|Years in Field:
in Mechanical Engineering; E.I.T. (Engineer
in Training) Certificate
Lyn L. Longley's Resume
Getting Started: "I never really thought I was
going to college," Lyn says. She did reasonably well in
her high school math and science classes, but insists
"I wasn't a math whiz." She enjoyed drawing but preferred
something structured to sketching freehand - and for a
while she considered a career in architecture.
In her senior year of high school, Lyn's 1972 MG was having
mechanical problems, and when she and her step-father
set to work overhauling the transmission together, she
says she discovered a passion. "Watching all the gears
turning around in there, all working together," she says,
"was just a miracle. That's when I decided to become a
Education: After high school, Lyn enrolled at Santa
Barbara City College (2-year), and hoped to transfer into
the engineering program at Cal Polytechnic at San Luis
Obispo, but her application was rejected two years running.
After a third year at Santa Barbara, she was sure she'd
completed all the necessary requirements in high-level
science and math to get in, but was frustrated to find
her application turned down for a third time. When she
spoke to the Dean to find out what was missing, they discovered
her application (by computer diskette, as the college
requested) hadn't been correctly reviewed. Finally she
was admitted to Cal Poly, and was able to pursue her engineering
Even though it took seven years to realize her goal of
receiving a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, Lyn says,
"I wouldn't change a thing." Her time in Santa Barbara
City College gave Lyn a chance to tackle difficult math
and science courses in a small class environment, with
professors who were always accessible. "Cal Poly has a
particularly rigorous Mechanical Engineering program,"
Lyn says, but she felt very well prepared by the time
she arrived there. While at Cal Poly, she also had the
opportunity to complete two six-month work internships
in the engineering field, which was a boost when she graduated
and began her job search. "The employers saw that I had
a year of working already," Lyn says.
Greatest Professional Achievement: Earlier this
year, Lyn served as Mechanical Engineering Lead on a major
data center project built for a subsidiary of GTE Corp.,
a leading telephone and electric company, in Oakland,
CA. She had to create the mechanical engineering design
(including both the Heating and Air Conditioning piping
designs) for a variety of environments within the 10,000
square-foot structure - from an equipment-filled network
room with special temperature requirements, to a more
general-purpose office space. "I had to select the equipment,
generate the calculations, and then I had to delegate
tasks related to the design to designers and drafters
working on the project, in addition to coordinating my
design with the other engineering disciplines [electrical
engineers, structural engineers, and architects]" she
says. "Sometimes I was working 50 or 60 hours a week."
Barriers: In the workplace, she has sometimes encountered
a difficult supervisor, but has always made an effort
to seek out other mentors, or co-workers who could offer
more positive feedback and advice.
"Remember you're the person who's in charge of your career,"
Lyn says. "Find a good ally or support person, and be
sure to communicate your goals to them."
Working with Men: "I've never really had much of a
problem working with men," Lyn says. "If anything, I think
I put pressure on myself to exceed expectations. And sometimes
that's made things stressful."
It was difficult at first, she says, going from a 50/50
male-female environment in high school to an engineering
program where women made up only 10-15% of the students.
"In business, there are even fewer women," she says. "And
you have some technicians and engineers who have been
working with men all the time. So when a woman comes in,
it's an unknown quantity, and sometimes they don't know
what to do."
"A lot of these men are afraid of sexual harassment and
things like that," she says. In these situations, good
communication can make all the difference. "With a good
sexual harassment prevention program on both sides, I
think it really helps," she says. "Working together closely
also helps, and just giving each other trust."
Advice for Women: Lyn says she's always remembered
this quote someone once shared with her: "Nothing is worth
doing that doesn't scare you to death at first." She says
it's perfectly naturally to be afraid sometimes - "but
don't let that fear keep you from trying something."
As far as core engineering skills, Lyn says communication,
spatial skills and a solid knowledge of math are important
- but don't be put off if you didn't ace calculus your
first time around. "I believe engineering is learned,"
she says. If it's something you really want to pursue,
Lyn advises, "stick to it. Persistence and a good attitude
will get you a long way."
Typical Workday/Environment: "I work in an office
environment," Lyn says. "90% of the time I'm in the office,
working at my computer." She may be making calculations,
researching a particular project, selecting different
types of equipment to be installed, or negotiating with
architects and civil engineers about the correct placement
of the equipment within the work site. " And sometimes
we go on site visits, which is important to get a feel
for the space we're working with," she says.
Even with the heavy emphasis on math and calculation in
the engineering field, Lyn stresses that communication
skills are equally important in her day-to-day work. "You're
communicating what you want your space to be like," she
says. "So you've got to be able to communicate your ideas
clearly, whether it's an e-mail, a fax, or a conversation
with somebody there in the office."
Career Ladder: "In the beginning," she says, "you'll
be given one task a time." This may involve crunching
numbers, checking other people's calculations, or making
some small equipment selection for a project. "You might
also do specifications - which are documents prepared
for the construction or design team, to let them know
what you need."
With experience, your involvement on a project will become
more technical and more complicated, Lyn says. "Eventually
you'll become a Discipline Lead," she explains, which
means the head of personnel working in your particular
area (mechanical, civil, structural, etc.), then a Lead
Engineer and eventually a Project Manager, with responsibility
for the budget and staff of an entire assignment. From
here, Lyn says, "the sky's the limit." Some engineers
decide to shift away from technical work and go into the
lucrative areas of construction or office management -
where salaries reach as high as $250,000/year.
Lyn recommends earning your Engineer In Training (E.I.T.)
certificate before you graduate from college, by taking
the engineering fundamentals exam. It's first step in
preparing for a professional engineer's license, an important
credential in the consulting/design/construction field.
While state requirements vary, California engineers need
six years of work experience before they can qualify for
a Professional Engineer's (P.E.) license (or two years,
if you've gone through an accredited college or University).
"Getting your P.E. really bumps you up in terms of salary
and job level," she says.
Professional Associations: Lyn is a member of ASHRAE,
Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning
Hobbies: "I still like working on cars," she says.
"I also sew. And I'm learning how to fly fish." When she's
able to escape outside, Lyn says, "I love to hike." She's
also an enthusiastic dancer - everything from salsa and
two-step to swing.
*Annual salary number is not the role model's actual salary. Salary for Mechanical Engineer based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition