Meet Ann Shih, a sixty-year-old mother of two daughters. She went to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD and studied chemical engineering. She also has a master’s degree and a Professional Engineering License in Chemical Engineering. She has been working for 21 years as an engineer. After working her first eight years, she had her daughters and became the director of mom’s day care. She returned to work as an engineer when her youngest daughter was six years old.
How would you describe what you are studying to our readers?
I am in the Professional MBA (Master’s in Business Administration) program at the University of Tennessee. I attend classes on Saturdays from 8am to 5pm, on average three Saturdays a month. Some of the classes I’m taking are finance, economics, and leadership development. I also have a management project on process improvement (making engineering process easier and more efficient) that I work with my company.
What is your undergraduate degree in?
I have a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering. Classes I took during my first year in college were chemistry, physics, and calculus. To complete my degree, I took courses in Thermodynamics, chemical kinetics, fluid flow, and computer programming.
Thermodynamics teaches you about heat and energy. In kinetics class we learned about the speed of chemical reactions. And fluid flow we learned about gasses or liquids and their behavior to an applied force.
What made you decide to go on for a masters degree in engineering management?
After running my mom’s day care and managing my dad’s cabin rental property, I realized I enjoyed making their businesses profitable. Then in 2012 I became the president of the Smoky Mountain Section of SWE located in east Tennessee. I enjoyed managing businesses and leading a professional society so I decided I wanted to pursue a management role.
What first interested you about engineering management? Were you introduced to it in college? And by whom?
At my first engineering job at AT&T, they offered tuition assistance as a benefit and paid for two MBA classes I took at Lehigh University in the evenings. I also took an enrichment course at my current job called Program Management University. It was then I decided to pursue an MBA degree.
What is your favorite part of studying engineering management? Is it a certain class? A certain lab? A certain professor?
My favorite part of studying is leadership development. My leadership coach and mentor has inspired me to handle tough situations. He has a PhD in chemistry in Italy and a PhD in business administration in the USA. He has been the chief executive officer (CEO) of several chemical companies. I can count on him to provide his wisdom and support.
What has been the most challenging part of studying engineering so far?
Getting homework done is the most challenging part, but help is available, from the professors, teaching assistants, and tutors. I did best when I started assignments early. Put your assignments on a calendar.
What helped prepare you the most for college? Certain classes? Certain after school extracurricular activities?
Chemistry, physics, and math in high school helped prepare me the most for studying chemical engineering. I played field hockey and basketball in high school which helped me learn to work as a team. I was also the vice president of the American Field Society (AFS) Club, which gave me leadership experience. AFS promotes international high school student exchange.
When you graduate, what do you hope to do with your degree? How do you hope to make a difference in the world using your degree?
I would like to become a program manager. A program manager works on a project that is needed for the company and does program budgeting. Key skills for program management are project coordination, leadership, and strategic thinking. Or perhaps I could start my own business and become a CEO. I would also like to teach college students in business administration.
What advice do you have for our readers who may want to become engineers one day?
Stay hard in math and science. Ask for help when you get stuck. Join SWENext and find a mentor.