Being an Engineer

S2E38 Clear Professional Growth Paths, Women in STEM, & Identifying Burnout | Stephanie Slocum

September 03, 2021 Stephanie Slocum Season 2 Episode 38
Being an Engineer
S2E38 Clear Professional Growth Paths, Women in STEM, & Identifying Burnout | Stephanie Slocum
Show Notes Transcript

Stephanie’s mission is to help develop women leaders in the STEM field. She feels so strongly about this that she has founded Engineer’s Rising, an organization dedicated to helping women in engineering and technology create fulfilling careers on their terms. Don’t think this episode is just for female, though. Along the way Stephanie teaches us how skyscraper engineers ensure their buildings won’t experience catastrophic resonant frequencies, how large structural engineering projects are quoted, and how to gain clarity in your engineering career. 

The Being An Engineer podcast is brought to you by Pipeline Design & Engineering. Pipeline partners with medical & other device engineering teams who need turnkey equipment such as cycle test machines, custom test fixtures, automation equipment, assembly jigs, inspection stations and more. You can find us on the web at www.teampipeline.us.  

Presenter:

The Being An Engineer Podcast is a repository for industry knowledge and a tool through which engineers learn about and connect with relevant companies, technologies, people, resources and opportunities. Enjoy the show.

Stephanie Slocum:

If someone is listening to this and those questions I just asked, 'What do you like about your work,' and you can't come up with a single thing past or present that you like at work, that is a strong leading indicator that you are in burnout.

Aaron Moncur:

Hello, and welcome to the Being An Engineer Podcast. Our guest today is Stephanie Slocum, who is a structural engineer, licensed as a PE in multiple states, and is the founder and CEO of Engineers Rising LLC where her focus is helping women in engineering and technology create fulfilling careers on their terms. Stephanie, thank you so much for joining us today.

Stephanie Slocum:

Thrilled to be here, Aaron, thanks for having me.

Aaron Moncur:

So what made you decide to become an engineer?

Stephanie Slocum:

Well, if you are waiting for the story of the little kid that knew they always wanted to be an engineer, this is, this is not, this is not for you. That's not my story.

Aaron Moncur:

Good. We get that story all the time. Let's hear a different one.

Stephanie Slocum:

We'll get that out of the way. That that that was not is not my story. So I was fortunate enough to be born to two scientists, parents. And so I was definitely encouraged to explore all things. So math, science, I was very, I was a musician for a while, and just explore whatever was interesting to me. So I got to the point in life where we're like, okay, you have to decide at the age of 16-17 what you're going to major in, in college, and that's what you're going to do for the rest of your life. So no pressure there, right?

Aaron Moncur:

That's not scary.

Stephanie Slocum:

No, not at all. And so I'm like, okay, well, I will major in biochemistry. At that time, biomedical things weren't a thing yet. Like most colleges didn't even have biomedical anything as a major. It's not like, okay, I'm gonna start biochem. And I'll get from there. And then I took my first college chemistry class, and it was terrible, and boring. And I'm like, No, I can't do this the rest of my life. So I tried a couple other different majors, I tried computer engineering, where I think I fell asleep on one of the exams, because that wasn't the wasn't for me

Aaron Moncur:

In the exam. I could see the lecture, but the exams? Yeah, that's pretty bad.

Stephanie Slocum:

Yeah, it was one of those gigantic like forum style holes, that like, even if I think about it, now I'm like, starting to get a little sleepy. So I tried. That is a major. I tried a couple other engineering I explored a couple other en ineering things, because 've always been very practica . So like the theoreti al side of this of STEM, I idn't really want to have any hing to do with, I wanted t ings you could apply. So one d y, I had some friends that wer in calculus and physics ith me. And we went to play ten is, that's one of the another ne of those random things t at I do. And one of my friends howed up, she's coming straight from class, with this little m del. So if you can imagine t's like this little balsa wo d model with like trees and buil ings and little people and gras . And I look at this model, a d I look at him and I'm like, I now you're an engineer. What eng neering major do you get to d that in? And he's like architec ural engineering. And so that as the first time I'd ever hea d of that major. And I took one class, and I was hooked.

Aaron Moncur:

Nice.

Stephanie Slocum:

That is how I came to be the type of engineer that I came to me.

Aaron Moncur:

Now you're a structural engineer. And we haven't had many structural engineers on this show. Maybe one, ever berfore. Most of the engineers we have on our mechanical engineers, and we're dealing with, we measure in thousandths of an inch. And I would love to hear a little bit more about structural engineering. Can you give us just a quick summary of what is a structural engineer? What does he or she do? What kind of projects do you work on, etc?

