Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Engineer Chic blog has officially moved!

Click on the following link to visit the new site

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Early Career Connect

Its less than a month until the International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition - IMECE!

This year's congress will be held in Denver, Colorado and I just cant wait! Being an ASME volunteer is an amazing way to network within the field and get involved in a whole host of exciting activities: from competitions to technical devisions to affinity communities to career development- there is somehting for everyone within ASME. Last year I even presented on Lean Healthcare - scary- but what an awesome experience! It also lets you meet great people from all over the world and make connections.
(I met EcoHawk at the last IMECE in Vancouver - very romantic!)

Yes, IMECE is technically 'work', but its mostly just a lot of fun. All the Early-Career Engineers kind-of know each other - but there are always a couple new faces each time, which is really great. We generally go out and have a great time caching up.

This year, EcoHawk and I are recruiting for the ECC - Early Career Connect. This group is for Early Career engineers within ASME (or new to ASME) that might want to get involved, but just dont know where to start! ASME is a really huge society, and its easy to become overwhelmed by all there is to offer. The ECC helps you sort through all the information and opportunities out there and helps you to find one thats just the right fit!
Interested? Join Early Career Connect.


Twitter: ASME_EC_Connect
ECC - Connect to Your Future

Sunday, October 16, 2011

New EngineerChic Site!

Hey There Awesome Readers!

I know I've been quits scarce recently, but the I hav been working on an awesome surprise!

Engineer Chic has a new website! I've been thinking about getting my own site for a while and leaving my days behind me, so here it is!

The URL is

For now, you will still be able to visit the old site, but once I finish setting up the new one, readers will be automatically redirected.

You will now be able to get new Engineer-Chic posts mailed to your inbox,
leave and reply to comments, and a whole lot more!
Please let me know what you think! I'm still ironing out all the bugs and adding additional pages/ content so check back in a week or two.

Happy Reading!

Friday, October 7, 2011

More about Work

Since I blog about my life, and life is now work, it seems fitting that I blog about work- right? This week has been one of those super-crazy weeks. It feels like my feet haven't touched the ground as we're preparing for another audit of our project management controls next week. And guess who is specifically responsible for ensuring we're implementing our systems for project controls? Ok, its me. This may  sound like a bit of a boring task, but its actually really interesting and touches every area of the project! So much so that I'm making a masters of it!

And yes, I said masters!

So, being the crazy-workaholic-who -believes-she-can-take-on-anything that I am, I've decided to yield to my ex-and-soon-to-be-future supervisor's frequent requests for me to do a masters with him.
(And the best part is that I just found out that he reads my blog! Hi Prof!)

I really didn't want to rush into anything. So it was a good idea that I took about a year to settle into my job and find an area I was really interested in and one that aligns with the work I'm doing. This way, I can do the masters and work at the same time - which means I'll be doing a full-dissertation masters without coursework to hopefully finish in a year...

Yes - I will be a full-time student and be working a full time job! Wish me luck - I will need it!

It turns out this is a really great way to bring more structure to my approach to my work, and get a degree out of it at the same time. This is something I do NOT recommend to the faint-hearted as the chance of you actually being successful with a masters while working full time is 4 times lower than if you had to do it through coursework.
My GM already warned me that I had a lot on my plate, although he supported the idea...

In unrelated news, my supervisor and the other junior engineer on the project AN, weren't around today for our meeting with the Mine Managers (whose Plant the three of us are responsible for building). I had to Chair the Progress Meeting...alone. SCARY! This was totally the opposite of the meeting I blogged about last - this time I had to literally control the whole meeting. The Mettalurgical Manager (who AN and I are very fond of), asked (in Afrikaans) if the "little girlie was nervous to take on the old men?" 

(Note: In the South African mining industry, if you dont speak and understand Afrikaans, don't even bother showing up. Meetings are bilingual and not only will you miss out on much of the business being discussed, you will miss out on all the jokes too!)

It was an affectionate comment that wasn't undermining in the least for this particular culture. And it actually did break the ice!  I replied: "hadn't he noticed that I'm perfectly comfortable being the youngest and the only female in the room at every previous meeting?" The truth  was that I had been slightly nervous about it all day. All went well until the Mine Manager came in half way through. He is really intimidating and I had to concentrate really hard to hold it together. I know it will be easier next time though!

