How my engineer mother and my female mentors showed me that I could combine work and family

For me, “having it all” was never off the table. My mom is a successful aerospace engineer who worked full time while raising two children. The example she set for me shattered traditional barriers to entering STEM. I never doubted that a woman could excel in math and science disciplines, pursue their interests, and have a family, all at the same time.

As I developed, both personally and professionally, I recognized the impact that many female mentors had in pushing me to be who and where I am today. My undergraduate research professor introduced me to the intersection of power systems and cybersecurity, sparking an interest that I have pursued ever since. My first manager at INL impressed me with her confident leadership and ability to find tasks where I could learn and be successful, growing my confidence and my expertise. Other formal mentorship programs have paired me with women who have taught me about career development, education paths, and work-life balance. Having this guidance has helped me make important life decisions.

I strongly believe these women have played a significant role in my journey, and that the role of female mentors overall is critical to career development for women. These women have encouraged, mentored, inspired, and challenged me. As role models, they have shown me more possibilities than I ever could have dreamed for myself. They have inspired me to be creative with my own ambitions. Female role models set an example for what is possible for women. They demonstrate the behaviors and mindsets needed to be successful in a field, and they lift women around them. These impacts are not limited to people I look up to. I also have learned meaningful lessons from peer-to-peer mentoring. Peers serve as confidantes, teammates, and friends, reinforcing that we are not alone in our journeys. I have also had incredible male supervisors, co-workers, and peers along the way. Though their guidance and support has been positive and influential, it cannot replace having someone more aligned with your identity demonstrating what success can look like.

Recognizing the importance of female mentors in my life has encouraged me to engage in formal and informal mentoring, and also to promote visibility of my projects and accomplishments, hoping that other young engineers find value in my experiences the same way I have from my mentors. I strive and am dedicated to taking ownership of my contributions, recognizing those of others, and leading by example for the next generation of women in engineering.