Stephanie Slocum:

Yeah, yeah, I'd love to. So the structural engineers are the people that design the parts of the building or infrastructure that actually makes the infrastructure stand up. So if you think of an analogy of your body, that you have bones in your body that your skin and muscles and hair and everything else is attached to the structural engineers are the ones that design those bones. And make sure they are solid. Unfortunately, in a lot of cases, you only hear about structural engineers, when there's a catastrophic failure. And something happens, as we have seen recently with the situation down in Miami. And, and so the structural engineers really are responsible for a lot of the life and safety of the building occupants, because we know we have building codes, we design to those building codes. We know about things like climate change, and how do you make sure you design the building, so it will stand up for a long time, and some structural engineer, so I focused entirely on buildings in my engineering, in the engineering part of my career, there are structural engineers that design the parts of spaceships that go up into space and make sure that the, the pieces that need to burn off do and the pieces that don't need to burn off going through the atmosphere don't. There are structural engineers that design bridges and infrastructure and pipes for utilities. There, there's structural engineers all over the place, and in all different different areas. But it's a there's a lot of material science involved. So lots of stress and strain, which I think every engineer, mechanical engineers or otherwise have have had some of that involved with when, when you first learned to become an engineer. The other interesting thing about structural engineering, I think, is it tends to be one of the engineering disciplines that is often at the intersection of things. So like, we have to design our projects, and make sure that not only other engineering consultants can understand that. But the owner understands and the contractor can take our drawings and then go go build the thing. And so that there, depending on where you are in mechanical engineering, I do think there is some similarities there. Between you're designing this thing, and then you have to communicate to other people that don't necessarily have your expertise, how to build it, so it's safe. And so it meets all the criteria. But it's a one of my favorite things that that helped me know, that was the right place for me and might help some of your listeners, if you're considering a career in structural engineering, is the fact that I can drive by buildings I designed 20 plus years ago, and they're standing there. And I'm be like, I designed that, and that buildings probably going to be there when I'm gone, unless someone decides to demolish it and build something new.

Aaron Moncur:

That's a pretty cool perepective. Yeah.

Stephanie Slocum:

Really, really cool. Because a lot of the engineering disciplines, you're like, Okay, I'm designing an app. And there's gonna be a new app next week, right? Whereas structural engineering, it's like, you're designing something that's going to stand for a very, very, very long time that you'll always be able to go back to and be like, yeah, I did that.

Aaron Moncur:

That's very cool, right? A lot of the things we design, at least earlier in the company we're like consumer products, maybe there's an iPhone case, or a medical device or something like that. And those are around for two, three, maybe four years, and then they get scrapped and customers buy a new one. So that's a very cool perspective to have to be able to look at your work 20, 30, 50 years from now and see, it's still, still there. So most of the buildings you've worked on, they've been what, like, schools and hospitals and things like that. Is that right?

Stephanie Slocum:

Yeah, that's accurate. So I worked on a lot of low mid rise, what we would call commercial building projects. So hospitals, schools, a lot of higher education, buildings, as well. So those are cool, because it's not, you think of classroom type buildings. But we also got to design like structural engineering labs, which it's cool to be a structural. I mean, imagine being a mechanical engineer designing the mechanical engineering lab, right. It's just you get to learn it. Like that's a pretty pretty cool thing. I worked on a forensic medical facilities for for the state of Maryland, in this case, where if there was any, like suspicious deaths, that's where they took the cadavers to see

Aaron Moncur:

Oh, interesting.

Stephanie Slocum:

Do the testing and see what, what was the cause of death?

Aaron Moncur:

Yeah, yeah

Stephanie Slocum:

BSL four facilities, which is where they do all the testing with like super infectious disease stuff. I had my hands in designing a building that had some of that. So it's really cool, because you're like this, you have your expertise and how you design it. But then you also get to learn all the different kinds of buildings because there's different criteria for if you're designing a medical facility or a hospital versus if you're designing a classroom building, versus if you are designing a K-12 school . I mean, heck, even K-12 schools have changed tremendously in how you design them, pre 911.

