When IEEE Member Melissa Lau was a fledgling engineer, one misstep in the lab almost became what she calls her “million-dollar oopsie.” Fortunately, Lau’s mentor and other colleagues helped her to save the day — along with the costly circuit board she had been testing.
With intelligence, insight and humor, Lau, who is now an integrated circuits packaging engineer with Broadcom Corporation in San Jose, writes about her experiences and growth as a technical professional in the latest volume (Book 5) of the Women in Engineering eBook series. Except for the first book, an overview of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) occupations, the books are individual, first-hand accounts of how a notable contemporary woman engineer built her career. Each author discusses the difficulties she overcame, and the opportunities she took advantage of, while obtaining her education and advancing professionally.
“The women professionals who are contributing to this series are outstanding role models whom girls and young women can easily relate to,” says Gerard H. (Gus) Gaynor, chair of both the IEEE-USA Communications Committee and IEEE-USA eBooks. “The first-person stories of each of these authors can help to motivate and inspire the next generation of female engineers.”
Georgia Stelluto, IEEE-USA Publishing Manager, and Manager and Editor, IEEE-USA eBooks, points out that each author for the WIE series is selected with care.
“First and foremost, we look for an enthusiastic, committed technical professional whose drive and ambition encouraged her to pursue her studies,” she says. “We are also making it a priority to invite women engineers who represent a diverse cross-section of backgrounds,” she adds. “The authors have practical, no-nonsense stories to share — including about how they overcame stereotyping, or inherent biases about females in the STEM professions.”
Stelluto adds that whether the author had limited pre-university opportunities to learn about technology, overcame the financial challenges of getting an education, or overcame the gender prejudice faced by many smart young female students, each IEEE-USA WIE E-Book is a real story that tells readers: I did it, and so can you!
Melissa Lau’s book, Women in Engineering – Book 5: Finding Self and Growth, is a series of short essays that illustrate what she describes as “the little triumphs in an engineer’s life that make the journey worth the time, the effort and the wanderings that get us there.” With a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of California, San Diego, and an M.S. in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University, Lau began her career at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company. She joined Broadcom in 2011.
In one essay, Lau discusses the importance of living up to personal potential. With considerable perception, she recounts an early, pre-university experience that taught her the importance of understanding the tools to be used before actually using them — essential advice for anyone wanting to maximize their efficiency.
In another, Fortune Cookie Knows, Lau humorously points out that “Man did not fall on top of mountain”; in other words, people must work to be successful — and no one starts out being an expert. Speaking directly to students and beginning professionals, she observes how expertise is acquired over time. Drolly, she adds: “If you don’t believe me, just look at your paycheck, because I guarantee you they pay ‘experts’ more. Typically, this time next year, your employer will pay you a little more for being a little more expert.”
The author also recalls with candor how some guidance she received early in her career affected her life. Advised by a senior executive to take big professional risks while she was still young enough to recover financially, Lau did just that; she tried — and failed — to change her career path. However, she writes: “Time gave me perspective to see that the life lessons I had gleaned from taking that risk were invaluable. They also shaped who I became. It was well worth betting the whole bank account on.”
Two more volumes in the IEEE-USA Women in Engineering eBook Series are scheduled to be published this year. They are:
- Women in Engineering – Book 7: Having It All – One Woman’s Journey by international marketing and business management consultant Tanya Candia
- Women in Engineering – Book 8: The Art of Self-Empowerment – Becoming Your Own Best Friend by Cisco software quality leader Punam Nagpal
The first six books in the IEEE-USA Women in Engineering eBook Series are:
More information about all six Women in Engineering eBooks is available at http://shop.ieeeusa.org/. 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.