To mark International Women in Engineering Day 2017, we asked a number of our female engineers if they could turn back the clock, what would they tell their 16-year-old self.
I would like to tell my 16 year old self to:
- Be friendly to others.
- Be more heartful to your soul mates. They will be a precious treasure in your future life.
- Be more insistent on your interests. It is so lucky to put your soul into one thing that you love best.
- Always be patient and passionate. This may help you come through any difficulty and be confident of your life.
- Being an introvert doesn’t make you a bad person – learn to work with it and use your strengths.
- If and when you find something that really excites you, pursue it.
- Other people believe in you WAY more than you believe in yourself.
- Care less about what other people think.
- You don’t always need to have a plan – chances are that things will work out for the best.
- Don’t be afraid to express your emotions – it’s okay to be vulnerable sometimes.
- Slow down and experience life as it happens.
- Your opinions are just as valid as the next person’s.
- Most people are too worried about what they are doing to care much about you – everyone else is figuring it out as they go along, too!
- Mistakes are painful at the time, but they are your best opportunity for learning. The short-term pain will fade, and you’ll be left with some great experience on which to draw next time. Not taking risks is worse than never making mistakes.
You love art and you have so many creative ideas, you also thrive where there is order, maths is actually enjoyable, physics is a just plain fun and you are practical to a fault. There is only one profession for you: Engineering. There will be hard work, and university for you will have twice the lectures arts students have and in the end you will need loads more shelf space for books and interesting titbits.
The ride is amazing, and the views from the top of the innumerable fixed ladders you will climb are excellent even if you do curse under your breath going up. Always take a camera and make sure you take a cheeky photo every time.
By 16, I had already decided I wanted to be an engineer, after a brief internship in the field. Everything I wanted and expected it to be at that age has in fact lived up to my expectations. The journey here though, at many occasions, made me wonder if I would end up where I wanted to be.
I think if I could talk to my former self, I’d tell her that everything everyone says about it being worth it in the end is true. It won’t feel like it. For a long time, it will feel like a lot of work for minimal results and more hard work. If you’ve chosen the right job for you though, you will know it when you get there. Have faith.
I’d tell myself to enjoy all the projects and practical work (and theory!) you get exposed to in university. Some of the assignments really are fascinating and you won’t be working in all those different areas of engineering when you finally commit to one specific job. You will miss having all that time to learn, even if the learning continues once the degree is completed.
I’d tell my younger self not to worry so much and not to linger on past mistakes. You can’t change what’s done but you can learn from it and avoid making the same mistake twice (or three and four times!). Always do your best, because you can’t do any better than your best (my grandmother’s infinite wisdom!).
Also, I’d tell 16 year old Zoe, to bet a lot of money on the UK to leave the European Union, Trump to win the US presidential elections and Michelle Payne to win the Melbourne Cup in 2015 !
Zoe Neill, Sustainability, Sydney