Later the Metallurgical Manager and I argued light-heartedly over whether or not we should build unisex bathrooms to be built on the plant. I said we needed female facilities as well as male. He accused me of being selective in my advocacy for equality. I replied that I wasn't advocating for equality, only equal rights and opportunities; that you should acknowledge the inherent differences that exist between people and celebrate them!  They smiled and the meeting went on.

I think they might like me...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

See a Need, Fill a Need

Today I want to break from the career-talk for a reality-check from my beloved country, South Africa. Not many people from "the West" know much about the REAL South Africa, but I can tell you, its a unique place! Its a country filled with opportunity - with international businesses recently investing large sums of money, good infrastructure and a stable economic and political climate, the possibilities available to entrepreneurs and educated, young people are endless right now. SA also has a lot of wealth, especially in cities where you will find large mansions, fast cars and golf estates. 

Unfortunately, it is also a place of great poverty. Just across the (imaginary) border that divides our land you will find shanty-towns, violence, hunger and unemployment. South Africa is the most unequal place in the world - her people are uneducated and unable to break across the border of inequality and into the land of promise and opportunity - that exists just down the road.

In South Africa if you have money, you can fool yourself into believing that you live in a first world country. You can shut yourself away behind electric fences and enjoy the luxuries that your money buys you. You can choose to ignore the very real problems you see at every street corner, every day on the news...But what if you weren't happy with that? What if you knew that there were young people out there with real talent; with the potential to be engineers, doctors and scientists despite their challenging conditions - people who just needed a little help to reach their dreams and lift their families out of poverty?  What if you wanted to give a little and touch someones life? But where would you find these gems?
Where would you even start to look?

The Fund A Dream Foundation is an initiative of a really amazing young woman (and close friend of mine) - Remona Moodley. Apart from currently competing in Miss South Africa 2011 and completing her degree in electrical engineering at UCT, Remona has recently launched the registered NGO - Fund A Dream Foundation to seek out SA's most talented young people.

With funding opportunities ranging from "Buy-a-Blazer", where investors can sponsor a year of school supplies and excursions to top-performing township scholars to  "See a Need- Fill a Need", where investors can search through the database of gifted youths and choose what kind of impact they want to make, to "Start-a-Scholarship" that allows investors to make a significant impact to life of a young person.

I am seriously thrilled about this initiative that links individual funders, families and small businesses-owners to people who just need a helping hand from a good heart! I'm also really excited to watch how this fledgling organisation grows, so a big shout out to investors: GET IN EARLY and benefit from the amazing opportunity to give back and get your business's name out there!

If you like what Remona and her team are doing, then comment on this post, share this link or email me and let me know what you think! 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Getting the Coffee: Veronica's Response

It seems my last post sparked up a little bit of controversy from readers...I absolutely love that, of course!

Here is what Veronica said:
I just read your blog, I just thought that I should share my opinion and what I learnt at the ABSA Capital Pioneering Young Women Conference I was so fortunate to have been selected to attend:

'I disagree. Juniour or not, I wouldn't pour the coffee, unless I wanted some for myself - in which case, I would ask around if anyone would like me to pour them a cup as well. This would not be out of insolence, but out of the philosophy that 'you teach people how to treat yo'u. As a juniour, who would be vying for promotion and greater responsibility, I believe that people will judge you not by your coffee-pouring etiquette, but by your performance and knowledge, and the respect you have for yourself at a meeting. Yes, you are sitting in, but you're not there for vac work and you attained your qualification legitimately. You are an employee of the organisation, just like everybody else. And while you were cringing while he poured you your coffee, everyone else was thinking about the task at hand and viewing the coffee-pouring as normal or okay. I've worked with a lot of guys my age, and they too take it without a thought. As a juniour - I will not be making the coffee, taking notes or running the errands. That's not what I hope to have gotten my engineering degree for. And if that were the most challenging aspect of my job at work, then it's never too late to find a new one. There are so many organisations that explicitly say that you did not graduate to do some filing. I believe that when given the chance, one should own their seat at the table to the best of *one's* ability. Yes, you may be young but I definitely feel that you are talented. I really hope that at the next meeting, you will speak up if you find that you may have something to share. When I was with WSP Africa, even just as a third-year student, the engineers there were so amazing and chilled. They had no problem offering to pour me a cup of coffee, at which point I would be like 'it's fine, thank you so much', and most probably return theh favour at a later stage, but would take that graciously.'

