Career Day: Mechanical Engineering

Tell us a little about yourself and about your job.

My name is Brianne Hamilton, I’m 30 years old, and I’m from a small suburb along the Wasatch Front. I now live in Salt Lake City with 4 housemates and work as a mechanical engineer for a medical device company. The company is a spin-off of a University of Utah research project. We work on devices that use microwaves to heat up and/or kill cancerous tumors. For the last 6 years, I have worked doing various aspects of the design process. Mechanical engineers generally work with the design, manufacture, process, and assembly of mechanical devices (things that move, but not necessarily).

The jobs mechanical engineers (MEs) have are varied. Some examples of jobs a ME would have are things which involve fluid mechanics (air, water, etc.), mechanization, manufacturing design (designing processes to build assemblies), quality, medical devices, automation, composites (e.g. carbon fiber), aerospace, automotive, etc. Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) tools may be used for the design, assembly, and drawings of a device to be constructed. Read More

Podcast Episode #2: Graduating High School Seniors

Jamie talked with a group of young LDS women from the Denver, Colorado area in December 2012 about their educational and professional goals for the future. All three young women graduated from high school in 2013 and plan on attending college this upcoming fall.

Crysta is looking forward to studying at a local community college while preparing to leave on a mission when she turns 19. She hopes to attend Colorado State University when she returns. Crysta grew up in Texas and joined the LDS church one year ago. She loves animals, rugby, and chemistry.

Kristen plans on attending Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah this fall.  She enjoys school and has worked hard to prepare herself for college.  She loves singing and playing the piano and has been in Colorado All-State Choir for the past two years. She wants to integrate music into her future career.

Katy applied and interviewed at Stanford, Yale, USC, and BYU. Since the interview, she has decided to attend USC this fall. She is a good student who has worked to develop a talent for both math and physics. She enjoys helping special education students at her school and is thinking about a career as a child advocate.

Together, the three young women speak openly about their dreams and fears for the future and the challenges they face as aspiring Mormon women. We look forward to following up with the young women in the future.

We also suggest using this podcast during a Young Women’s activity as a way to have a discussion about possible future plans related to college, fields of study, and future employment. Before listening to the podcast, ask young women to share their plans after high school. Are they planning on attending college? A vocational school? Enlisting in the military? What field do they hope to study? And why? Pause the podcast periodically and have the young women share their own answers to the questions Jamie poses. Feel free to share your own thoughts and experiences. 

Also consider using the following quotes:

The whole gamut of human endeavor is now open to women. There is not anything that you cannot do if you will set your mind to it. I am grateful that women today are afforded the same opportunity to study for science, for the professions, and for every other facet of human knowledge. You are as entitled as are men to the Spirit of Christ, which enlightens every man and woman who comes into the world. . . .  You can include in the dream of the woman you would like to be a picture of one qualified to serve society and make a significant contribution to the world of which she will be a part. President Gordon B. Hinckley, “Words of the Prophet: Seek Learning,” New Era, Sep 2007, 2–5.

Resolve now, while you are young, that you will get all of the education you can. We live in a highly competitive age, and it will only grow worse. Education is the key that will unlock the door of opportunity. You may plan on marriage, and hope for it, but you are not certain that it will come. And even though you marry, education will be of great benefit to you. Don’t just drift along, letting the days come and go without improvement in your lives. The Lord will bless you as you make the effort. Your lives will be enriched and your outlook broadened as your minds are opened to new vistas and knowledge.
President Gordon B. Hinckley, “Let Virtue Garnish Thy Thoughts Unceasingly,” General Young Women Meeting March 24, 2007.

Open podcast in iTunes. 


Image credit: j.o.h.n. walker

Good News Minute: Work & School Style

If you are anything like many of us here at AMW, we tend to keep silent during the Good News Minute in Relief Society (if our Relief Societies even have such a tradition) when it comes to sharing successes related to our jobs and school work. And while we could discuss at length the reasons behind this silence, we will keep that for another day.

