Happy Engineer’s Week! Each day this week, I will be introducing you to a women who inspired me to be an engineer. Today I will be writing about a woman who I met during my teenage years, and left a bigger impression on me than I think she ever realized. This woman was my dad’s friend and boss. She ran with the boys really well, joining coworkers on camping and fishing trips. She didn’t try to make sure everyone was aware that a woman had entered the room, but truly saw herself as an equal and expected equal treatment. My dad was a petroleum engineer for many years. He had an exciting career in oil exploration that moved us to some very exotic places. But if you ask him who his favorite boss was during his entire career, he would undoubtedly tell you Tina.
Tina was definitely a woman who could handle her own. She had graduated from engineering school back in the 1970s, when the term “women in engineering” was more of a joke than a reality. This was especially true in a good old boy system like the petroleum industry. After successfully completing her degree, she then went on to be a very successful petroleum engineer, being promoted into management several years before I met her. My father talked about how she was able to handle the roughest of men with dignity and grace. Well…as much grace as you can show in the oil field. My favorite story about her is a situation I’m sure she found herself in a lot. I’m not really sure where the setting was, but it involved a team of roughnecks, construction project managers, and various other males. A group of men were gathered, and one of them was going on and on about how he couldn’t stand her. He even used some choice words that included “prissy little bitch”. What this guy hadn’t realized is that Tina had entered the room during his tirade. At this point she tapped the “gentleman” on the shoulder, and as he turned around she said “I don’t take offense to the “bitch”, but I do take offense to being called a priss!” She then turned around and left, leaving the man speechless. After hearing this story about Tina, you would think she would have been hardened by dealing with men like this her whole career. But she was quite the opposite. She did not let others get to her. She was still kind and honest, but also very capable of standing up for herself if needed. She showed me that there would be people in my career that would try to pull me down and I would have to learn to defend myself. But she also taught me that I did not need to let these same people made me bitter and mean.
Tina also taught me the importance of family, and to not sacrifice my family for my career. After my dad worked for Tina for around 4 years, their project had them away from their families a lot. They would go to the project site for a month, then back home for a week, and then back out for another month. At this point, Tina and my dad were in their mid-forties. Eventually, all the traveling became very tiring on the families. While my family decided to move to South America to be with my dad, Tina’s situation was a little bit more difficult.. Her husband was a successful lawyer, and was unable to move his practice to another country. So eventually she decided she would rather be with her husband, and asked for a transfer back to the states. While some would say its a shame that she “sacrificed her career” for her husband, she showed me that my career should never supersede the importance of my family. She showed me that no mater how successful I became in my career, I should still make the best decision for my family. Because ultimately, Tina knew she would retire from her career, and then it would just be her and her husband. She never said this to me directly, but her actions showed me that no achievement in her career would be more important than her family.
It has been almost twenty years since I’ve seen Tina. I’m sure she does not realize the impression she made on a 16 year old girl. But the way she lived her life taught me so much about career and family. I hope someday to be able to thank her for her example, and make sure she knows how she affected me.
I hope you enjoyed getting know one of the woman who inspired me to be an engineer. Remember to come back tomorrow to learn about another inspirational woman!
Learn about the other women who inspired me!