Invest in Yourself


What comes to mind when you read Invest in Yourself?  Is it buying yourself that new outfit? Shopping at Whole Foods? Or being able to invest in your 401K?  Whatever came to mind, I want to challenge you to rethink what this means to you.

I was recently discussing how we often sign up for training events with a sincere intention to attend and improve at a specific subject / area of expertise. In some cases, for whatever reason, we don’t attend. I find myself asking, “What is it that makes us follow through with that commitment?” Does personal development need to be forced by our employers to make sure we put enough attention on it to actually do the task?  Or is it a matter of money?  Is the only way our minds can see value in a commitment if it is tied to money?  Coming from a background of sales, this is something I will continue to research.  In the meantime, allow me to call attention to the importance of personal development and investing in your skills.

Wikipedia defines Personal development as “activities that improve awareness and identity, develop talents and potential, build human capital and facilitate employability, enhance the quality of life and contribute to the realization of dreams and aspirations. Personal development takes place over the course of a person’s entire life.[1] Not limited to self-help, the concept involves formal and informal activities for developing others in roles such as teacherguidecounselormanagerlife coach or mentor. When personal development takes place in the context of institutions, it refers to the methods, programs, tools, techniques, and assessment systems that support human development at the individual level in organizations.

Let’s start with improving awareness and identity.  If we don’t spend time reflecting on our own abilities and how we can improve, we will be in a constant state of confusion.  Not understanding what direction to go or what strengths we possess to get us there.   Understanding who we are or who we would like to become is the first step in personal development.  Spend some time to understand your talents and goals.

Building Human Capital and Employability. This should have Human Resources rejoicing as well as demanding investment into personal development.   How can HR really show that they are building the human capital within their organizations?  I believe there is fear that if we help train our employees to be better at their jobs that they may acquire those skills then leave the organizations.  This fear has increased in recent years with millennials entering the workforce.  I too have struggled with the investment and the ‘unknown’ in an employee’s commitment, but there is no room for abandoning our responsibility to training and building our employees within our organizations.  If you treat your employee well, even if they leave, they will send connections and even sometimes sales back your way.

Invest In Yourself

Self-help… now I am a big fan.  I probably have more books in this area than any other, but this can only go so far.  We must network and grow by connecting with people who are better than us. Networking with role models and mentors who have already figured out much of what we are trying to accomplish.  Joining a network of peers in your industry is one of the most valuable gifts you can give yourself. I say give to yourself, because you don’t have to wait for your boss to sign you up for these opportunities. If you understand the importance of this to your development as a person and an employee, you can easily make the case for this.

As I think about this for our own conference, Empowering Women in Industry,  I have never been more confident in the amount of value something like this will give to your life.  At $350 for a full day of learning skills, networking, and celebrating industry success with dinner and music, I will take back that overpriced purse or wine and take another look at really investing in myself.

So, if the research says we must tie dollars to our commitments to make sure they happen, that is all set up for our event – just know that this is not what is motivating our event. Our event is motivated by the desire to help you invest in yourself. You are worth investing in!!! When you grow, and we grow together, we can #BetheChange.

“Personal development is the belief that you are worth the effort, time and energy needed to develop yourself.” ―Denis Waitley

Reflections on Episode 5 of the Empowering Women Podcast

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In episode 5, Mel discusses work-life balance with Jackie Saling!  Jackie has over seventeen years of professional experience in the environmental consulting industry and is a registered Professional Engineer in the State of Michigan. At Arcadis, Ms. Saling is lead engineer for several large accounts where she develops technical project strategy, effectively communicates complex technical concepts to clients, regulators, and stakeholders, and builds strong technical project teams to execute complex technical solutions to meet the needs of clients. Ms. Saling supports the in-situ remediation discipline at Arcadis and has led the air sparge and soil vapor extraction (AS/SVE) and in-situ chemical oxidation (ISCO) communities of practice. Through these roles, she is known as a national resource within the company to provide assistance with the evaluation of Sites for the use of in situ remedies; designing and performing field pilot tests; full scale design and implementation; and optimization of the operation of in situ remedies. In addition, Ms. Saling’s engineering-related experience includes developing feasibility studies and remedial strategies; designing and performing pilot tests; designing and installing full-scale remediation systems; troubleshooting and optimizing remedial systems; generating design specifications, remedial investigation work plans, remedial action work plans, and associated project reports; developing project budgets; and preparing cost analyses for remedial alternatives.