As we head into the Independence Day weekend in the U.S., it’s a great time to not only celebrate our country, but also a time to celebrate the work and school successes and triumphs that these freedoms allow us as women. So in the comments section, share with us your good news related to work and school from the last 6+ months. Did you receive a promotion? Get accepted to the school of your choice? Successfully pass that dreaded class? Land your dream job? Conquer a fear of public speaking? Or something else that’s just as awesome?

We at AMW are celebrating the fact that we’re here with you and getting to know you. Thanks for your support and enthusiasm! There are many, many great things to come. For all of us.

(And don’t forget to share your graduation photos on Instagram).

To LDS Fathers: So, Your Daughter Wants An Advanced Degree?

by Sherman Watkins

In our first AMW podcast, Susan Madsen discussed how her research showed the influential role fathers play in ensuring that their daughters graduate from college. Given that my father was a big supporter of my educational pursuits, I’ve invited him to share his perspective as a father of two aspiring Mormon women.  –Naomi

Having a daughter who decides to complete a Ph.D. can be a bit intimidating. Not because the degree itself is so imposing—though it is—but because in most cases, it involves treading unfamiliar ground. A father has many privileges in guiding his daughter: helping her learn to walk, teaching her to read, or worrying while she is out on a date. But pursuing an advanced degree goes places most fathers have never been. While I did earn a master’s degree, I did so while working full-time and specifically chose a program that catered to the working student. I’d heard, and have now observed, that a Ph.D. is a whole different ball game. For the first time, I could not use my own experience to guide my now not-so-little girl as she ventured on this new path. Instead the question became, “What could I do to help her reach this goal?” And later, upon further reflection, “What had I done to prepare her for this decision?”

Allow me, first, to set the stage. Education is a rich part of my daughter’s heritage, so the idea of college was not radical or new. All four of her grandparents had at least a bachelor’s degree, and six of her eight great-grandparents had at least a two-year degree. She had a leg up over many and was not starting in a hole, having to prove education’s worth before she could ever begin classes.

My wife and I had also encouraged our daughter to excel throughout school, but we did not push her in any one direction once she began college. We did, however, help her to recognize her talents and take advantage of her strengths in choosing a course of study. Her master’s degree seemed a natural outgrowth of her work and previous schooling, and, while we celebrated it, we did not look at it as new or exotic; she had at least a half-dozen aunts and uncles with master’s degrees.

I quickly figured out there were a few things I couldn’t help with anymore. No longer would I receive the occasional paper to review, since they now addressed things beyond my ken. Any parenting skills I could share were of little use in the classes she taught, since her students were adults themselves. She was never studying a book that I had already read. She was an English major, so I couldn’t even check her punctuation. My skills were useless.

So, what could I, or any dad, do in this situation?

First, last, and always, I could be there when needed. Sometimes a girl, even in graduate school, just needs her dad. Unscheduled and unscripted, these visits by telephone could be long or short. Generally they were late at night and never convenient. Their frequency dropped off as time went on, but they never went away completely. I can’t remember a single detail, only that when I was needed, I was needed, and I could not delay my response by a week or a day or even an hour.

Because this was new ground, my daughter spent more time figuring out the right questions than the right answers. She did not need me pushing for answers where she only had half-formed questions. It didn’t help that her adviser had never advised a doctoral student before. If ever there were two blind people seemingly destined for a ditch, it was them. Neither one needed me standing by to give them a shove. I took information as it became available, asked questions to clarify what was known, and did not try to pioneer new territory . I could give opinions when asked and help her sort through options, but I could not decide for her or fault her on decisions only she could make.

I could be a cheerleader. A Ph.D. is hard, hard work. It will never be attained by someone who does not have an internal drive to succeed. But even the most self-motivated person performs better in front of an appreciative crowd. Sometimes I felt like I was watching a new sport with rules I didn’t understand, but my understanding was only incidental to the cheering, which was crucial.

