“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a question almost all children are asked. When I was asked this as a child, I didn’t know that I would one day grow up to be an engineer. I had never met a female engineer and wondered if I would be able to balance career and family if I went into a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) field. I developed a love of science and math early in my life. A big reason behind my interest in these subjects was my participation in Girl Scouts and having encouraging teachers and supportive parents who planned many science center visits.
My interests led me to study chemical engineering at college and to join the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). At my first SWE meeting at the University of Kansas, it was clear that I was in good company. The room was filled with female peers who shared my passion for STEM and professional female engineers were available to provide mentoring. Eventually, I went on to earn a doctoral degree in chemical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and have since enjoyed a rewarding career with ExxonMobil Research & Engineering. My work originally focused on catalysis research, but currently I provide economic guidance to research teams. I am a longtime champion of the engineering profession and active volunteer with SWE and in ExxonMobil’s internal Women’s Interest Network.
I believe that girls of all ages should follow their passions and consider careers in engineering. Being an engineer is rewarding, as it allows you to be creative, work on collaborative teams and make an impact on the world around you every day. For me, the work/life balance is wonderful. I love to talk about being a dual-career couple with a spouse who is also an engineer at ExxonMobil as we raise a little boy who will be two years old in December. Being a working mother in STEM offers me the best of both worlds. I get to work on innovative research at ExxonMobil and watch my son explore the world around him as he grows up.
More than 600 middle school girls, 300 parents/educators and 200 SWE member volunteers were involved in last year’s Invent It. Build It. event in Los Angeles. Invent It. Build It. is sponsored by SWE, the ExxonMobil Foundation, Girl Scouts, Design Squad Global and Techbridge. The sixth annual Invent It. Build It. outreach event will be held at the SWE national conference on Saturday, October 24, 2015, in Nashville. The conference theme this year is “Reach Out to Reach Up”, and showcases the importance of STEM outreach. Middle school girls attending Invent It. Build It. will have the opportunity to interact with influential female engineers in the collegiate and professional worlds while having fun doing hands on engineering experiments. And at the end of the day may be better equipped to consider a career in STEM and when answering the all-too-important question “what do you want to be when you grow up?”
For resources and information about the engineering profession visit: BeAnEngineer.com, an initiative led by ExxonMobil to inspire the next generation of innovators.
Theresa Baumrucker, Ph.D.
SWE Outreach Member
ExxonMobil, Senior Engineer
Due to overwhelming response IIBI (Invent It. Build It.) adds 100 additional spots for middle school girls … this opportunity closes October 21st, at midnight! Registration: inventitbuildit.swe.org.