It took me a while to get started writing my reflections to this podcast because I could relate to all of it…  I felt connected to Jackie almost immediately.  Her truth and authenticity was so refreshing and I thought… “I could hang out with this lady!” Personally and Professionally, I truly respected her leadership and communication styles that I heard throughout the interview.

The first thing that got my attention was her discussion about her life as a working mom.  Being a mom is hard.  Being a working mom is demanding on you mentally and physically.  I loved Jackie’s openness saying “It is Hard!” Jackie explains that we need to accept help from those who offer. To appreciate the gifts of the other people in your life and to recognize these will not be the same as yours.   I often times tried to do it all myself and would run myself to exhaustion. Now I remind my daughter all the time,  “it is ok to receive help”

We put so much pressure on ourselves and judge working moms vs stay-at-home moms after our children go to elementary school.  This is not a fair comparison nor a productive one.  Suddenly we receive 500 flyers letting us know how you are not at school enough. If we accept this lie (we are telling ourselves), we will be defeated.  Similarly to Jackie, I made a conscious decision to define my own balance. I don’t signup for things just to be signing up anymore.  I also agree with Jackie that giving up anytime with our children MUST be for something meaningful!  We work not for a paycheck, but to do our part to better our communities for our children.

I am also so thankful for the discussion about choosing a supportive partner that understands your commitment to your career.  I think this partnership is the only way for success in today’s society.  We must stop saying “homeroom mom” and start letting “parents” participate in the raising of our children.   AND let me just say, Jackie women all over the world are envious of the “folder of the laundry” you found!  I can’t even pay someone to do it at my house 😀

I have two sons and a daughter and I have the challenge of raising them all to be leaders and respect their unique gifts. I often times get push back when I am all about girl power from husband and my sons.  It is very important to me that my sons know the value of women and girls and how to be supportive. Navigating the correct amount of attention to certain topics is not an easy task, but I loved how Jackie spoke about educating her girls on leadership.   If we take that position, we will be developing our sons and daughters ability to succeed… as leaders.

It is refreshing to hear Jackie share the truths about her challenges along the way.  When she talks about coming from college with a diverse community to the male dominated workspace, I can relate. You gradually feel that you are more and more singled out the further to push to grow or advance in your career.

She navigated this by looking to senior female leadership.  I believe this is one of the keys to success.  We need to make sure we have a peer group to connect with on a regular basis.  I agree with her when she says networking is everything!

Listening to Jackie’s career journey, I am reminded just how important hands-on, field work can be to progressing in your career. Jackie talks about how she was able to design systems, watch them be installed, and then operated them.  What a great way to learn… from design to operating!

Jackie has a curiosity for learning new things and taking on challenges.  Early in her career, she read books to gain the technical knowledge she needed.  I love the excitement you can hear in her voice as she talks about first meeting the “writer of the resource books” which set her path in remediation.

Her expertise in Remediation is impressive in itself, but she took it one step forward when she worked on the Arcadis pro-bono project.  This project allowed her to improve the quality of life for her community.   Check it out here: :

She is focused on going above and beyond.  Simply managing technical people and products, isn’t all she does.   She is actively connecting with the management staff at Arcadis to make sure they are bringing up the next generation of leaders!

If you haven’t listened to Jackie’s podcast episode, please take the time. It was truly inspiring!

Time for me to listen to the next episode!


Empowered and Confident

Liz hansen of chicago boudoir

This week on Empowering Women in Industry, we promoted the owner of Chicago Boudoir, our raffle sponsor for the September 2019 Conference. Liz Hansen, Owner & Photographer at Chicago Boudoir @chicago.boudoir has a mission to help women feel empowered and confident through beautiful portraits. When we asked Liz what she loved most about her job, she said, “The first time that a woman texted me after a photo shoot and said, “I feel like a new woman – my confidence is through the roof!” I knew that the work I was doing through photography was making a difference in women’s lives.”

Charli K Matthews Portait

This reminded me of my own “I feel like a woman” moment.  I had been going through a stressful time in business and life.  Struggling to feel like my happy self; I knew I needed a little change of environment. The idea for Empowering Women had just began to bloom, and I thought it would be a great time to channel my “inner woman”.  This was probably a product of working with PinkPower Elisa Maenhout or listening to Mel the Engineer podcasts.  So, I invited my team and family to come join the fun with me!  Thankfully, Rebekah joined me for the photoshoot… and well of course I had to bring my sidekick Karli, from #KarliandCharli adventures! If you ever need to feel all sparkles and glitter, she is the best one to have around!