Occasionally I could offer refuge. The pressure of an advanced degree program can be intense, and there is a very real danger of unreleased pressure causing an explosion. Luckily, we had introduced our daughter to camping and hiking. Luckier still, she liked them, and she was smart enough to use them as a retreat when opportunities presented themselves. That kept the pressure tolerable. Trips home drove the pressure lower still. We could see her unwind as “home” worked its way into her soul. Conversely, we could watch the tension rise again as she prepared to return to school. But that tension was never as high when she left home as it was when she arrived.

My support of my daughter through her Ph.D. program was simple and an extension of the foundation laid when she was young. I answered when she called. I listened. I cheered. I did not second-guess. And I tried to give her peace. It wasn’t hard work on my part, but hopefully it made the Ph.D. that much easier for her.

Work and Motherhood–Not Incompatible!

by Kaylie Astin

I have always believed that the work of mothers matters.

When I heard leaders of the LDS faith talk about the value of mothers staying home, I believed that’s what I was supposed to do. After I had my first baby, I quit everything. I couldn’t imagine going to the grocery store, let alone going to work, while someone else watched my baby.

But it didn’t take long for me to realize that though I’d always dreamed of raising a family, something was missing. After all, I was the girl who’d stay up late as a teenager, reading goal-setting books such as Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I had graduated from school with a double major and University Honors, for no other reason than to prove I could. I liked a challenge.

I had dreams and interests, and these dreams hadn’t died when I became a mother. But when nothing I started stayed finished, how was I supposed to achieve anything? I’d thought I would get all kinds of vicarious delight from helping my children achieve their goals. When they were small, though, and all they did was eat and sleep, my goals were reduced to surviving the day. For me, breathing wasn’t a very fulfilling goal.

Raising children was supposed to be the happily ever after, so why was I so empty?

I tried to fill the void in my life. I needed something, I knew, but nothing felt right, and I became increasingly desperate. The ambitions I’d been squelching were stubborn. They wouldn’t go away. I considered going back to work, but couldn’t find a part-time job that paid more than minimum wage.

Life was expensive. No church leader who told me mothers should stay home had ever sat down and crunched the numbers with me. I had no idea what rent and electric bills and baby clothes cost when I was making my life plans. No one ever suggested that I had to not only prepare to raise children, but also prepare to go back to work one day. They especially hadn’t told me how to do so. My church lessons been big on ideology but short on practicality.

One day, in April 2011’s General Conference, I heard Quentin L. Cook say this, “I would hope that [Mormons] would be at the forefront in creating an environment in the workplace that is more receptive and accommodating to both women and men in their responsibilities as parents.”

For me, the speech was more than an acknowledgment that Mormon women worked. This sermon was an invitation for me to fight for families in the workplace.

And suddenly, I knew I had to do just that.

I began by researching, and what I found ignited my passion to make a difference even more.

If mothering was so important, and so many mothers worked, why hadn’t workplaces recognized this? Why was it so difficult for so many parents to combine work and family life?

There had to be a better way than just one-or-the-other, and surely people who were looking for work and family solutions could benefit from each others’ expertise.

If flexible working arrangements existed, could employees negotiate for them so they could use them more often? Even if daycare is often substandard and expensive, couldn’t parents who had found great childcare arrangements share their knowledge? It might seem impossible for parents to go back to school, but some have done it, so wouldn’t they have great advice? And what about parents who wanted to go back to work after spending several years at home?

I found answers to my questions, but they were scattered in books or all over the Internet, not in a single place. And I couldn’t find any online resources at all for LDS working women. So I decided to put together a website.

I spent the next several months immersed in research. I read every article and book about working mothers I could find. I found out which employers had implemented family-friendly business strategies and how they had benefitted from doing so. I learned which negotiation strategies were most successful when asking for a flexible schedule. I spent hours looking online for childcare resource and referral agencies. I called universities and colleges to determine what student childcare options were available. I studied business plans and career books. I devoured information about U.S. policies, ranging from employment law to child care standards.