Aaron Moncur:

Interesting. So, one of the things I'm curious about is quoting a project like that I do a lot of quoting myself, and we're quoting projects that are anywhere from 10s of 1000s into maybe the millions of dollars, projects. But for the buildings that you're talking about, I'm guessing these are 10s of millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars. What is the quoting process like for that? Does it take just like months and months to quote something like this? Do you get paid to quoted? Or is it just a bid that you as the firm spend your time, on spec, basically that, hoping you'll get the job? How does that work?

Stephanie Slocum:

So, in my case, it was mostly the last one, you said, in that a lot of different firms are competing, like they put together a fee to complete the project. So someone puts out a scope of work for here's the project, here's about how many square foot it's gonna be, here's what we think maybe the construction cost will be for score per square foot in some cases. And if you've been in business for any length of time, you've you've done different types of buildings, and can generally estimate what you're going to need to do how many man hours it's going to take to complete that project. And so you put together a proposal, a number of firms will submit proposals on the work, and then depending on the owner, so for example, if it's like a hospital or university, usually, that's a very, very, very educated owner, that may even have their own facilities, people that are like watching the process. Some of them will be architects or people with a lot of expertise in how you build buildings, for them, and the maintenance of the building, the energy that goes into the building is one of their biggest costs. So they have a really good reason to be very involved in that process. And so they'll review, sometimes you'll go through multiple interview stages where like the team, that submitting will come and present, like, here's our vision for the building, all of those things. Usually, those teams ar led by architects, sometime they're led by contract rs, it just depends. And so t en, like me, as a structur l engineer would fall under th se groups of people, as well as ike mechanical engineer , for buildings, plumbing people, electrical people, pecialty equipment, people, ll of those people. And so he wo ld bring all those people t the interviews, as needed, hey would talk to give the pres ntation, and then the project ould be awarded. Some of these are really public projects So as you would imagine, with any project being built or funded by the governme t, that tends to be a pretty t ansparent process for how this works to make sure everythi g's fair and all those things. ome of the private groups, i 's very transparent, othe s it not so much. So like eve y I would say, the process is ge erally the same, in terms of you are putting together scope of work for me and ours, nd based on the deadlines you think you will have for the proj ct largely based on square f otage and construction cost But then you typically are not paid for that business developm nt site.

Aaron Moncur:

And how long does that take Is that like a week or a month or multiple months?

Stephanie Slocum:

It really depends. Because when you're going, you're getting into the third and fourth interview cycle, that will take multiple months? Well, I would say it is not unusual. So if you're talking like a sub $10 million building project would be a really, really small building projects, like if you were to go to your local university and look around, most of those buildings are, you're talking more towards 40 to 60 million for like the mid size normal buildings. And if you're talking something really big, or something really tall or something with a lot of specialty equipment in like any of the STEM labs, it's gonna be double that.

Aaron Moncur:

Wow

Stephanie Slocum:

And so, not surprisingly, the larger the project is, the longer it takes to go through this process. So six to 12 months isn't that uncommon.

Aaron Moncur:

So you can have a lot of costs sunk into this before, one way or the other way, whether you're going to get it.

Stephanie Slocum:

Right and approximately, I mean, this this number varies, but there are groups that track this that for this industry, often. You have 40% of your proposals are accepted ish interest, which can be higher or lower depending on like how boutique you are in your like specific area of expertise and what the markets doing and all of that. The sorts of things, okay, but yeah.

Aaron Moncur:

It's helpful, at least, roughly 40%, you can do some math and figure out how many of these things you can quote before you go out of business.

Stephanie Slocum:

Right? And how many people you need to actually deliver on them if you get them.

Aaron Moncur:

Yeah, yeah, that too. Okay, another question I've had, I've wondered this for a long time, actually. You see, a tall building a skyscraper. And in engineering, one of the things that we learn about is harmonic frequencies or resonant frequencies. And that's a thing when it comes to tall buildings, right? ensuring that I don't know that the wind the environment around them, what's going on inside is not going to cause some resonant frequency and just catastrophically damage the building. How, I've always wondered, how do you do the analysis on that? I mean, is it just like, the simulation tool in AutoCAD or something? With all the stuff that goes into this, right, you've got the the steel like, skeleton, as you put it, you've got whatever materials on the outside, you've got all the glass, you've got wood in there somewhere, you've got flooring, you've got all that stuff. How do you do the simulation?

Stephanie Slocum:

Okay. And so I will give the big picture view of how you do this. First with the preface that okay, so the, there are certain engineering firms out there structural engineering firms that actually have a specialty in what I would call like the 'mega high rise.' So the really tall buildings you see in downtown New York, San Francisco, those buildings. And often they actually even have their own research and development people on staff with PhDs, working on specifically modeling those types of buildings. Those are generally not the type of buildings that I worked on. Probably the tallest building I've ever designed was 22 storeys, which, which is tall right?

