When I started my career at Nicor Gas as a sales engineer, I worked in a customer-facing role that shaped my view of the world through the customer’s lens. This was formative and has been the steadfast basis for my passion for the natural gas industry — we serve a fundamental need in the community. Our devotion to safe and reliable natural gas is essential to our customers’ basic needs and well-being.
If I were to offer advice to new female engineers, it would be that interpersonal effectiveness will be critical to success. Engineers often feel like they need to have the quickest and best answers, and this can both cloud authenticity and disrupt real learning.
As a new engineer, be willing to listen actively, and ask questions early and often. I’ve often heard that engineers are expected to “be smart.” However, these expectations to “have all of the answers” can make engineers withdraw from being curious and raising their hand when they need more help or explanation when trying to learn a new job.
Because my career began in engineering and eventually led me to operations leadership, I’m often asked to share my experiences working in a male-dominated industry. While qualities such as decisiveness, assertiveness and technical savvy are key traits and are traditionally considered “stronger,” more direct attributes, it’s important to also promote and reward other qualities that are traditionally considered “softer,” like collaboration, patience and kindness. All of these attributes are crucial to our ability to fully support our employees.
Our field employees work in varying environments and circumstances to ensure that we are always there when our customers need us. To maintain resilience and flexibility in gas operations, we often mobilize our people and expect them to be at their best, for consistent and extended periods of times, sometimes in challenging circumstances, and I could not be more proud of our employees’ unwavering commitment!
My own career trajectory is just one of many examples of how an engineering career in energy allows for a wide variety of enriching career paths. This is an exciting time to be an integral part of the nation’s effective transition to a clean energy future, and Nicor Gas is committed to leading the way. We are dedicated to trying new things, as well as actively supporting and testing emerging technologies along the way. There has never been a more exciting time to work in energy.