day and OMG was it REFRESHING!

I was able to leave and come home when it was still light out.
I was able to enjoy both the sunrise and the sunset on my drive to and from work.
I was able to go to lunch at a normal hour and hit up the gym so I could get home early to hang out with my husband.
The day flew by and when it was 5 o’clock I was outta there (and didn’t feel guilty).
I got a lot more accomplished because I could go back to my good ol’ morning routine.
I was able to go to Starbucks and get a morning snack.

I know that I likely have a few more 10am-9pm’s  in my future, but I think it will really help me appreciate the normal days that I often used to despise.

If you had asked me last week if I would be grateful for working crazy hours, I would have given you a big “HELL NO!”.

I hope this new perspective will help me continue to see the things I should be grateful for in any challenge, obstacle or negative thing that occurs in my life. I know it won’t be easy, but now I’ll have the post to always come back to and remind me!