“If the circus comes to town and you’ve always wanted to join the circus -- if you don’t join it, you’ll regret it the rest of your life.”
That’s the advice a mentor gave Jill S. Tietjen, P.E., years ago, as she struggled with whether to make a significant career change. His guidance served her well. Tietjen never looked back while progressing through several demanding positions in the power industry. In addition, she established her own successful consulting business, and serves on several corporate boards.
A champion for women in STEM careers, Tietjen has now written an inspiring account of her professional journey. The ninth – and latest – volume in the award-winning IEEE-USA Women in Engineering (WIE) E-Book series, Recognizing and Taking Advantage of Opportunities is a forthright discussion of Tietjen’s experiences and growth.
Gerard (Gus) Gaynor, past chair of the IEEE-USA Communications Committee and IEEE-USA E-Books, notes that each author in this e-book series was selected because she is an outstanding role model. Georgia Stelluto, IEEE-USA Publishing Manager and Manager & Editor, IEEE-USA E-Books, adds, “As a group, they offer a diverse cross-section of backgrounds, and each author has a unique story to tell.”
Except for the first book in the series, an overview of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) occupations, each e-book is a personally written account of how a noteworthy woman technologist built her career. Each author examines both the difficulties and the opportunities she encountered, while obtaining her education and advancing professionally.
In her e-book, Jill Tietjen notes that when she began her undergraduate education at the University of Virginia in 1972, it was only the third year women were admitted as undergraduates. She received her degree in applied mathematics with a minor in electrical engineering, and later earned an MBA from the University of North Carolina. Her wide-ranging career has included positions with Duke Power Company, Mobile Oil Corporation’s Mining and Coal Division, consultancies, and the University of Colorado at Boulder. At the time she wrote the WIE e-book, Tietjen was Chief Executive Officer of the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
Throughout her narrative, the author reflects on her experiences, both professionally and personally, including how she gained greater confidence in making decisions. For example, she writes that until she was about 39 and in counseling following a divorce, she didn’t realize she had so many choices to make in her life. Life was much more complicated than she had previously believed. The author says this experience taught her that “Each of us has many choices to make daily. If you don’t make those choices or decisions for yourself, someone else will make them for you.”
Tietjen advises her readers to take advantage of the opportunities that employers offer, because they can be “life changing.” She points to two such occasions while she was with Duke Power: The first was her employer’s encouragement to earn her MBA; the other, her experience working as an on-campus recruiter at North Carolina State University. While there, she discovered the Society of Women Engineers, fueling her interest in encouraging girls and women in STEM careers.
A chapter titled, “Tietjen’s Tips,” contains specific career advice that can be helpful in engineering -- or any other field. Among the topics, the author offers guidance on the importance of networking, learning when to say both “yes” and “no,” and overcoming obstacles. When dealing with a difficult situation, Tietjen writes that she identifies the worst result that could happen, identifies the possible courses of action, and then evaluates them. “Interestingly,” she observes, “the worst case almost never happens -- and I have mentally prepared for a very wide range of potential problems.”
Three more volumes in the IEEE-USA Women in Engineering E-Book Series are scheduled for publication in 2016. The first eight are:
-- Women in Engineering – Book 1: Inspire and Close the Gender Gap, by L-3 Warrior Systems systems and software engineering manager, and IEEE Women in Engineering International Chair, Nita Patel
-- Women in Engineering – Book 2: Passion, Perseverance and Making a Difference, by Microsoft data analyst/program manager, Maria Vlachopoulou
-- Women in Engineering – Book 3: Passions Can Sustain You: A Personal Career History, by consultant Sherry Gillespie
-- Women in Engineering – Book 4: Follow Your Curiosities: Finding Success through Learning, by James Madison University assistant professor, Jacquelyn Nagel
-- Women in Engineering – Book 5: Finding Self and Growth, by Broadcom integrated circuits packaging engineer Melissa Lau
-- Women in Engineering – Book 6: Your Career, My Career, by Austin consultant, Leslie Martinich
-- Women in Engineering – Book 7: Having It All, by Silicon Valley consultant, Tanya Candia
-- Women in Engineering – Book 8: The Art of Self-Empowerment, by Punam Nagpa,l of Cisco Corporate Quality
More information about all nine IEEE-USA Women in Engineering E-Books is available at the IEEE-USA shop. The member price for each volume is $7.99; non-IEEE members can purchase them for $9.99 each.
Helen Horwitz is an award-winning freelance writer who lives in Albuquerque, N.M. She was with IEEE from 1991 through 2011, the first nine as Staff Director, IEEE Corporate Communications.