Thanks to the art and fashion skills of Ines Schaefer Portraiture, The Yellow Elephant, and Shannon Lancaster Hair Designs, we had a blast and took home some amazing portraits!


To watch a stranger light up taking your picture is probably one of the most empowering and uplifting gifts we can receive, I am thankful for the talent of all ladies behind the camera! Especially,  Bethany Womack who has to take my fierce #LadyBoss photos on the regular 😀  Can’t wait for the next #SmilestoShare with @snapsbybethany… coming soon!

If not pictures, what makes you feel strong, confident, and empowered?

Reflections on The Empowering Women Podcast – Episode 4

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In this latest episode, #4, Mel the Engineer engages with Christen Wood, a Wastewater Operator & Operations Administrator at the County of Summit Department of Sanitary Sewer Services. She has been working in the wastewater field since 2008- first at the City of Ashtabula wastewater laboratory, then in both laboratory and operations roles for the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District. Her education includes a Master of Business Administration and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Findlay. She currently holds certifications as a Professional Operator, Wastewater Treatment Class IV; Ohio Class III Wastewater Operator; and Ohio Class II Wastewater Analyst. She is passionate about the Operations Challenge competition and sharing the excitement of clean water with the world, including through the wastewater Twitter community as @sewer_chic. Her achievements include OWEA Professional Wastewater Operations Award, NESOWEA Herb Hansen Award, and writing the winning WEF Fight Song: Treat the Water Right.

If you have followed my journey, you know I am passionate about the water industry, and so there are many quotes I can share from Christen’s interview. Let me just start with the most important!

The doctors of the world are very celebrated as they should be, but wastewater operators save more lives each year by protecting the waters that people are drinking and fishing and swimming in….”

Let’s just pause and think about a world without clean water….

  • No Water
  • No Coffee
  • No Beer
  • No Wine
  • No Swimming
  • No Processing
  • No Energy
  • No Comfort…

Ok… you get the picture!  It’s important!

Another thing that is important is that we look at the system and make it more welcoming to women in these fields.  How do we make the jobs more attractive?  Yes, we pay them well… but is that all there is?  How could make these job more inviting and desirable as a career path?

Christen_Wood quote

Christen talks about the value of the Operations Challenge at building individuals and developing their skills.  Not just water skills, but the ability to work better as a team and grow into management in their careers.  This is a big deal in the world of operators.  From what I heard in this interview and in my conversations, there is an element of ‘earning your spot’… Let’s make that path clear and available to ALL that want it.

Diversity is the key to building our future workforce at its best.  We are focused on training women to be better communicators and leaders so they can share the ideas that are essential to the growth of this industry – now let’s make room for them to lead.

Listen to Christen Wood‘s story and you will probably see the first step to that growth!

I’d love to hear your feedback on these Empowering Women podcasts! What ‘takeaways’ have you gained from listening?

What would you like to hear moving forward?

How can this podcast Empower YOU?

On to your next episode…

Reflections on The Empowering Women Podcast – Episode 3

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In episode 3, Jenny Han, Director of Design Operations at Skender, is a licensed Architect based in Chicago. Her specialties include design of healthcare facilities, among other things. Ms. Han also has a special interest in the intersection of space and community. She shares her story of being the daughter of immigrants and what it was like finding her path at the intersection of art and science.

Let’s start with her statement: “If somebody else has faith I can do something, I give it a shot… That has enabled me to do things I wouldn’t normally volunteer myself for.”


How many times have you just needed a little push? A little motivation and encouragement…  I believe that Jenny knows she can accomplish anything… so where do we start?

Many times, we start where we see the need. Sometimes, this starts with your family showing you the perfect career for your personality.  Other times, we have to find those paths ourselves.  I have a story where I wanted to be in child development, and my mother thought that I would never make money in that and I’d struggle to provide for myself.  She influenced me to change that path.  I am thankful I have my own 3 children to try to model for, but I also see that she led me on a different path.  Jenny sees her path is a bit different and goes for it.  I love the way each step in her career, or rather, each risk she took led to an understanding of her purpose – and her life career.  These are careers where you wake in the morning and know you are working on the right project. This is because you KNOW without a doubt, you are affecting people’s lives for the better.

I think we all need mentors and role models that we can look up to.  Jenny is an example of that role model.  Listen to Jenny Han‘s story here:

Read my Reflections on Episode 4 of the Empowering Women Podcast here.