Aaron Moncur:

That seems pretty tall. Yeah.

Stephanie Slocum:

But just to give you perspective, because there are buildings, hundreds of storeys tall. But so for when it comes to the like the wind forces on a building like that, you there are what we call wind tunnel tests, where essentially, there's a couple labs, I think, last I checked, there were like three in the world, where you can, once your your building is, generally, how it's going to be masked, meaning like size, shape, relative to typography, all of those things, because topography matters, for how the wind interacts with the building as well, whether you're high or low, or there's a lot of changes in typography, because you can create this like wind tunnel effect, which maybe some of our listeners may have experienced, if you've ever gone down into the subway in a city. And all of a sudden, you're like whoosh, like, you feel all that wind going through. So anyways, they will take basically make a model of the building, and put it in the wind tunnel, they are like a wind tunnel room, you could Google this because there's, there's a cool pictures of like, how they how they do this. And they will essentially run a lot of different simulations with blasting wind at it from different directions, and give you an output that you can use to design the building for the specific wind loads that will be produced on that building, which once again, are not just affected by the building shape itself. But also what's around the building. Oh, interesting. Example, if you were designing a super tall building that was like in the middle of nowhere, there's nothing around that building to dampen the wind coming at it, like the wind is coming full force, there's nothing that's going to like interrupt the wind coming there. In in metropolitan areas, there's usually a lot of buildings around and depending on their size and shape and how close they are, they can actually produce in some cases, they dampen the wind on the building, but then they can actually produce like cornering forces on particular parts of it where it's like, because they're pushing all the wind into this really small area, it's actually producing more force on the building. And so the wind tunnel test gives us the loads on that. And then to answer the modeling question, there's a lot

Aaron Moncur:

In the model, that's got to be like a far scaled down model. What is like that? Like, oh, I don't know, 100 size model or something? Or how big are these models?

Stephanie Slocum:

Yeah, the ones I've seen were actually like a couple feet tall. Okay, a couple feet. So like something that you could carry, carry around if you had to.

Aaron Moncur:

Okay, and are they made out of like real materials steel with, I don't know, break or stone on the outside and glass and things like that, or was it just mostly the shapes that you're looking at?

Stephanie Slocum:

It's it's mostly the shape.

Aaron Moncur:

Okay.

Stephanie Slocum:

I actually never asked that question. What do you actually make the model out of, but I do know it's not like stealing and concrete and the exact is the weight. A lighter structure will move more in wind, right. So if you think of stacking of a bunch of bricks in here comes the wind, it's not going to move as much. If you stack up a couple toilet paper rolls

Aaron Moncur:

Yeah

Stephanie Slocum:

My kids have done that experiment for school. And it goes right over. And so, with the wind tunnel test, they're more interested in the shape the massing of of how that goes around. Now, when it comes to the modeling part, though, you've got to know how much does that building way, because that has a huge implication on earthquake loads. And so things that weigh more are going to have higher earthquake loads. And again, depending on where you where you are in the country, you're at more, you're at a higher risk for an earthquake. So let's say California, versus Florida. And so all that goes into the actual modeling of we got the loads from the wind tunnel test to apply to our building. Well, now we actually need to design our building or bridge or whatever it is you are designing as a structural engineer, depending on what industry you're in. And for that modeling, we use really sophisticated 3D programs, 3D software, engineers, with a lot of experience are overseeing those projects. And so we know how to make sure that we're getting good output because we all know garbage in garbage out. Right.

Aaron Moncur:

Right.

Stephanie Slocum:

Any I feel like every engineer has learned that the hard way, in some way, shape, or form that they put junk into a program at some point. And they're like, what's going on here? And so there are multiple ways to be like to basically get check. And Hancock, Okay, are we getting what we think we should, but we use a lot of, again, sophisticated 3d models, spreadsheets, there is, at this point, there's almost always a 3D model of the building that doesn't just take into it takes into the account, the structural part for the modeling and analysis of it. But then there's that model is brought in so that the mechanical and electrical and plumbing and the facade. Yeah. Okay. And that is included and coordinated as well.

