“You don’t look like an engineer”

I can guarantee most female engineers, and often POC who are engineers have heard this phrase at least once.  Generally people mean it as a compliment (at least with women). But it stinks in the same way that “don’t get so emotional” stinks when its been said by a male colleague after you’ve proven your point. I’ve never once heard these phrases directed at a man.

What is wrong with “You don’t look like an engineer”? : 

  1. Yes. I do. I am an engineer, therefore, I look exactly like an engineer.
  2. Would you ever say ” You don’t look smart”? If the answer is no, then don’t say “you don’t look like an engineer”. It means exactly the same thing. If you would tell a girl “you don’t look smart” then please, exit the internet.
  3. If you have an idea in your head that people in STEM all like Amy or Sheldon from Big Bang Theory, that is your problem. Nerdiness knows no color or gender boundaries.
  4. If you want to tell me I’m pretty ( which I think is often the intention?) then please, just say that.

I went into engineering because I love knowing how things work. I love looking at a complex system , like a power plant , or a chemical reactor and knowing that with equations and some time I can build it from the ground up.

I get to build , really, really cool things. This is why I do my job. Its as simple as that. But somehow this is hard for people to believe.

As I’m writing the above I’m starting to get a bit emotional, which is a little surprising. I’m not a very emotional person. I’m analytical and introverted like a lot of other engineers. I have a pretty thick skin, and in general, am treated as an equal by colleagues. But every time I hear ” you don’t look like an engineer”, “don’t get so emotional”, “we need someone more experienced“, “can we talk to the lead engineer?”  I see the capital T Truth.

The Truth is, that no matter how good I am at my job I will always need to work a little bit harder to be seen as good. I will always need to be extra careful to prove a point in a way that doesn’t offend my male , senior colleague. I must be careful to not get too excited or enthusiastic because then my argument will mean less , because I am “emotional”. And even when I do all of these things, I will still probably never rise very high in my current company. Because that is just the way the world works, and sometimes it makes me sad.

If you don’t believe this. Your eyes are not open.

I still love my job. If I cant have the impact I hope to at my current company than I will find somewhere I can. Because things are getting better. For every guy who says “you don’t look like an engineer” There are three guys who were in my study group, who know that I look exactly like an engineer. The kind of engineer who still remembers the day she learned how to use the Schrodinger equation to explain hydrogen’s existence as a diatomic as one of the coolest moments of her life.

And no matter how many things about my job suck. At the end of the day. I built something and no one can take that away from me.


Below is a link to an amazing ted talk about women in engineering, bias and how we can all help to increase diversity in STEM:








One week in

It seems crazy to me that I  only go here a week ago. It feels like a lot more.

I spent last weekend running around looking at rooms and meeting potential flatmates. I’ll  write a separate post about that later. Long story short- I saw pretty much every type of apartment in Singapore. In the end I found a great place and even met with my roommates again this week to figure out the details. W0oohoo!

Other than apartment hunting most of my life so far has been work. Its a bit weird, in a lot of ways it feels like being new again. I sometimes find my self cringing when I say the wrong thing or having to push myself to make sure I am involved. And there are lots of times I just feel really stupid. I know abut half of my coworkers but I don’t know anyone except my immediate colleague really well so a lot of this week has been settling in and trying to get the know people and build up my network again.

Until today I have also been feeling mostly like I was under water. I have so much to do from where I left things at my work in the US in addition to needing to develop completely new protocols for the new process here. We ( me and the one other process engineer)  also need to set up a completely new QA system and make sure we have access to everything we need.

Today at work though I felt like I finally stared to turn the tide. I am starting to check things off of my to-do list instead of only adding them. Me and the other process engineer are starting to get organized and build new protocols and schedules for the process bring-up here.

That said- I am looking forward to the weekend.  While everything had been really great in general its punctuated by moments of extreme crappiness. Like when I was late to a meeting and couldn’t catch  a cab, or when I offended a coworker doing something that’s normal in our US office. I’m also missing a bit my friend network in the US. So for the weekend- I am searching for some fun and also looking forward to just relaxing a bit!

Lots more to post but that’s it for now!






First Day in Singapore

I arrived safely back in Singapore at around 1 am last night. After checking in to my temporary apartment ( 1 month courtesy of my work , thanks boss!) it was around 2am so I crashed.

Due to the wonders of jet lag , I was able to wake up early enough to go for a run in the morning! I found a nice little path near where I am staying. It looked like it was used mostly by bikers, but it was perfect for a run.

Pictures below!

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The Packing Guru

Packing sucks. We all know this. Despite having moved around my entire life, I still manage to suck at packing. I cant explain it.  Practice just does not make perfect in this case.

One of my tasks over my holiday vacation is to pack up all of my belongings. I’ve already decamped from California to the midwest to visit family- but I  had three checked bags – which starts to get expensive ( and hard to carry) on an international flight so I needed to slim down.

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