I am so happy the Engineering Emily Interview Series has generated so much interest. I’ve had new readers come to the blog to read these interviews and I’ve also received lost of interest from women wanting to share their stories here. Hopefully we’re achieving our goal of inspiring other women to pursue engineering and encouraging women already working in engineering to stick with it. I’m always happy to get more stories to share, so please contact me if you’d like to share your story too.
Today is the third interview for the Engineering Emily Interview Series (you can read previous interviews by looking them up on the Contents page), and I am proud to feature mechanical engineer Mi Kim.
EE: How and when did you decide to become an engineer?
MK: When I was in 12th grade, I was trying to figure out what career path I should take. My math teacher was extremely insightful, and she would push her students to be better. I always wanted to be an architect or interior designer, since I liked that concept so much. In conversation with her, she suggested I look for something else, stating that I would get bored pretty quickly if I did something like architecture or interior design. I looked at other options, figured out my interests (space being one of them) and decided to pursue aerospace engineering.
I was accepted to a couple of universities in the US, known for their aerospace engineering programs, but due to my family’s financial situation, $80,000/year in university studies was just not feasible. I ended up going to the University of Manitoba, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, for a quarter of the cost, and got a B. Sc. in Mechanical Engineering with an aerospace option.
EE: What was your university experience like as an engineering student?
MK: University was great as an engineering student. I formed few but close friendships, two of which resulted in me being a bridesmaid at their weddings a couple of years later. It was a lot of hard work, but we tried to have a lot of fun at the same time. In addition to my faculty friends, I also had friends outside of engineering, which added different perspectives and different activities and gave me time to shut off the engineering talk.
EE: Did you do any internships in engineering during college?
MK: I completed a 12 month internship in South Korea, for a crane manufacturing company.
EE: How did you get your first job?
MK: It was October of 2006, during mid-term season. The university hosts two big career fairs for engineering, one in the fall and one in the spring. I was not due to graduate until May of 2007, and it was in the middle of fall semester. One of my classmates who was graduating in December asked me to go to the career fair with him. I figured why not, and went into the room. We were walking past the numerous booths, at which point, the yellow (yellow is my favorite color) table and signs for the company I now work for drew my attention and I talked to the HR rep there. We just had a short conversation, and she made sure to write my name down and told me to apply through career services. One week later, I had my first interview. Two weeks after that, I had a second interview with someone from senior management. By the time mid-November rolled around, I had a job offer in my inbox!
EE: What industry do you work in?
EE: What has been your career path from graduation up to today?
MK: I’ve been working for the same company, a general contractor, for about 9 years and held multiple roles within the organization. Field engineering, contract administration, project controls.
EE: Have you had to move for work? Have you travelled for work, and if so where?
MK: I moved for work initially, as the job was based out of Alberta and I was doing university in Winnipeg.
Travel for work, yes! And a lot of it!! I’ve been to the US and South Korea (twice) for work. The jobsites I’ve been assigned to have been in various locations across northern Alberta and now Saskatchewan. Work in Canadian jobsites is typically done on a rotation basis, staying either at camp or company provided housing close to the jobsite.
EE: What has been your best experience as an engineer?
MK: Traveling for work: I’ve gotten to go to Korea a couple of times for work.
EE: What has been your most challenging experience as an engineer?
MK: I’m not sure if it’s “as an engineer” or as a person in general… but accepting that there are things which you cannot control and letting them go. Hardest lesson that I’ve learned, but most applicable to every aspect of my life.
EE: How do you balance career and home life?
MK: A lot of will power! I do not have a family of my own, but I enjoy travel and hanging with a couple of close friends. Since I work rotations (10 days at work and 4 days off at home), I try to make the best out of every time I have days off, going on mini trips as required.
Always remember that in 5, 10, 15 years from now, you won’t remember the deadline you had to meet at work that caused you to have to cancel your vacation, but you will remember the great times you had ON vacation. Always take the vacation and never let work/career come first.
EE: What advice do you have for someone interested in engineering/working moms?
MK: The road to success is always under construction! And as general advice, not just to someone interested in engineering or for working moms, do what you want to do and do what makes you happy.
EE: Any other information or stories you’d like to share?
MK: Make sure you never lose sight of the end goal. Once you have that, work every day to achieve it. And never ever forget to have fun in the process!
Thanks for sharing you story with us, Mi! She found her first job through a college career fair, the same way I found mine. That is always a great place to start looking for jobs senior year in college. She has stayed with the same company for her whole career and has had opportunities to work several different roles and travel internationally. Travel locally and internationally is a great job perk of engineering (for someone who likes traveling), and one that drew me to engineering as well.
Mi had great advice on finding balance. I completely agree with her that you eventually forget about the work and deadlines that may feel like they overwhelm your life in the current moment, but you will never forget time spent with family and friends. Make it a priority to take time for vacation and make memories that will last. It makes work more enjoyable too. Mi, you’ve had an impressive career so far and we wish you nothing but continued success and happiness in the future!
Please comment below if you have any questions for either of us. And a reminder that if you or someone you know would be interested in being interviewed for a feature in the Engineering Emily Interview Series please comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.