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Women in Engineering, I Have Your Back!

Today is the International Women in Engineering Day, on which we celebrate the achievements of women engineers and encourage their growth in related industries. Although the number of women engineers grows steadily year by year, they are still underrepresented.

As one of them, a construction management major back then and a CAD product consultant now, I would like to share my views on this discipline and personal experiences with you. I hope my story can strike some chords with those women who are or aspire to be engineers. We can do the job as well as men and you are not alone.

Before recollecting my story, I’d like to share the one of Emily Warren Roebling, which has inspired me a lot.

the brooklyn bridge

Maybe you’ve seen the Brooklyn bridge in a Two Broke Girls episode or real life. But did you know that it was constructed under the supervision of a woman? After her father-in-law, John Roebling the designer of the bridge died and her husband, Washington Roebling the chief engineer became bed-ridden, Emily Warren Roebling stepped in.

Emily Warren Roebling

Image Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum

To ensure the completion of the bridge, Emily studied topics in civil engineering—math, strength of materials, stress analysis, and cable construction. She also helped carry out plans, answer questions from officials and contractors, deliver requests to the bridge office, etc. Her accomplishment is indeed an epic engineering feat of the late 1800s and a source of inspiration for women like me, who intend to go on the engineering journey.

Raising Your Own Building?

To begin with, construction management is comprehensive. I have therefore taken courses in civil engineering, law, financing & accounting, etc. I still remember that every time I told others about my major, they would look surprised and exclaim, “How come a slim girl like you who barely lifts a brick chose such a masculine major?” You can’t really blame them for having stereotypical ideas because to this day, construction management is still a male-dominated field.

That said, there were 3 main reasons why I picked it. First, I think my personality can fit. Being an extrovert perfectionist, I’m always willing to dig into details, solve problems, and work with different people. Second, I find the building process from foundation to furnishing fascinating. It’s like raising your own baby. You don’t just give birth to it. You need to be responsible and take good care of it. That is, you need to be relentless enough to endure the sunburn, sweat, and overtime day after day. Nevertheless, you’re not doing it all alone, but in a team. Hence, you should dare to communicate with people of various functions to achieve your mutual goals. Finally, I believe I’m careful and considerate enough to keep a close eye on the specifics on site. After all, a rusty screw may screw up the whole project.

In sum, as a woman, I fought for my place in construction management with great determination and no regret. And my point is, no matter whether you have similar feelings for this discipline and what your reasons for choosing the engineering industry are, just go for it as long as you love it and it fits you.

The Must-have “Building-sitting” Skills

As I said before, a building is like a baby to me. So, how to “babysit” them properly? Enthusiasm itself is not enough. We should equip ourselves with related knowledge and skills. My learning process was not easy at all. Apart from regular lectures, my college days were filled with workshops, seminars, and design tasks. I needed to hand in no less than 5 architectural drawings every semester. The design tasks included a 5-story condo, a general site plan, steel bar placement in the beams, columns and boards, to name but a few.

architectural drawings

To lighten the workload, I’ve learned CAD in my freshman year. Compared with the conventional sketch tools, it is undoubtedly a time saver. In retrospect, it’d saved me multiple times when I was about to hit the deadline.

Since I used to create site plans a lot, I’d like to share some useful CAD functions that have helped me in the design process. First, the IMAGE command is great for attaching a map in the drawing as a reference. Second, PLINE and other basic drafting tools can help draw the contours of the site and its surroundings. Third, your own components can be created with BLOCK and stored in the Tool Palettes for future use. Lastly, the Design Center allows you to access the component library of other drawings so that no time is wasted on redesigning the components that already existed.

Images as references

See? Learning engineering is never easy, but don’t get cold feet stepping into that field. Remember that many tools and methods have your back, like CAD and me. Thanks to my engineering background, I’ve gained some CAD knowledge to impart to you via ZWCAD. So, if you’d like to equip yourself with some CAD know-how, check out my how-to articles! Still, practice makes perfect. Feel free to try ZWCAD and hone your skills with it.

That’s all I’d like to share on this special day. Stay passionate and keep learning. Women can and have already played important roles in engineering. I look forward to seeing your stories and comments below. Cheers to women in engineering!

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