I have another great interview with a successful woman engineer to share with you today. I hope these stories I have shared in the Engineering Emily Interview Series have been as interesting and inspiring for you to read as they have been for me. It makes me feel like I am not alone – we’ve all had similar struggles, but we find the job rewarding and worth the hard work.

Today’s interview is with Civil Engineer and new mom, Joanne Rumbaua (Zoleta).

Joanne RZ

EE: How and when did you decide to become an engineer?

JRZ: I was 16, Grade 11. Our high school offered students to check out university courses. A friend of mine wanted to go into engineering and asked if I wanted to go. That day the Senior Stick (President) of the Engineering Student Society was asked about the girl to guy ratio. He commented that maybe girls feel intimidated by the amount of guys in the faculty then joked that girls couldn’t handle it. I took it as a challenge. I enjoyed math and science so that day I officially decided to become an engineer. Also, my parents wanted me to be a doctor or lawyer, so like most teens I didn’t like doing what they said.

EE: What was your university experience like as an engineering student? What GPA did you have at graduation?

JRZ: I came from a private all-girls high school. High school for me was an environment where I didn’t have to worry about boys or what I looked like. I wore a uniform and worried only about my grades, being in the musical or whether or not I wanted to join the basketball team.  University was a new adventure. Being surrounded by guys was intimidating. I didn’t feel as smart as them. At certain points I felt like such a failure, but I didn’t give up. I found classmates that could help me understand certain courses better. I joined a student group called AIESEC (a french acronym for  Association internationale des étudiants en sciences économiques et commerciales (English: International Association of Students in Economic and Commercial Sciences) which empowered me through leadership training and meeting different types of people primarily with a business background. Being a people person combined with the technical understanding became an important combination in my career after university. My GPA was 2.9. I focused my last 2 years on personal development.

EE: Did you do any internships in engineering during college?

JRZ: I worked 2 summer internships. One as an Assistant Project Manager in road reconstruction and one as an Assistant Project Engineer in culvert and waterway design for the Province of Manitoba.

EE: How did you get your first job?

JRZ: A friend’s dad is an engineer and sent me a job description.

EE: What industry do you work in?

JRZ: Currently in Land Development.

EE: What has been your career path from graduation up to today?

JRZ: Jan 2011 – Mar 2012 Lead Drainage Engineer for KIEWIT on the Port Mann Highway 1 (PMH1) Expansion Project in Vancouver, BC

Mar 2012 – Aug 2012 Schedule I for KIEWIT on PMH1

Aug 2012 – Jan 2013 Site Service Engineer for KIEWIT on Mildred Lake Mine Replacement (MLMR) Project in Fort McMurray

Jan 2013 – Dec 2013 Project Scheduler for KIEWIT on MLMR

Dec 2013 – Oct 2015 Schedule I for Flatrion on Interior to Lower Mainland (ILM) Transmission Project in Chilliwack, BC 

Apr 2016 – Present Land Development Coordinator for Beedie Development Group on multiple projects in Burnaby, BC

EE: Have you had to move for work? Have you travelled for work, and if so where?

JRZ: I had to do a camp job for 1.5 years from Vancouver to Fort McMurray.

EE: What has been your best experience as an engineer?

JRZ: My best experience was working with the Scheduling Team in Fort McMurray. I felt in my element of knowing the work and being able to command a room of managers, superintendents, and the client to understand that scheduling a job and knowing the work they’re building is important to the projects’ success.

EE: What has been your most challenging experience as an engineer?

JRZ: My most challenging experience was going back to work and still carry out my old work ethic with the balance of being a working mom. I felt alone in what I was experiencing.

EE: How do you balance career and home life?

JRZ: My career is an 8-5 job. There are some days (if my husband is home from out of town work to watch our son), I stay an hour later to catch up. But most days my son provides me with the balance in my life. Home life is a work in progress. My husband and I are a team especially when it comes to our son. I drop our son off in the morning and he picks him up. If he’s out of town working, I pick up our son. I ensure our son has quality play time with me and sleeps at a reasonable time. Once he’s in bed, I can clean up our mess and prepare his lunch for the next day. Sundays tend to be meal prep day for the whole week for my son and I. It makes the rest of the weekdays run smoothly and allow good play time.

EE: What advice do you have for someone interested in engineering/working moms?

JRZ: Follow your heart and don’t forget about you when you go back to work. Your family will not benefit from an unhappy or unbalanced mom. We put ourselves on the back-burner too often. If we don’t worry about us, who will?

Also, try to plan ahead and understand what your employer benefits are. The difficulty is feeling like you may be putting yourself in a difficult position with a male supervisor so questions about your benefits are best directed to HR. HR would know the answers and if they don’t have the answers they should know who you need to go to or where to find it.

Thank you Joanne for the great interview. Joanne has been fortunate enough to work many different roles so far in her career. That is a great way to expand your engineering skills and expertise and find out what is your true passion.

She is working full-time and a mom to a young son. I can definitely relate to the struggles women often face when coming back to work and wanting to work as hard as before you had children but knowing you have to get home to your child. The child always wins with no regrets, but it is hard always being the first to leave at the end of the day.

My evening and Sunday routine is very similar to Joanne’s with major meal prep on Sunday and prepping lunches nightly. It can seem tiring, but it is worth it to have healthy food prepared for the family. It sounds like you’re doing a great job making it all work and finding the balance Joanne, way to go engineering mama!

If you or someone you know is an engineering and working mom like Joanne and would like to share your story, please comment below or send me an email at emily@engineeringemily.com.

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