Aaron Moncur:

Interesting. So there is some physical testing in in terms of the wind tunnel, and then that data is used in conjunction with some very sophisticated 3D modeling and simulation software. Very interesting. Okay. Well, I'm going to take just a very short break right now and share with the listeners at teampipeline.us is where you can learn more about how we help medical device and other product engineering or manufacturing teams develop turnkey equipment, custom fixtures and automated machines to characterize, inspect, assemble, manufacture and perform verification testing on your devices. And we're speaking with Stephanie Slocum today, who is a structural engineer. And we've we spent the first half of the podcast talking about structural engineering. And I like to spend the second half talking about your current role, which is as founder and CEO of Engineers Rising, can you tell me maybe just a 30-second intro? What is engineers rising? Or 60 seconds, a minute, two minutes, whatever? How did you get into this? And what is it that you do there?

Stephanie Slocum:

Okay, great, great question. And I'm gonna have a hard time keeping this down to two to three minutes, 30 seconds.

Aaron Moncur:

We'll talk about it for a lot, don't worry, you don't have to squeeze it all into the next column.

Stephanie Slocum:

Thank goodness. So I am on a mission to normalize women as leaders in the STEM fields. And that's ultimately what my mission is what engineers rising does. I noticed coming up through my own career experiences, that I was often the only woman on my teams. And this was true. Even when I was fortunate enough to get to a place where I was being managed by other women, it still would often be the case that I'm in a design meeting, in a room of 50 people, and there's me and maybe two other people and if I was lucky, one of them was some they were technical people, right? Like they it wasn't just like the person fetching coffee and things like that. Not that there is no judgment there if you are the type of person that loves to just want to make that really clear. So I noticed all these things. And then I started having my own internal struggles on my career path. The experience of a going out on my firt like first solo construction site visit and I've been talking to this contractor for months like he had to have known I'm alone But he was like, genuinely genuinely perplexed with why a woman would want to be a structural engineer be in the construction industry. And so it was just like, he really just couldn't understand why you would possibly want to do that. I had people asking me, how do you, how do you manage to balance having three kids and an engineering career and guessso many times my husband has been asked that question? Never.

Aaron Moncur:

Zero.?

Stephanie Slocum:

Yeah

Aaron Moncur:

Yeah.

Stephanie Slocum:

Stuff like getting interrupted during meetings, or just having your competence question, do you really know what you're talking about, in a noticeable way more often than other people with my same level of experience. And I thought it was me. So to give the listeners context, I graduated from college in 2002. And so and I thought that I'm like, oh, the whole, like, women in STEM thing like that was something my parents solved. That, that's not, we're in the new millennium, this is not an issue anymore. And so I was pretty much completely blindsided by what was going on. And I think as a result of that, I'm like, 'It's me, I'm doing something wrong. There's something about me that's not screaming leader.' And even though I had the privilege of working with some really, really great people, like things like this just kept on happening. And so I had to figure out how to navigate that for myself. Along the way, I had three daughters. And I got to this point where I'm like, Okay, I'm, I'm in this engineering role, where at that point, I was the level below ownership at the firm I was working at, so a pretty high, high role. But I'm like there. I think I can have a bigger impact on the world then what I'm having. And I've always been hugely driven by having an impact in the world. I'm also I love to write I love to read. And so I started writing a book, which ended up being called She Engineers, it was a complete side project, like in my non existent free time. And so like hashtag productivity tips, I have lots of those because I shouldn't have been able to write a book, when I was working more than full time hours in my engineering job. Dealing with my youngest wasn't quite sleeping through the night yet. All those sorts of fun things. And it took a year to write, but then I published it in January 2018. And pretty quickly, I got asked to come speak on this topic to young professionals, women's groups, just other women in engineering women in STEM groups. And I pretty quickly realized that like, I could keep on doing engineering, I could keep on doing stuff related to the book. But I was going to be mediocre at both, if I attempted to continue to do both. And I like my family and I wanted to see them from time to time. So that that was playing into all this as well. And so for me, What ended up happening was six months after the book was published, I resigned from my engineering job to jump into Engineers Rising full time, where I have the best job in the world, helping women in STEM, navigate their STEM careers on their own terms. But again, for me, it was a like, yeah, we had to get all our ducks in a row to be able to be able to do that. But it's about how my mission in my career has always been to have the biggest impact I can, whether it be designing the engineering stuff, or doing what I do now, with career coaching and business coaching for women. And so it was a relatively easy decision for me to make this leap. When that's my why. And so for anybody listening, if you're struggling, figure out what your why is, and let that guide you.

