A career in engineering can offer many opportunities and open a variety of doors. When it was time to select a career path, I wasn’t sure at first what I wanted to pursue. I enjoyed writing, teaching, helping others, and solving problems. Being an engineer has given me the opportunity to explore all of these interests and more. And later, when my lifestyle changed, I was able to take the two decades of experience I gained in the corporate world and easily transition it to being a stay-at-home mom and entrepreneur—or what I call a mompreneur.
Studying electrical engineering was one of the best decisions I’ve made. At times, pursuing my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in this area was quite challenging, both academically and financially, but I never gave up—which is a necessary trait if you are going to be a successful engineer.
After graduation I began my career with Alabama Power, an electric utility in Birmingham. During the next 21 years at that company, I worked in power delivery, marketing, economic and community development, customer service, building operations, and external affairs. I attribute my success in these diverse areas to a strong work ethic, great mentors and, last but not least, having a background in engineering.
During that time, I got married, had two children, and held several leadership roles in the community and my church. I also was diagnosed with breast cancer. As I moved through the ranks at my company, the demands increased. Eventually I encountered what I call self-inflicted overload.
Achieving work-life balance can be very challenging when there are so many competing demands. But engineers have a great ability to solve problems. My problem was that I was completely overloaded. That’s when I decided to press the reset button, step away from a six-figure salary, and become a mompreneur. In 2012 I founded Brooks Consulting in Birmingham. I began giving talks and leading workshops on leadership, effective communication, team building, and work-life balance.
To help balance my own workload as a consultant, author, and full-time mom, I developed a strategy to minimize the overload and gain some much-deserved peace. In 2014 I published my first book, Self-Inflicted Overload, in which I wrote about the “PEACE strategy” that guided my personal journey:
- Pray. While I was receiving cancer treatment, my spirituality became stronger and so did my faith. As a result, I did not stress out as much, nor did I stay up at night worrying about things I had no control over.
- Energize your mind, body, and soul. To meet my many obligations and responsibilities, I needed to have energy. Running on adrenaline can last for only so long before something falls through the cracks. The second step of the strategy calls for one to be in the best mental and physical condition. Therefore, you need to take care of yourself first.
- Adjust your attitude. Attitude is all about perspective. Is your glass half empty or half full? I have learned to be thankful to have a glass. An “attitude of gratitude” helps keep life in perspective.
- Communicate. I listen and learn from those who have experienced life lessons. If I need help, I ask for it. I am not Superwoman. And finally, when asked to do something that will push me over the edge, I’ve learned that saying no is the appropriate response.
- Enjoy each day. The final step is my favorite. Life is too short, and tomorrow is not guaranteed. I see each new day as a gift to be enjoyed. If eating dessert before the main course will bring you joy, make it two scoops!
Adopting these five mantras and incorporating all the skills I obtained from being an engineer have helped me transition from the corporate world to the world of entrepreneurship. Now I am able to create more lasting memories for my sons, who are 8 and 11 years old, and I have I improved my family’s quality of life. If you are a young woman considering a career in engineering, go for it! It is well worth the effort.
This article is part of our April 2016 special report on women in engineering.
This is another article in a new series being introduced this year featuring IEEE members who have launched their own ventures.