Throughout March, we’ll be posting a series of interviews with NYPA’s female engineers in honor of Women’s History Month. Today’s entry features a Q&A session with NYPA Assistant Research & Technology Development Engineer II Lindsey McCloy.
1. How did you enter the engineering field and decide on your specialty? Growing up, I always viewed science and math as tools to discover solutions to big world problems, and I think that’s why I tracked toward engineering as a career. I settled on mechanical engineering in college because the discipline allowed me to explore many areas of interest, including sustainable energy technology, materials science, design, complex systems, and breaking stuff.
2. Did you have a female engineer as a mentor? Though I haven’t had an official female engineering mentor, I would count as “informal mentors” my female friends and colleagues in engineering, to whom I frequently turn for advice and perspective. I’m also reliant on a loose network that includes former professors, supervisors, colleagues at NYPA, and family members (my engineer dad, energy businessman grandfather, power system researcher boyfriend, and life expert mom) who let me pepper them with questions and who kindly dispense wisdom. Officially speaking, I’ve been lucky to participate in NYPA’s mentoring program which paired me with Paul Belnick, and he’s been an invaluable source of guidance as I’ve begun my NYPA career.
3. What makes you proud to work at NYPA? How long have you worked here? I have worked as an Assistant R&TD Engineer for about a year and a half, my first and only position so far at NYPA. Everyone who works here, throughout all of the business units, is an inexhaustible trove of information, and they are so generous with their time and knowledge – they constantly amaze me!
4. What things do you love most about engineering? Engineering, as both an academic and professional discipline, is all about breaking down and reorienting seemingly intractable problems. I really enjoy the interplay of rigor and creativity involved in engineering solutions.
5. What are the most difficult aspects of your job? What parts do you enjoy the most? Paradoxically, I find the same thing both most challenging and most exciting: the sheer amount of information and scope of the R&D department’s work. Sometimes it feels like I’m always playing catch-up to get up to speed on a project in a new area, but finally grasping abstract notions (like “what is a power system”) and being able to speak the language of a project is a great feeling.
6. Did you face any obstacles in becoming an engineer? I think pretty much anyone who’s gone through engineering school would say the same thing (if they don’t, they’re a robot and you shouldn’t trust them): engineering school is hard! It seems as though it’s structured as an endurance test and that if you complete it, you’re equipped to handle pretty much anything an engineering career can throw at you. Fortunately, so far that’s been the case!
7. What valuable lessons have you learned as your career as a female engineer has evolved? The biggest lesson I have learned so far is that networking, especially within the company, is extremely important. Building personal working relationships with people across the company, especially when your work spans sites and business units as mine has a tendency to, makes solving problems so much easier – when you’re tackling a new issue or project, already knowing who to talk to makes the solution much easier to find.
8. What advice would you offer young women considering engineering as a profession? Listen and observe, always. The fastest way to learn is by listening to others and picking up details through observation, whether in the field, in a meeting, or in a brief conversation in the hall. You never know when this information will be just the thing to help you solve a tough problem.
9. If you had to use one word to describe your opinion of the engineering profession, what would it be? Utilitarian.
10. What is one thing about yourself that people would find surprising? In 8th grade, I was the North Carolina state champion in the National Geographic Bee, so you can trust me with directions!