Then, once I had enough knowledge, I wanted to share it. Of course, I had to learn how to build a site. And there were more than a few technical difficulties, domain name changes, re-designs, and re-writes. But finally, in February 2012, I launched my site,

The more I learn, the more I appreciate the silver lining in my struggles. The lack of an outlet for my ambition has created its own kind of ambition — to share what I’ve learned through an often frustrating process with women in search of work-life fit answers.

I still believe that mothers matter, and that’s why it’s even more important to me than ever that mothers take care of themselves. Most workplaces operate on a model that allows parents little time with their children. But it could be better. If working parents helped each other, if we shared our struggles, our funny moments, our successes, and our knowledge, we could get the help we need, and we wouldn’t feel so alone.


KaylieA passionate believer in the rights of women (especially mothers), Kaylie Astin is the founder of, where she blogs and raises awareness of work and family issues. She is also an aspiring novelist and freelance writer whose work has appeared in publications such as Fast Company, Boys’ Life and Children’s Writer.  Kaylie received a bachelor’s degree in music and resides in Utah with her husband and three children.


Art Image: Breton Women with Haystack | Henri Moret, 1889

Career Day: Speech-Language Pathology

Tell us a little about yourself and about your job.

My name is Andrea Weaver.  I’m 33 years old and I work as a speech-language pathologist (aka SLP).  Speech-language pathologists work in a variety of settings to assess, diagnose, and treat disorders related to speech, language, cognition, and swallowing.

I’ve been working in this field for 8 years and have primarily worked in a school setting with children with speech and language disorders.  I treat articulation, language, and fluency (stuttering) disorders as well as other areas such as social language skills in children with autism, and augmentative communication for children with limited speech or who are non-verbal. The bulk of my caseload is made up of children in pre-k to 5th grade, and I treat speech, language, voice, and other associated disorders in these children.  The students I work with range from mild articulation problems to very severe students with little or no verbal communication. 

I also do some consulting work for a rehabilitation company.  I work with adults to recover speech, language and cognitive skills after traumatic brain injury or stroke.  We focus on being able to return to functional independence in the home, community, and at work.  Read More

Why is Everybody Looking at Me?: Dealing with Self-Criticism

by Denia-Marie Ollerton

Denia-Marie received a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and French Studies from Brigham Young University. She recently obtained a master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling from Boston College, and currently works as a therapist in Boston. Her professional experience spans a broad range of populations, and settings, from schools working with children and teens to hospitals and outpatient settings working with adults and the elderly. Denia-Marie loves her family and her faith.

I am a beautiful, thoughtful, intelligent, and kind woman. I have a great sense of humor, people enjoy being around me and being friends with me, and I have a natural ability to excel at most things I try to do. Unfortunately, most of the time, I don’t really believe any of that. Most of the time, I find myself cowering behind my own shadow, watching opportunities pass me by.

Most people wouldn’t be able to tell from meeting me, but I suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder. People with this disorder experience “persistent, intense, chronic fear of being judged by others and of being embarrassed or humiliated by one’s own actions. These fears can be triggered by perceived or actual scrutiny from others. While the fear of social interaction may be recognized by the person as excessive or unreasonable, overcoming it can be quite difficult.”[1] I know my fear is mostly unreasonable, but I can’t help it. There have been many times where the discomfort is so intense that I’ll do almost anything to escape.

For example, I remember a time very recently that I was at a conference and was meeting a lot of people. I felt fairly comfortable until they announced breakfast was being served. I got so scared that I’d have to eat in front of other people – “what if I drop food on my clothes or something gets stuck in my teeth?” – that I ended up eating my breakfast in one of the bathroom stalls. Locked. As if someone were going to try to unlock it.

And this is after years of pushing myself to overcome this fear, to the point where I can do things like speak in public and go to conferences and socialize, where I wouldn’t have been able to in the past.

