I love that this question is from a Southern girl, like me!
Every engineer encounters diversity in the workplace and its a good thing if you can embrace it. Engineers come from all over the world and each one has been trained managed a little bit differently. I was an engineer in the US for 5 years before coming to England and Ive since had to learn the different ways people interact and how tasks are managed.
The most important things Ive learned are to tread lightly and be confident.
Tread lightly Whenever meeting someone new, whether one co-worker or a new group, remember that they havent been trained and managed the same way you have. The way you are trained and managed has shaped how you behave and who you are. The same goes for others. People will get defensive if you are overbearing and behave as though its my way or the highway. Take time to listen to others and work with them to achieve the goal youve been assigned. Learn something new every day, sometimes you will learn something just by watching how others interact.
Be confident When you are done with engineering school you get a lovely degree from your university that is tangible evidence that you know a lot. Always always always remember that there is even more that you dont know! You cant know everything, and if you could youd have to spend a lot of time learning it and thered be no time left for having fun! Be comfortable answering questions about things you know, it builds credibility and lets others know that you are a resource to be utilized. I have found it is even more important to be comfortable acknowledging what you dont know. Any credibility you have gets washed away if you get caught pretending to know about something you dont.
Example: Yesterday I was being asked about a piece of equipment I have worked with for several years. I answered questions all day about its operations, what would happen if certain scenarios arose, etc and I answered each one that came up. Then they asked me if a certain item was hard-wired or software. I always get nervous when asked about electrical stuff, Ive never really understood it or even been very interested in it and Im afraid people will think Im not as good an engineer. I smiled, put my hands up and told them I was guilty of not being good with electronics and having limited knowledge of the details of control systems. But what has happened almost every time before happened again: They said, Thats fine. Would you find out for us? I happily obliged. The important part is that you provide a correct answer, not an immediate answer.
I hope this helps!
Carly L. Jackson