Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Boys Club

This week was one of those weeks where I burned out on the Boys Club. By the end of it I am not proud to say I was a crabby mess who just wanted to get away from work. The odd part about this was it had been a great week. I finished my first semester of my masters degree,  had a fantastic performance review, and things are really going well.  I just need a break from the boys. 

There are days when being the only woman in my lab is like being slapped in the face over, and over again. There is no blatant sexism, there are just the little things that seem to pile up and this week the bucket overflowed. 

Ever been oggled during a data review where you are just trying to do your job? Yep, twice this week. I made my lead go with me to the second data review since it was uncomfortable. Thankfully data reviews with that group are less frequent. 

Ever had someone wave, walk right by, start to leave the room, then see your coworker and comment "oh, so there is someone who can help me!"  This was concerning things that were more in my realm too. 

Ever had people listen to you pitch slides but when questions arise they address them to your coworker?  My coworker was only there to see what went on in data reviews.  I was the "expert" in my system.

These are just some of the little slaps to the face.  I have learned to tolerate most of them while working to change the tides. "Quit being such a girl about it" has already been removed from the collective vocabulary in the lab.  To me part of being a woman in engineering is learning how to roll with some of the misunderstandings and keep going knowing that you are helping to make it better for both yourself and those behind you.

Somehow this week the bucket of tolerance was drained. I was tired of looking at the hierarchy in the lab that I have yet to break into. I was tired of seeing assignments handed to the other people and fighting for interesting work. I was tired of having things taken away when I ask for help.  I was tired of being invisible.  I was mostly just tired of it all. 

Thankfully I have a boss who is awesome.  She understands this battle since she has been here. I can talk to her without fear of things trickling back to the boys.  She is proof that I can do this.  She even told me to go home early Friday when I was burned out and on top of that offered to talk to call my lead to up date him on a test they were trying to run this weekend so I wouldn't have to talk to him.  She's helped me learn how to deal with one of the guys , understating I wanted to learn how to stand up for myself and not have someone come save the day.  I know I still have a lot left to learn from her, and I hope I can continue to do so.

Thankfully this week is another week.  The holidays are coming up soon, and things are always getting better.  I can only hope that one day the women behind me will not be facing these same battles.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Taken Care Of

Currently there is a kick of the guys saying they need to get me married off so I can "be taken care of".  I has now happened enough that I cannot just push it off to something the guys say as a joke just to get my goat.

I've told them I do not need to be taken care of.

Another woman has told them I don't need to be taken care of.

Clearly they think I still do. Yes, there are some things my girly strength cannot do, like lift the ~60lb boxes of 13'' tapes.  Yet there are a lot of things I can do, and when my (lack of) physical strength gets in the way, I figure out how to get around it.

I know I can take care of myself and I am exhausted of the implications that I cannot.  I've moved half way across the country twice.  I've lived away from family for the past five years. I am fairly certain at this point I can easily make it on my own.  

Training seven guys how to work with a girl for the first time has not been easy, but it has been worth it.  I still find it amazing that I am the first woman in the lab  so I chalk most of the moments up to lack of understanding. Once I explain how things come off to me,  most of them try to change. It helped fix the "quit being such a girl about it" comments, we'll see if it can fix this problem as well.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

9 months later

Some how it has been 9 months since I started working and about a year since I graduated college. A person at Olin said to me that as you grow up, time speeds up. I now fully understand the impact of that statement.

I still remember my first days at work, my first launches, and the uncertainty that seemed to follow me daily. Messing up data is a fairly big problem.

Nine months later I feel like I almost know what I am doing. Two weeks ago I ran my first operation on my own. All on my own. It was a Saturday. If things went bad it was me, myself, and a lot of luck. (and the guys at the site if we lost data) My lead claimed he was not even going to answer his phone if I called in a panic. A few hours after the test started he called to check in on me to make sure I was ok. Somehow I pulled things off.

I also recently have been accepted to graduate school and will be starting a masters degree in electrical engineering part time this fall. Add to this that I am planning on taking the FE exam in October if I get my act together and get the application in on time.

I feel like things are really settling in. I still may be learning daily but I feel like I can grasp what is going on without the deer in headlights look I had for the first few months. Last week's idiotic move was not using proper (com) net etiquette on a net that went both to the site and customers. I won a head lock and a hair mess up from my lead for that one. As I said to a guy at the site after that moment "that falls under things they don't teach you in college". Turns out in this industry/job most of my life is in that category. VMS, telemetry stream formats, processing, half of the specialized applications I use on a daily basis are all under "things they don't teach you in college".

I am continually thankful I work with a great group of guys and have both a boss and lead who are great people. It really is the people who make the job, not the work. They all know I still only have half a clue what is going on. My boss remembers her first few years and is willing to help me figure out how to get things done and even grease the wheels when things need to get done quickly. My lead is fantastic at teaching, even if he grumbles about it some days.

The best part about this? I am giving a presentation at a data review in the morning. Olin prepared me for a lot of presentations, but not ones that have this much hanging on them. I keep thinking of SCOPE Expo with higher stakes. At least this time I can show up in jeans, leave after I present, and I bring backup to help with questions.