Aaron Moncur:

Well, I imagine that if you were to ask, let's hope this is true. 99 out of 100 male engineers, do you think that women have a place in engineering? Do you think that women are every bit as capable as men are? As engineers? They would all say yes, yet, your experience probably indicates that, although we as men probably believe this and state that openly. Maybe there's something subconsciously going on with us that that causes us to treat women differently within an engineering context. What what are some things that we as men can be careful about as we're working with our our female counterparts?

Stephanie Slocum:

Yeah, such that's such a fabulous question, Aaron, and I want to answer that question, but before I do, I will, what we're talking about here is all the unconscious bias things that we have ingrained in us from a very young age and it's not that men have it and women don't or or somebody is at fault here, or this person is a bad person. By nature of being human, we all have unconscious bias. And so I can share a story of a time a male coworker brought in cookies into my office. And I'm like, oh, tell your wife, thanks for bringing these amazing cookies into my office. Well, guess who actually made the cookies?

Aaron Moncur:

Not the wife

Stephanie Slocum:

He did. Yeah, yeah. And so like, I think part of the struggle with this is that we don't want to talk about it, because to talk about it, and we see this with both like gender issues, racial issues. None of us went into STEM engineering technology, because we really loved being around people, or at least I know very few that were like, Yes, I want to deal with conflict and having tough conversations. Sure, and navigating all that. And then so when we get to a place and we're like, well, I'm, I don't want to be perceived as sexist, or racist or any of those things. So it's easier to just put this in the box and not talk about it. And then when we don't want them, we do that, what happens is, we start to join the statistics that show that like women are interrupted during meetings, for example, and this is true in virtual or in person, three to four times as much as men are anybody listening, take note book into your next meeting and keep track.

Aaron Moncur:

So that's one thing right there. Don't interrupt.

Stephanie Slocum:

Yeah. And don't interrupt. Again, it's not just the gender thing. Like we know, a lot of people are not engaged with their work. And if they're not heard, if people don't feel like they're hurt at work, they are not going to be as active and doing as good of a job. There are really dollar amounts here, when it comes to the business case related to keeping your workforce engaged, not into not allowing interruptions in meetings, is a really, really low hanging fruit here that will help women and will help everyone else as well. Other things that we see is when, when you hear the sexist or racist joke, speak up. Particularly if you are a white male, and I am I know the viewers can't see me. So I am a cisgender, white female. And so I have privileges there as well. But when you are in a position of basically privileged position, whether it be by virtue of race, or gender, or power, like depending on your title, you have an obligation to call out things when you see them. So no, the women driver jokes are not funny. And there's a lot of other I don't know, snide remarks, those things, you know them when you hear that, related to that. Similarly, like, no one wants to take notes in a meeting, yet, women tend to be asked to do that a lot more often than their male counterparts. If you are like in an academic setting, this could translate into joining that volunteer committee that you are asked to join, but you know that's never gonna get you tenure. It's never gonna get you promoted. And then making just making sure that all of that what we call non promotable work is distributed evenly. So those are the quick couple of ways. Great job for a couple hours on this one errands.

Aaron Moncur:

I'm sure.

Stephanie Slocum:

But I want to give you guys give you some low hanging, low hanging fruit here for easy things that anybody can do, regardless of if you are the boss, or if you're just starting out.

Aaron Moncur:

Yeah, those are excellent suggestions. Thank you for sharing those. How about as you've advocated for women in engineering, technology, STEM, has there been any, like, explicit pushback that you've encountered? Or for the most part, when you start talking about this? Are people very receptive all across the board?

Stephanie Slocum:

It depends. So no, I would not say that people are generally receptive all across the board.

Aaron Moncur:

Interesting. Okay.

Stephanie Slocum:

So there's a couple of interesting situations I've run into. The first one was, I think this was the second talk I gave when I started the company and I was asked to give a talk to a group of mixed gender, mixed race, seniors, college students. And I came in to give a talk about that basically, how to make a really good career transition from students into your first couple of years in the industry to set yourself up for success long term. And as I was telling some of these stories about things that happened and not really knowing how to professionally self advocate stand up for myself. In some of those early situations, I could tell from the faces of the people listening to these stories that they didn't actually, they believe the story happened to me. They didn't think it was gonna happen to them. Moreover, they didn't think that they would ever do that to someone else. And so I think that's some of the stuff. I encounter that a lot this thought that, okay, if this hasn't happened to me, or someone I know or someone I care about, then it doesn't exist. It's not a problem. And we see this in the the pipeline versus retention argument specific for women, as well, that there's a lot of folks who will be like, Oh, well, the reason we don't have enough women in STEM is because well, girls aren't interested in it. And so we just need to work on doing more outreach in high schools and colleges and all of those things. And what they don't know is that if you went and looked up the statistics on this, we've actually increased, we've more than doubled the pipeline in the last 20 years just since I graduated. However, we haven't actually budged the retention rate of women in engineering and stem and in some instances, so like in computer science and engineering, the numbers actually gone backwards.

