From wide-eyed kid dreaming of a career in STEM to my current role as Manager of New Product Development for KOHLER Residential Power, I’ve spent a decade and a half in pursuit of a fulfilling career, passions, and personal life.
I’ve had countless opportunities—to make deep connections, to develop my engineering skills, to grow as a leader, and to make an impact in my community. I feel fortunate to work for a company that supports me both professionally and personally to become the best version of myself—whomever I decide I want to be (hint: it’s always evolving!).
It hasn’t always been easy, but I’ve learned a few lessons along the way on how to get the most from work and life—and they’re surprisingly simple.
First, find the people who value you.
Whether it’s a mentor, an employer, a circle of friends, or a community organization, seek out the people that want your opinion, care about your wellbeing and will lift you up in pursuit of your goals.
As a female engineer in the generator space, I’m a rarity—even more so as a leader. But at Kohler, I am not looked at as a “woman” leader. I’m someone who is trusted, relied upon for my skillset, and valued for the perspective I bring to our team and for our customers. I’ve had the opportunity to participate in two leadership development programs, represent Kohler at the Society of Women Engineers conferences, and deepen my commitment to diversity through Kohler’s various business resource groups. Feeling valued and supported by my colleagues and my employer has made all the difference in my career and my sense of belonging.
Next up … remember, it’s okay to start from nothing.
In school, I knew I wanted to be an engineer—but to be honest, it felt daunting. I knew I’d have to pay for school on my own. I knew as a female I’d be in the minority in my classes. And I knew I couldn’t predict the job market when I graduated.
But I did it anyway.
I put myself through school, commuting an hour each way while working two jobs to pay tuition. I was one of two female mechanical engineering students in my class. And when I graduated in 2009, an economic downturn meant jobs were scarce, so I took a contract job doing CAD work. Little did I know, I’d still be at the same company 12 years later, growing my career in an engineering leadership role.
Sometimes you have to start from scratch, come from behind, beat the odds—whatever you want to call it. Don’t be intimated. You can start from nothing and achieve great things.
Finally (and most importantly), pay it forward.
All our achievements mean nothing if we aren’t making a positive impact on those around us. This will look different for each of us, but I believe it’s important in driving our purpose. For me, I pay it forward by supporting up-and-comers interested in a STEM career. I enjoy going to local high schools to share about my job and my experiences. I also am involved with Kohler’s intern/co-op students, mentorship programs and career fairs.
I was once the kid on the other side of the table, and I know how great it feels to be welcomed, encouraged, and supported. Plus, you’ll often be surprised how much you can learn from their fresh perspectives.
This advice applies to all aspects of life. No matter what your goals are—career, fitness, relationships, finances, personal development—I’ve found these three lessons crucial to my success. Find your people, don’t be afraid to take chances, and take care of each other along the way.