What I’ve come to realize is that I really am my own worst critic. I come up with the most outrageous criticisms about myself, and I attribute them to other people. In a way, believing others looked down on me made it easier to not try. If the world thought I wasn’t good enough, I didn’t have to face the fact that it was really me, myself, that was keeping me back from truly living and taking risks.

You may not lock yourself in a bathroom stall to eat lunch, but my guess is that many of you downplay your abilities with self-criticism.

So why do we do it? Perhaps it is natural to compare ourselves to others. Many of us live in cultures where we congratulate people on their looks and career achievements, ranking value from best looking and highest salary down to plain looking and lowest salary.

And yet, most of these triggers to our self-criticism will not change soon enough. It is our right, our privilege, and even our duty to take responsibility for ending self-criticism. And it is imperative that we do so, for we lose out when we allow self-criticism such a lead role in our lives.

The act of self-criticism robs us of our ability to understand the real value of our talents. When we compare our so-called weaknesses to others’ perceived strengths, it is as if we look at the gift of our own divine value and potential, turn it over a few times, shrug our shoulders, and hand it back to the Giver. “No thanks,” We say. “It’s nice, but it’s not really as nice as I was hoping for.” It is as if we are taking a mallet to our God-given potential and swinging with full force, smashing it into the ground.

I know that it can be hard to believe in what we have to contribute. I know that it is easy to ignore our talents when we also recognize aspects about ourselves we wish were different. But I also know that we can and do have the ability to create our own rules around what sort of criticism we will listen to. We ought not to give equal value to self-criticism as we would give to feedback that could help us grow.

So what do we do? How do we stop self-criticism? I know it is easy to rationalize our own personal brand of criticism, so are there ways we can help each other recognize when we do this, or is it an individual journey? Personally, I have made it a lifetime interest and goal to study human behavior. This is so I can understand the feelings I have when I interact with others. I know that understanding is the first step. After that comes courage. Courage to act in a way different from what I feel. Acting and changing behaviors are permanent items on my checklist. Those are two things I do on a daily basis and while it gets easier with time, it still takes courage to this day. But I’m okay with that, because it makes me feel like I’m conquering something, and I like that.


[1] Wikipedia – Social Anxiety Disorder

Returning to the Workforce as an LDS Woman

by Holly

Whether you’re looking to get back into the workforce after an extended leave as stay-at-home mother, or you’re ready to leave a less-than-wonderful job after years to update your education, it can be daunting jumping into an unfamiliar world. But don’t let your “time away” or “lack of experience” worry you. You haven’t been in a time capsule, after all—your experiences over the past years may have marketable value. Following are some tips about reentering the workforce.

How do I update my résumé after being out of the workforce for a while?

It can be scary updating that old résumé and discovering you have a big gap in official work experience. But there are a few ways around that obstacle, and truth be told, most employers out there understand that it’s not all that bizarre to “take time off.” There are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • One easy fix is to list years of employment and skip the months. For instance, which looks better?
    • 12/2003 – 3/2005: Hannah’s Plumbing Supply
    • 11/2006 – 8/2010: Bob’s U-Joints and Towing  OR
    • 2003 – 2005: Hannah’s Plumbing Supply
    • 2006 – 2010: Bob’s U-Joints and Towing
  • Don’t be afraid to include non-professional or volunteer work provided that it’s relevant. Be sure to spin it—for instance, if you were with the PTA and are looking at a job in marketing, be sure to mention event planning or management opportunities. Emphasize the skills your volunteer work honed that will benefit your prospective employer.
  • Consider using a functional format for your résumé instead of a chronological one. List by skill set and highlight what you bring to a job.
  • If you’re worried about your age, avoid making it a big deal. Remove graduation years from your résumé, if including your education history, and be aware of other obvious indications of your age. If you go in for an interview, be sure to avoid self-conscious commentary on your own age or pointing out the youth of others.
  • If a prospective employer does ask about gaps in your résumé, don’t be afraid to talk about the skills you developed while doing “other” things. Were you traveling? Talk about how that expanded your understanding of cultures and people, or how you had to learn to organize, plan, and think on your feet (miss a connecting flight, anyone?).
  • Even if your “gap” has to do with illness, unemployment, or other “negative” things, avoid making direct reference to them. Instead, talk about the positive things you did during that time.
  • If you fear your skills are rusty, you’re probably not the only one. Try an online or college course to get your skills updated and freshened, then include it on your résumé or letter of application!
What about including volunteer work on a résumé?

