New! IEEE-USA Women in Engineering E-Book 12: It’s Not a Career Path – It’s an Obstacle Course!

By Helen Horwitz

Lisa Schoedel’s career path cuts across three male-dominated industries: defense, oil and law. Moreover, she readily admits that she did not carefully plan her vocation, stumbling upon earlier jobs with little thought, or consideration.

Today, she is litigation counsel for a Chicago law firm, and she uses her electronics and environmental engineering training and skills to advise attorneys within the practice. This IEEE Senior Member acknowledges that her distinctive background paved the way toward what ultimately became a happy and satisfying professional calling.

Schoedel is also passionate about drawing more talented girls and young women to engineering careers–and she has now written an appealing account of her professional journey. It’s Not a Career Path–It’s an Obstacle Course!, by Lisa Schoedel is the twelfth and latest volume in the award-winning IEEE-USA Women in Engineering (WIE) E-Book series. Reflecting the author’s pragmatism and sense of humor, the work is brimming with anecdotes that explain why she made many of her career choices–and the lessons she leaned along the way.

“I love a challenge,” she says, “and when I struggle to learn a topic, or face a difficult project, I am motivated to conquer it. Looking back, this motivation has defined many of my career decisions.”

Leslie Martinich, chair of IEEE-USA E-Books, observes that Lisa Schoedel is an ideal role model for girls and young women. Georgia Stelluto, IEEE-USA Publishing Manager & Editor, IEEE-USA E-Books, adds, “Lisa’s experiences in several male-dominated industries demonstrate her commitment to professional excellence, and can help the next generation of female engineers see the value of embracing challenges–even if it means struggling, at first.”

Except for the first book in the series, which is an overview of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) occupations, each WIE e-book is a personally written account of how a noteworthy woman technologist built her career.


In her e-book, Schoedel–who also chairs the IEEE WIE Chapter in Chicago– concedes that keeping up with her childhood best friend, who was accepted into eighth grade Algebra 2 when she was not–was part of her impetus for pursuing science and math studies.

“Undeterred, I enrolled in Algebra 2, anyway,” she writes. “Since I had missed some of the concepts by jumping ahead, she filled in my knowledge gaps, and I could not have passed without her help. This support was critical; we were able to take Calculus as seniors by taking Algebra 2 as freshmen.”

In a chapter about her experiences while working as an electronics engineer for McDonnell Douglas, the author relates the difficulties of working in the early 1990s, a time of massive layoffs in the defense industry. “The first round was good,” she writes, “because it got rid of some dead weight. But the second round hurt “¦ and the third round was a disaster.”

Her takeaway lesson: Good employees do get laid off.

With nostalgia and still-detectable gratitude for the opportunity, Schoedel writes about her three-month temporary assignment in Australia, while also with McDonnell Douglas. She reflects, “If you are asked to take an international assignment, accept, if you possibly can. You’ll be exposed to different cultures, forcing you to reevaluate preconceived notions.” She also recommends embracing that country’s work habits-which, she writes, is a sign of respec,t and fosters better work relationships.

In a chapter with the can’t-miss-it title: How I Learned about Life at Gas Stations, Schoedel recalls many of her most memorable encounters while personally visiting and auditing every Shell Oil gas station in a two-state area, twice a year. Her insights–especially about being aware of your communication style, and never pre-judging someone because of their appearance or formal education–are helpful advice for almost anyone either entering, or already part of, the work force.


Four more volumes in the IEEE-USA Women in Engineering E-Book series will be published in 2017. Besides the new volume by Lisa Schoedel, the others are:

More information about all 12 IEEE-USA Women in Engineering E-Books is available at  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.

Helen Horwitz

Helen Horwitz was an award-winning freelance writer in Albuquerque, N.M. She was with IEEE from 1991 through 2011, the first nine as Staff Director, IEEE Corporate Communications.

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