Aaron Moncur:

So you're saying that we have twice as many women who are trying to enter the technical field. But the the number of women who stay in that field hasn't changed for I can't remember what you said was 20 years or something?

Stephanie Slocum:

That's 20 years.

Aaron Moncur:

20 years, wow

Stephanie Slocum:

So it's gone up up, depending on your major, it's gone up a half to 1%, which

Aaron Moncur:

So that's almost saying that it's gone backwards, because the ratio of women trying to enter to the ratio of women that are staying is is now far higher than it was before, which is the opposite direction that we want it to go. Why do you think that is?

Stephanie Slocum:

How long do you have for me to answer that question? So one of the interests of there's been actually a couple of just like, large scale studies on this, some of them funded by the National Science Foundation, trying to figure out what is going on here. And because if you ask someone who's not in STEM, oh, why are women not in? Why are women coming into STEM and then leaving nine times out of 10, and I have done this anecdotal experiment with my relatives who aren't in STEM, there'll be like, Oh, well, she's going to raise her family. And so that's why she's getting out of STEM. Well, it turns out at this point in time that men and women are leaving at similar rates for starting families. And so that's, that's not what's going on. Usually, they're leaving to go to other industries. There's a statistic that one in 10, men are leaving engineering, specifically after age 30. And one in four women are leaving engineering after age 30. So like, think about that for a moment, like someone invest all that time and effort, getting through college, a decade in their field, and then they're like, Okay, this isn't for me. And usually they're going to other industries. As not surprisingly, the foundational skills you get in STEM are hugely valuable in financial sectors, for example, because the way you learn to think the way you learn to problem solve, that that is very can be a very lucrative place for you in other industries outside of STEM. So is it all bad for the women that they're leaving stem? Absolutely not for them. But I do think there are the the fact that when people are asked, Why did I leave work culture is the number one reason. We can fix that.

Aaron Moncur:

What are, so work culture, you say is the number one reason that women are leaving? What are one or two of the biggest challenges that you hear from women that they're having in industry?

Stephanie Slocum:

Struggling to find mentors and sponsors within their companies?

Aaron Moncur:

Interesting.

Stephanie Slocum:

That is up there. And I would actually say, I think after me too, happened, it actually got worse.

Aaron Moncur:

Really?

Stephanie Slocum:

Yeah. Because I think there is a, people are shying away from one on one mentorship, particularly if there's a power. There's a perception of a different power dynamic between for example, the the older male that is often in charge of the engineering organization and a younger female than there is between the older male and a younger male protege, rightly or wrongly, is there, there seems to be that kind of perception challenge when it comes to mentorship and especially sponsorship. clearly defined growth paths. And I could have mentioned this one earlier when we're talking about things people can do. So we're cultures first. The second reason why people leave is they couldn't see there wasn't a growth opportunity for them available there. And so what we often find is that when people do not see a transparent promotion process, when they have a perception, rightly or wrongly, that there is a lot of nepotism going on. Or people are getting promoted, because they're playing the political game, not because they are the best person for that position. Women, statistically speaking, tend to walk more with their feet, when they encounter that they don't say to themselves, oh, I just need to figure out how to play the game better. They're like, okay, FM, going somewhere else. And so I think those two things, and again, mentors and sponsors, and clear, transparent growth paths, benefit every single person in your company, if you actually want to retain and grow your people. And so while women tend to bear the brunt of this, just because I think we hope things would have changed more by now than they have. It still benefits everybody to have all of these things, mentorship, sponsorship programs, transparent hiring, promotion practices, those sorts of things.

Aaron Moncur:

Okay, so I imagine that a lot of what you teach in engineers rising is, even though you're focused on women in STEM, I imagine a lot of it is relevant for men as well. One of the things that you talked about, you just mentioned right now is helping your clients gain clarity about their careers. If If I were a new client of yours, and I came to you and said, 'Stephanie, I've just, I'm not sure where I'm going, help me out here. What, what is the process that you would run me through to help me get some clarity in my career growth?'