Yes! Volunteering in your church or community shows that you are concerned about the world around you, and that you’re interested in making a difference and being involved. There are a few things to remember as you talk about volunteering:

  • If you’re including religious stuff—even if you’re in Utah—avoid making your volunteer work overtly “churchy.” Your résumé should be understandable to someone who knows nothing about the LDS Church.
      • For instance, do something like this: 1996 – 1997: Volunteer religious missionary. Proselytized, taught English, volunteered in local community, oversaw 7 other missionaries, set and met goals each week, organized city-wide conferences for youth ages 12-18, etc.
      • Rather than this: 1996-1997: Served an honorable mission in Spain, Cordoba. Taught 15 discussions each week, served as Ward Relief Society President, taught Sunday School, organized Youth Conference in the city, etc.
  • You can either include volunteer work under its own heading, or include it amongst your job history by changing the heading from “Professional Experience” to something like “History.”
  • If your volunteer experience doesn’t add anything and you just can’t make it relevant, consider leaving it out. For instance, if you’re seeking a position as a stockbroker, and you were a volunteer janitor at a local rest home, including it might not be a good fit. However, if it’s a cause close to your heart, you may want to include it anyway so employers get a feel for who you are. You don’t want to end up in a job that would conflict with a cause important to you.
What about references?

This can be a tricky one, especially if you’ve been out of school or the workforce for a while. There are a few things you can to do ease the way:

  • If you aren’t already, GET CONNECTED. LinkedIn is a great networking site for professionals. You can connect with former employers, peers, instructors, etc. on Facebook as well. If you can stay in contact, half the battle is already won.
  • If you have older references and are beginning the job hunt again, be polite and give them a head’s up. Better they are aware if someone contacts them!
  • Choose responsive people who actually know you, and people who can address relevant skills. It’s better to get a warm and personal recommendation from a middle manager than a vague and impersonal one from a VP.
  • Business acquaintances, professors/academic advisors, customers, and vendors can all make good references. If you volunteer, consider using leaders or other members of the organization as personal references.
Additional Tips
  • Keep yourself employable now. Even if you don’t think you will ever end up back in the field, keep in touch with it. Take classes. Do interesting things. Even keep your résumé updated. Publish papers; make presentations. Be a part of organizations, professional groups, etc. Keep up your contacts (professional and personal). You never know when they will come in handy.
  • Are you a quilter, a scrapbooker, a seamstress, a writer? If you’re really good at a skill, market it for a few hours a week from home. The Internet makes a little home business superbly easy!
  • Is there a job you want but the company isn’t hiring? Or you just don’t have the experience they’re requiring? Try volunteering at the company you want to work for. At best, they may end up loving you so much they’ll hire you. At worst, you’ll just get a little more experience for the future. (ok—at the very worst, they’ll just say “no thanks”).
  • It can be a painstaking process, but fine-tune your résumé to each job you’re applying and include a cover letter. If the job description doesn’t include the name and title of the person to whom you’d be reporting, do a little research to get a name, so you can address your letter to a real person, not just to “Whom It May Concern.”
  • Beware of social media! It may be super-awesome to have an Internet business or popular blog, and can really help you to stand out, but it can also do you damage. Negative or über personal blogs, inappropriate images or posts on Facebook, or scathing tweets can do you great damage.

Do you have experience returning to the workforce after a hiatus? What suggestions or advice would you add?

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