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Society of Women Engineers

SWE Advice: Career Confused

SWE Advice: Career Confused

Published On: January 2016

“I am an engineer based in the USA, currently on my first business trip to China supporting a new project. I have colleagues that are informally wondering aloud to me whether I would consider moving to China for an international assignment. Since I am an engineer fluent in English and (almost fully) fluent in Chinese, I think people in my company see my rare skill set could add value to the projects that are based in China.

Personally, I’m already working on moving into another area in my company because I would like to do more technical work, instead of the liaison-type work that I’ve grown tired of over the past few years.

My manager says he’s not sure if it would hurt my career at this company if I turn down an opportunity to work abroad. I’m getting to the point in my life where I want to find a partner soon and start a family in a couple of years … in the USA. I really can’t see myself reaching those personal goals if I move to China, and it wouldn’t even be in a functional area that I want for my next career move.

I’ve also noticed that it’s much easier for men to work abroad and bring their families with them because stay at home wives are more accepted in a foreign country like China.

In my experience as a woman, the unfortunate reality is that most men would not give up their work to be with a partner that’s working abroad and I find this incredibly unfair. I have really tried to “Lean In” in my career so far, and I know it would be a great opportunity for my career if my company asks me to work in China full-time. But this path would not bring me into technical areas – which is what I really want right now. I feel that moving to China now would jeopardize my personal goals.

I appreciate everyone’s advice!”

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