I don't know :) But as usual loving your blog. Congrats on your presentation in Mozambique. And thank nyou for sharing your experiences. Am such a fan! Subscribed and everything.


V :)
Here was my reply:

Hi Veronica,

Thanks for commenting!

I agree that I didn't get an engineering degree to make the coffee or take notes, but I think you will find when you start working, things are very different to what you may have expected and that it is not ONLY your engineering skills that are going to get you promoted. It will be a combination of skills, competence and how you interact with others-who you (sorry to say) suck up to and how you deal with difficult situations and people. Also, remember that you will be entering an environment filled with older men-many of which will see you as a threat since you have the advantages of BBBEE (South Africa's affirmative action) behind you and have a degree-which they may not have. Saying that, its VERY important that you remember that you are still "small-fry" until you have earned respect. As women, its even harder to earn that respect and entering a job with 'an attitude' that give the impressiong that you don't know your place in the pecking order wont get you far.

As for me chirping up in meetings-don't you worry- I have not issue with that. In progress meetings with the mine managers whose plant I'm building I am very assertive and the Mettalurgical Manager generally makes the coffee. My supervisor and I both share the responsibilities for the minutes but I have told him that we need an assistent-to which he's agreed. The meeting I blogged about had really nothing to do with me and involved very high-level planning of the project- so there was really not much I could contribute in any case. Sitting in was a privilege, but you are perhaps right - it shouldn't be expected that I got the drinks and I shouldn't have had that cringing reaction (maybe thats just also something lingering from my Indian upbringing too).

One last thing I'd like to stress is that things will be different when you're a student/ vac work and when you're an employee. The boys in your class are not your superiors. When you have real responsibilites and real competition, you will discover a dynamic to the working environment that you will need to manage carefully in order to get the credit for which you are due whilst not coming off as arrogant.

Good Luck with this! But the only way to really learn is to get thrown into the deep end, make a few mistakes, stick your foot in your mouth a few times and never stop learning!
Thanks again for sharing and keep reading and sharing!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

When Should Women Get the Coffee?

I'm still feeling my way through this workplace-etiquette thing. Like this week there was a really important meeting going on and all the managers in the Projects Department met to discuss something really important about the project schedule. Since my new supervisor was responsible for presenting at the meeting, he told me I could sit in. Of course I was only too thrilled to.

When we got to the company's really gorgeous thatched meeting room, we discovered there were no drinks. The meeting was long so I volunteered to go fetch them. When they arrived half an hour later and the porter left them on the table. I felt an urge to get up and serve them to everyone! I was, of course, the only woman in this room of white males so I remained seated and let the meeting continue. If anybody wanted a drink, they could get up and fetch one, right? Why should I feel obligated to serve the men? After all, its important to be careful about the way I portrayed myself to others...

How embarrassing do you think it was for me when my GENERAL WORKS MANAGER PROJECTS (a really good-natured, but very powerful man) got up and started serving everyone drinks...including me! 

I realised at that moment that whilst I may have been the only women in the room, and the only non-white woman at that, I was also the youngest and most junior person in the room. And furthermore, I was just sitting-in in the first place! I realised that in worrying so much about how I came across as a female engineer, I must have come across really insolent as a junior engineer! Wow!

When lunch arrived I duly got up and set out the trays so that everyone could fetch their food (we were all starving). Luckily, soon after the initial episode my GWMP made a tongue-in-cheek comment about something being discussed (as he loves to do) and shot me a smile, asking if I agreed. I did and the tension I was feeling eased up a lot. I even managed to chirp up once or twice towards the end of the meeting.

So the moral of this story is, that whilst it is important to not position yourself as a doormat, and that it is more difficult for a woman to be respected in the workplace that a man, one should realise that respect is always earned. There are no shortcuts to the top, and whilst you are a junior, you should be making the coffee, taking the notes, running the errands - just like every other junior in the place, male or female!

Just don't let them treat you differently to the male juniors, in which case you really should try being more asserive ;)