June 23, 2024

Celebrating Women in Engineering

Celebrating Women in Engineering

June 23rd is International Women in Engineering Day, celebrating the role of women in STEM and bringing awareness to career opportunities. In recognition of thisday, we talked with electrical engineers Carly Langer and Noi Brown, who shared their thoughts on their career journeys and their advice to other women seeking careers in engineering.

 What led you into engineering?

Carly: Both my parents are engineers—my dad is a computer engineer and my mom is an industrial engineer. So I was exposed to that world; it was whispered in my ear as a kid. I did feel like I was good at math and science in school, so it seemed like a natural path.

I didn’t know what kind of engineering I wanted to do, and I chose electrical engineering as my major arbitrarily; it was high up on the list alphabetically. I sat down with mom to look at majors and she gave me an overview of them, and electrical was the first that sounded interesting. At UW, you declare your major but also have to apply,and you’re not always directly admitted into the program when you’re admitted into the school. I was admitted directly into the program. I didn’t realize hownice that was, and I realized I was lucky because not everyone gets admitted straight away.

During school, I found the internship at Wood Harbinger, then COVID happened when I graduated and it was hard to find a job. Luckily, Sean reached out when they had an opening for a position,and I said, “Yes please!” And here I am almost four years later. It’s almost about time to take the PE exam.

Noi: I was a contractor before I went back to school. I owned a residential remodeling company. I worked withall kinds of contractors as I grew my business and found myself curious about the electrical work. I decided to go back to school for electrical engineering. Iwas familiar with consulting engineering as a profession when went back to school, and I went in with the goal of becoming a consulting engineer.

All my friends asked me, “why electrical engineering?” and I said “Why not!” All my counselors at community college and university warned me that electrical engineering was very hard. Iknew. I said, “I know what I’m doing. I’ll try my best, and if I fail a class, Iwill retake it. But I didn’t fail any classes. Well, there was one I didn’t doso well in. I went to Seattle Pacific University and you have to take theology classes; I didn’t know so well in that—I got a B. I focused on my engineering classes.

Carly: “Living with Volcanoes” was my lowest grade. I took it with some friends in different majors. This was one class we can take together, and it was supposed to be easy! But I can still identify all kinds of lava.


How is it working in a male dominated industry? What has made you successful?

Carly: The big thing is learning how to advocate for yourself, to speak up and make sure you’re getting the practice you need. I noticed this more in school than I do working. There were some other ladies in my program, and I remember in lab classes, if we got to choose our own groups, we’d stick together. But if groups were randomly assigned and the boys in the group took over, you just had to get in there, say, “get out of my way, I’m going to do this part.”

Wood Harbinger has been a great environment. I don’t feel like a female engineer here, I’m just anengineer. I feel lucky because I know that’s not the case at every company. I have an exceptional mentor, Sean, who likes to teach and wants to teach.

Noi: With my business, I used to work with men all the time. All my employees were male, and I trained them. I got alongwell with them. When I became an engineer, I worked for another firm before Wood Harbinger, and there I was the only female on my team. And like Carly, I don’t feel like there’s any difference between male and female at Wood Harbinger. We’re just engineers.

Carly: The only difference I notice is when they’re talking about sports. That’s not my thing. They’re not pushing me away or anything, but it’s like, oh my god I’m surrounded by boys. Can we talk about Taylor Swift?

Noi: There’s also the golf. I don’t play, but my kids do, so I know about it because of my children. At my previous firm, guys would play every Friday, they’d ask me about something, andI could just pop in and share my thoughts.

Carly: I have been trying to get into golf. Nick and June have been helpful in encouraging me to join them in tournaments they’re playing in. June actually signed me up for one in July with The  Pro Shop. They’ve been helping me try to get into it because so much business development does still happen on the course.

Noi: I support you! I’ll be your caddy!

What memorable mentorship oradvice have you received as you’ve grown in your careers?

Carly: I feel like I got lucky with Sean being my mentor. He’s really good about getting me involved in higher level things, like meetings with architects to get exposure to that side of the business, and also so they can meet me too and I can form relationships. He encourages me to speak up in meetings. He’s really good about pushing me slowly but encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone. He said I’ve got great social skills; that’s not always a trait for engineers! He also gives praise where praise is due, and positive reinforcement.

Noi: Carly, you rock! You learn so fast, you’ll be a manager before you know it. You also helped me when I first started. I asked Carly to help me import AutoCAD stuff, and she did. I know what to do because she taught me.

Carly: I had great mentors and Iwant to help others, to pass on the knowledge.

Noi: I appreciate it!


What’s your best advice/suggestions/recommendationsto women considering a career in engineering?

Noi: Don’t be afraid to ask and confirm what’s expected and what you’re supposed to do. Ask questions and value yourself. If someone gets mad at you for asking questions, that’s a reflection on them, not you. Asking shows you care and want to do it right. It helps you get it right and that’s important. Confirm with whoever gives you a task, not just your manager but your entire team. Communicate what you’re doing with your team. Iwant my whole team understanding the reason behind decisions I’m making.

At my last firm, I was responsible for responding to RFIs. Sometimes that meant doing research and looking things up. I kept track of all my lessons learned, and I’d share them with my team. Sometimes they’d ask, “how did you know that?” and I’d say, “I found it in this book, this chapter.” At first they didn’t like me correcting their mistakes, but I didn’t take it personally. My manager asked me to do it. And eventually they’d start asking me, “Noi, do you have a lesson learned for us today?” They started seeing me asa resource. That was great.

Here at Wood Harbinger, I work closely with Paul and Spencer. If I make mistakes, they will help me with what to do. And sometimes, I see something, and I talk to them about it. They’ve very helpful.

Carly: Don’t be afraid to ask for things. When I was looking for a job, my mom told me it doesn’t hurt to ask for a little more money; the worst they say is no but it’s unlikely that they won’t hire you. SoI did, and I ended up getting a little bit of a raise. I mean, don’t be crazy with it, but don’t be afraid to ask. We’re taught “be happy with what you have, don’t stir the pot.” But advocate for yourself and ask for what you think yourworth.

Carly and Noi, we’re thrilled that you’re part of the Wood Harbinger family. You’re incredible people and exceptional engineers, and we’re so glad you chose to share your talents with our community by being part of this team. Thank you!