Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Women's History Month Blog Series (Final Blog)

In recognition of Women's History Month, Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) presents a special blog series featuring candid responses from female ECBC employees and leaders on their experiences as females in the science and engineering fields. The final submission in this blog series features Mandi Yocum, a systems engineer on the Joint Service Aircrew Mask – Fixed Wing (JSAM-FW) program.

When you are 18 and faced with deciding “what you will do with your future,” the task seems daunting.  For me, a love for science and math, a nagging desire to “maybe” do something medical, a self-commitment to always be able to support myself financially and a chat with a few friends of the family led me to a career in chemical engineering. Since making that decision, I have never looked back. 

Upon graduation from college, it was clear that although I could optimize hairspray or refine oil for a career I would really find ultimate satisfaction in a job where helping people was the main objective.  Around the same time as I made important decisions about my career, I had also met the man who would later become my husband. So while choosing a career path, I also began the daunting task of trying to strike a healthy work-life balance. For me, finding that balance is an evolving process and something that I continue to deal with today, as my family grows.  Honestly, this has been one of my biggest challenges — and from talking with many of my mentors — the portrait of success in this area is different for everyone. 
Early in my career, I traveled about 50 percent of the time, worked a lot of overtime and enrolled in grad school. Needless to say, family time was limited.  I have since re-evaluated my priorities and I try to overcome this challenge daily by communicating openly with my coworkers and striving to demonstrate team commitment while keeping my home priorities at the forefront.  It’s not a perfect system, but it works for me. My career is still young and I know I will have many more challenges in this area.  My old philosophy of trying to do “everything” in a short amount of time has taught me that traveling and putting in long hours do not drive success.  To me, success has been at the right hand of hard work, dedication, goal setting and, probably most importantly, paying attention to the opportunities around me.  

By knowing my goals, I have been able to seek opportunities that the job and the organization have to offer to support these goals.  Opportunities like attending grad school, participating in mentoring and cohort programs, assisting with recruitment, changing jobs positions, taking on tasks in the fringe and participating in developmental assignments have all helped me network, refine my career aspirations, learn new skills and apply variety to keep my perspective fresh.  In the midst of the balancing act and desire for success, I try to stay satisfied wherever I am — but keep looking for greater satisfaction!

How about you, how do you strike balance and define success in your career?      

Mandi is currently a systems engineer on the Joint Service Aircrew Mask – Fixed Wing (JSAM-FW) program supporting the JPM-Protection.  She worked at ECBC for nearly eight years, starting following graduation from Penn State University in June 2003. She has a BS in chemical engineering, bioprocessing option, from Penn State University and an MS in biotechnology, biodefense option, from Johns Hopkins University.

The content in this blog entry does not represent the views or beliefs of ECBC, its employees, its management or the federal government.

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