Stephanie Slocum:

Okay, awesome, awesome question. Okay, so the first thing we would do is we would have a series and usually I have two of these. And this is regardless of if the person signs up or not, where we really talked through, okay, where are you and your career right now? What do you like about your work? What do you what do you not like about your work? What, in your past, have you liked about your work? And and here's why those questions are really important. I want to pause here for a second. We have a we had a burnout epidemic before the pandemic happened. And it's getting worse now. So if if someone is listening to this, and those questions I just asked, What do you like about your work, and you can't come up with a single thing past or present, that you like, at work, that is a strong leading indicator that you are in burnout, because that's what happens when you're in burnout all of a sudden, and it's usually not all of a sudden, it's over length of time. It's things you used to enjoy, you no longer enjoy. And I can't find anything at all that I like about my work. And so, once we get through those initial questions, then we start digging into okay, like, why did you go into this field? What, if you could imagine your kind of perfect day, what would you like to be doing? What does that actually look like? And usually, it takes a while to figure that out. As as STEM professionals, I've noticed that and I have this problem myself, we're really good at pointing out all the reasons things can't work, we are really good at solving problems. We are really good that if you give me a whole bunch of constraints and parameters, and you have to fit x into y. And we're not sure we can do that, like we can figure that out. But when it comes to imagining possibility for yourself, we really suck at it because we haven't exercised that muscle. And so really, that is I would say like the core of what good coaching be at myself or anyone else out there does is it sees more potential and draws that out so you can see it, then you might be seeing in yourself. And so once you dive into that, and there's also reflection exercises. So really understanding who you are with things like there's Clifton strengths assessments. There's Myers Briggs stuff, it really depends on the client because in my case, like your coaching should be as customized as as you are, because we're all unique individuals. And we all have specific needs and specific situations. And sometimes people come in they're like, my question is do I should I stay in the industry or not Like, that's the fundamental question I'm trying to answer. Some people are like, my job is terrible. I need to change it. And sometimes that ends up to be the case. And sometimes we're able to job craft their job into a role that is better suited to them with a mind shift change. Sometimes the answer is, you really need to go start your own company, which is why I'm one of the probably few few career coaches out there, I actually have a program to help people do that. Because I ran through this myself where I saw an employee, I saw an entrepreneur as you had to be. Elon Musk, you had to be Steve Jobs, you had to be Bill Gates to start a company, you had to have some patents, or some special skills or some awesome network or venture capital. And that's actually not the case, particularly if you want to be in professional services. And so figuring out, like, my process is very about much about figuring out what is best for you, what the six, how do you define success, because some people define it with, I want to be the boss. And some people define it as I want to work 30 hours a week and have time with my family and do meaningful work. And both are right. It just depends on who you are. And so, again, my goal is always to make sure that that someone comes out of their experience with me better and happier than they were before they before they met me. And I can

Aaron Moncur:

Yeah

Stephanie Slocum:

Yeah, give you a whole bunch of logistics of very, not surprisingly, my coaching tends to be very systematic in process. Like, we have very clear, here's what success looks like at the end. And here are the metrics we're going to do. Which is also unusual if you've gone into like the life coaching area. If you are comparing a life coach to like a career coach, those are two very different things.

Aaron Moncur:

Sure. Okay. Great. Well, I think we're gonna wrap it up here in just a minute. Before we do, how can people get ahold of you? What whether they just want to pick your brain about something? Or maybe they're interested in getting some career coaching? What's the best way to get a hold of you, Stephanie?

Stephanie Slocum:

Yeah, so come check out my website. It's engineersrising.com. We have a bunch of free blogs. If you want to see what programs we have go ng on. I also do free Zoom co sultations. So there's a button here, you could just click a d contact me. If you want to do that. You can also I am pret y active on LinkedIn. So I am St phanie Slocum, PE. So I have a retty open network. Feel free to connect with me there. And the you'll also see when I posts o various things we're doing o new blogs and all that sort of thing.

Aaron Moncur:

Awesome. Well, this has been so interesting, Stephanie. Thank you very much for joining me.

Stephanie Slocum:

Thanks for having me, Aaron.

Aaron Moncur:

I'm Aaron Moncure, founder of pipeline design and engineering. If you liked what you heard today, please share the episode. To learn how your team can leverage our team's expertise developing turnkey equipment, custom fixtures and automated machines and with product design, visit us at teampipeline.us. Thanks for listening