The Best Thing That Ever Happened: Choosing Engineering
BY KIM MIKKELSEN
When I consider what it is like to be a woman engineer, I find myself thinking of what my life would be like if I had chosen a different career. Would I have had all the incredible opportunities that engineering provides, such as financial independence, and career advancement and diversity? Engineers specialize in disciplines: civil, mechanical, chemical, and electrical. But regardless of the discipline, an engineer is taught to be a team leader, a technician, builder, and financier. Unfortunately, engineering is also a predominantly male profession with all the subsequent problems for a woman professional. If I had known at the beginning all the opportunities and difficulties, would I still have chosen engineering? It's hard to say, but I would never reconsider that choice now.
I made my career decision in high school, where the choice would determine much of my future. It seems incredible that I could make such an important decision at that age. I was young and wanted to conquer the world, but I didn't know how. All that was clear was that I needed a secondary education.
Initially, I felt that the four years required by the University would be unbearably long. It seemed that whatever could be accomplished by a four year degree could also be easily attained through a technical diploma. So I made plans to begin a two year program in drafting. I had always enjoyed creating technical drawings and felt that this would be a challenging career. At that time, those subjects that were to be the key to my future - physics, mathematics, and chemistry - seemed boring and useless. My high school drafting teacher intervened by suggesting that I work for a trial period in a local engineering firm as a drafts person. What I found out was that I hated the job after the first week.