Ruby Lee, Hardware Engineer…

Surprisingly I haven’t felt like writing much since I started work. Maybe it’s the extreme tiredness that occurs when you shift you sleeping pattern from 12pm wake up to 6.30am, and add on a 43 mile, hour long train journey twice a day. But I think it’s mostly because I’m trying to come to terms with my free time, and also my not so free time.

My not so free time is at work and I have to say it’s been a nice easy transition, I originally dressed up smart, pencil skirt, shirt, and shoes, by the second week I was ready to pop on my jeans and a smart-ish top to join the ranks of the R&D crew. First thing I’ll say to any women engineers about to start out, do not worry too much about what you’re wearing. You’re working with guys (predominantly) and they just don’t notice, and to be fair in my company it’s not so essential for R&D to be dressed up to the nines.

Most of the day I’m doing slightly mucky tasks, soldering, taking apart the odd machine, cleaning boards, doing the odd bit of design here and there (what I expected I’m only a placement student after all!), in R&D you are meant to be comfy, and relaxed. They don’t care what you wear, just as long as your brain works. But I still like to keep the smart casual thing going, I just replaced skirts with smart jeans and each day I feel ready to go to work. It’s also nice at the end of the day to take your work clothes off enter home mode, get comfy on the sofa with some food and some good entertainment.

So far I can say I am enjoying myself, work isn’t a chore. Although sometimes being a placement student is a bit tedious (they don’t let you get your teeth into any major design work just yet) but I can safely say it is going to become a rewarding career. Day’s can slip by quite happily, so if you’re good at maths, physics, and generally are over inquisitive you’ll do fine!

There is so much to say about the last 3 weeks that I couldn’t possibly fit it into 1 post. I’m here to give you the inside view of life as a female engineer, and in this first post after starting work I wanted to portray everything in a positive light, and get down to the nitty gritty stuff later, things like safety shoes, and what to take on your first day.

Enjoy!

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4 thoughts on “Ruby Lee, Hardware Engineer…

  1. I’m remembering the day on my first civil engineering job when I decided to break pattern by wearing a skirt, pantyhose and nice shoes…and that happened to be the day I needed to do an emergency inspection of a sewer. And not a storm sewer either. So much for that outfit (I literally had to throw it away). And would you believe I actually had to throw away ANOTHER pair of nice shoes (after an emergency site visit sometime later) before I finally learned my lesson? Good luck with your first position!

  2. If I were you, and having to solder, I would wear long sleeves. Also do not wear anything sloppy fitting. They may not say anything, but you should observe common sense!!!

  3. I know your pain Carolyn, in fact yesterday I had to do a quick bit of stain removal. Turns out flux remover does stain, thank goodness for oxy action right? I think it’s a real big issue this clothing for womanly engineers! It took me about 2 weeks to get the right balance of smart, professional but crawling/solder/easily stain removable clothing.

    All I’ve found so far is that in my particular company smart casual is ambiguous, the way my colleagues dress varies from super casual to pretty smart. You wouldn’t see a jacket or tie in there though. I feel I’ve achieved quite a good balance with the way I’ve been dressing (outfit posts to come!). I’m interested to know why wearing long sleeves would be necessary for soldering? I almost always roll my sleeves up to my elbows to leave my hands free to manoeuvre. Let me in on the secret Anonymous, as I don’t want to be missing out on a top tip!

    And when I say guys just don’t notice, I mean they wont notice that you picked the top you’re wearing because you particularly feel it will accentuate your professionalism, or aptitude as an engineer. Wear what you need to feel comfortable and confident, and it’ll show on the outside helping you on your way to success.

  4. I think she just means that if you solder with bare arms you might get burned by spatter, but you’re just doing small point welds, so you don’t worry about that. It’s funny this is such a significant issue for you–I think you’re right that it’s a bigger deal than it ‘ought’ to be, because people DO read you by what you wear, and the people we tend to turn to for advice are either not women, or not engineers! I have to say I’ve received some sharp criticism over the years for my clothing choices, but have always been able to make the criticiser understand that a woman is by definition in a no-win situation with respect to what she wears; when I asked criticisers to tell me specifically what he (always he of course) thought I should wear to avoid whatever problems he perceived I was causing, they always immediately backed down and shut up. If you haven’t read this, by the way, it might be of interest:

    http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/tannend/nyt062093.htm

    Now that I’m middle-aged and middle-management (and not shooting for a promotion) unless I’m meeting a client or making a presentation I just wear a shirt of some sort, trousers of some sort, and comfortable shoes (I walk to work), mascara and a necklace if I’m in the mood, and additional layers as appropriate for the weather. As long as I’m clean I consider myself presentable :). Of course that’s in conformance with my office’s unwritten dress code; if the guys worked harder I might think I needed to too. If I am meeting a client or making a presentation I wear one of a handful of extremely expensive suits I paid a consultant to pick out for me!

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