Standards for an Engineer


I'm going to start my 2nd year in Electronic Engineering. I've been getting good grades so far, but being a woman in a male-dominated field, makes me feel a little intimidated. It's like many people already know so much before starting the course and many of the guys have done internships before and during summer - in their very first year!
I love what I'm studying and I know that there are many options out there. Yet, recently when a certain experimental project failed to work, I felt devastated, especially when most of the others got their's working. I had invested so much time and hard work into it. Since you would have faced so many challenges when you were studying, my question is, what do you look up to for inspiration when faced with moments like an important experiment failing to work and undergoing a sense of failure to meet the standards of an Engineer?
posted by SRS on March 28, 2012

Answer 1 by Dr Sandra Cruz-Pol

My answer would be that this is a typical feeling for woman (we are perfectionist and very harsh judges for ourselves); you think everybody else knows more than you do or has more experience than you. This may not be necessarily true of ALL your classmates, but it may make you feel better if you find some experience by having internships during the summer or a part-time job. But don't overload yourself too much so that you still have time to study! Many males mess up in their work too, and that's just normal, part of the road to learning. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Yes, if a woman makes a mistake some (not very smart people) might want to generalize and stereotype saying, you see, she messed up because she's a female. Don't listen to this, except for proving them wrong. But sometimes, nobody criticizes us; it's all in our minds. So be secure and you'll be accepted. You have to accept yourself first, before others do. You have the interest of learning (that's important and very positive), and you have the will, but you have to forgive yourself. Don't feel devastated. Most guys make many mistakes, and then laugh at themselves. Just get up and go on. Keep your head high and remember that when you succeed (and you will) you will also be easier to remember amongst a crowd of male engineers. :) Sandra

Answer 2 by Ms Terita Norton

Dear SRS, There are times when I still get a little intimidated when I walk into a technical meeting and I'm the only female. I've learned however to be confident in my own technical ability. I've also realized that as a women I am able to bring a different perspective to the table. As individuals we all have our own strengths and weaknesses so although you may feel that your classmates have more experience than you, I am sure there are aspects of the course that they may not understand. The more you study and the more experience you obtain the greater your confidence will become. Internships and research assistantships are great ways to obtain additional technical experience. Also don't be afraid to ask questions. Needing help should never be seen as a weakness but rather an opportunity to grow. My source of inspiration during challenging times in college was my faith in God and the support I received from family members as friends. Regards, Terita Norton The Aerospace Corporation