This is a guest post by Julie Lutsky, P.E.
Image from Freepik
Balancing life between being a mom and a full-time engineer has its challenges, but with the right preparation, organization, communication, and coordination, I can have it all. Early in my career, being a structural engineer defined me in many ways, and much of my time and energy was devoted to my professional development. I naively set a goal to “master” — or at least not be a trainee — in my profession prior to having children, thinking this would make it easier once I became a working mother.
However, as a goal, this was not attainable. Continual professional development is one of the keys to a successful career, and you don’t know what you don’t know about being a new parent. I can confidently say that being a structural engineer has made me a better mom, while at the same time, being a mom has made me a better structural engineer.
I have learned over the years that while having a strong technical background is important to deliver a successful project, many other attributes are required, including communication, anticipation of issues, teamwork, client experience, project management, efficiency, problem-solving, collaboration, and cost-effectiveness. In my opinion, these are the things that make an engineer stand out and are also the skills that have translated over to motherhood. You think business negotiation is hard? Have you ever tried to get a 4-year-old to eat dinner?
But how has motherhood made me a better engineer? I practice more empathy and understanding toward teammates, which makes problem-solving easier and the client experience better. I think through projects as an engineer and a mom — how can designs be safer? How can I engage my teammates to solve a problem using our combined experience? My children look at things through a different lens, which gives a different perspective to a problem. Being able to leverage this same collaboration from younger and older staff is what brings project success: understanding that there are several ways to tackle a problem, but that it is my job to leverage everyone’s experience to reach the best solution.
As a project manager, I have to manage the budget, anticipate potential setbacks, problem-solve, and practice patience and planning. When setbacks or disagreements arise, it’s important to listen and solve a problem based on facts, not feelings — I can think of a million scenarios where these skills are essential to getting through the day with two little ones.
Ultimately, I do think you can have it all and it is possible to be a successful engineer and parent. Having a team and management at Pennoni that understands the importance of family and values family is crucial to my success. Having flexible hours and work-from-home availability has allowed me to be present as a mom and more productive as an engineer. However, this comes with a lot of trust between my manager and me. Trust that is earned and has respect that goes both ways. My leadership knows that when I’m at home, I’m working.
Being a mom has made me a better engineer and being an engineer has made me a better mom. I am proud to be both a structural engineer and a mother. Client feedback and praise from co-workers is terrific, but having my son’s teacher tell me how proud he is that his mom is a structural engineer and how he gushes to his classmates about me is a real measure of success.
About the Author
Julie Lutsky, P.E., senior project engineer at Pennoni in our structural division with nearly 15 years of structural design experience, specializes in both new building construction and renovations. She has worked on a variety of projects ranging from large-scale new construction to small-scale renovations. Her expertise is in structural steel and concrete design; however, she also has experience with masonry and wood construction. She also has expertise with the UFC (Unified Design Criteria), specifically blast and progressive design analysis.
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To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success