Did you ever want to quit engineering? Why didn’t you?
This month’s SWEet Wisdom question is all about resilience and perseverance! As engineers and engineering students, we have all faced significant challenges and obstacles when working towards goals. Maybe we know we will have to worker harder than our peers to achieve the same goal, or we don’t do as well as we think we should in a class or on a project.
Part of becoming an engineer is learning how to work through difficult problems, and sometimes the challenges we face seem insurmountable. It is normal to want to quit sometimes, but it is also important to work hard to achieve your goals, surround yourself with support, and remember your motivation.
Four inspiring engineers share how they pushed through in times of doubt and struggle with the help of some determination and persistence.
Christina Minkler, PE, MBA
Transportation Senior Project Manager at CHA Consulting, Inc.
Before I even entered into my engineering program, I contemplated whether I was “smart enough” to succeed. I was always an A student in high school, never a super smart kid, and it never came easy to me, but I was teachable, worked hard, and generally got good grades. The real question here is if I wanted to pursue engineering as I knew how hard the road ahead would be for me. I knew I would regret not challenging myself to the fullest if I selected another degree program, and did not pursue an engineering degree.
Whenever I was extremely challenged in my coursework and questioned my abilities, I leveraged and used the resources of the college and those around me to work through the “I should quit” thoughts. These resources included professor’s office hours, tutors, smarter kids that understood the coursework, and/or small group learning. My point is: I didn’t allow quitting to be an option; I knew that I was capable, and ensured that I was surrounded by a sound support system.
Mary Bonk Isaac, PhD
Founder, HEDGE Co (non-profit)
Sure, several times. I almost quit during my first and last terms at college as a single mom. The first because I got my first ever C in a math course, and the last because I was so far behind in my senior project, but then I just kept remembering my son and needing to be able to take care of him financially, and gutted it out.
About 20 years into my career, I did take a voluntary separation package, which ended up being temporary, because I was asked to go back at a higher salary and some additional perks. I accepted and had the time of my life until it was time to leave eight years later for good.
Project Engineer, The G C Broach Company
Throughout my path to a career in engineering, I experienced many instances where I was made to feel “less than” my male counterparts simply because I am female. For example, my freshman year in college, a male professor assigned one female to each group for a design project and then told us we should be the note takers. That moment still resonates with me today.
In my current position I am the only female engineer in the company. When I first started, I was fresh out of university and eager to learn. While generally my male colleagues were helpful, I began to notice they would make comments to or about me that they did not amongst our male colleagues. For years I allowed their behavior to make me feel uncomfortable, and I would change things about my dress or demeanor to try and avoid these situations. Often times I felt if I worked in a field with more women who held positions of power, I would be happier. Sometimes, I still feel that way. However, I will always choose to be an engineer because the work we do is vital to every aspect of making the world run the way it does.
I come from two generations of (male) engineers and am very proud to be the first female engineer in my family. The world needs more women interested in and pursing engineering fields to help change the negative perceptions about women and our worth. This is why I won’t quit.
Annette Pohlman, MBA
Global Director, Body & Security Products
Continental Automotive Systems
Yes. I chose not to quit and change careers because I knew I could help to shape and impact the business conditions of my assigned responsibility, and this meant jobs for my colleagues. I wanted to use my talent to do something meaningful for myself and others. I knew I could help change other people’s lives for the better.