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.

Reflections on The Empowering Women Podcast – Episode 2

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Let’s just into Episode 2 features Renee Joseph, Vice President at Johnson Controls. In this Empowering Women podcast, Renee shares her career path, explaining how she started her career in the HVACR space without any technical training. She courageously describes her experience leaving the workforce to become a caretaker for her terminally-ill father, and the verve she mustered to return to her career. Renee has exceptional, heart-felt advice for women working their way up in male-dominated career spaces. It’s also obvious from her talk that she has a deep passion for diversity, and works towards improving the environment for all people in the HVACR space.

Her quote really spoke to me: “You really have to make sure everyone has a seat at the table and that you encourage and coach out those voices so that everyone can be heard.” 


As Renee talks about the unknown world of equipment behind the walls, it also reminds me of the awesome work men and women do that they don’t celebrate.  So many times, the ones that do the best work don’t want to be in the “spotlight”.  They are working for the greater good, so I believe it is my job to show them the importance of celebrating what’s worthwhile, scratch that! What’s Essential! It is necessary to create role models, super heroes, and to shine a light on the stories of our ‘unsung’ heroes.  We know you are awesome, but we also need everyone else to know that as well!

Renee’s interview is special to me because I met her in January at the AHR expo, and well… I feel in LOVE.  She was so Charismatic and Graceful!  I was in awe. Let me tell you the story… After a long day at AHR, we pushed through to the “Coolest Women in the World” event (CHEERS to those who organized that event, btw!).

Coolest_Women_in_the_World photo

As we entered, were given 5 bracelets to exchange as we met new people. We grabbed a glass of wine and began to meet the people in the room.  I was determined to meet the woman who put the event together. I spoke to several organizers, and then one gentlemen at my table said “I know exactly who you need to meet! WAIT HERE… I’ll bring her to you.”    Ok can we first say… how many people do that?!  Bring a perfect connection to you!

When she walked up, I was star-struck. She began to speak about the event and her career.  She was so passionate about connecting women and raising awareness about the awesome careers “behind the walls”.  She told me about the book she had just completed about her father’s life, how she taught herself how to write, and how special it was to tell her story of how he served his community by driving the school bus every day. Bottom line…We have so many opportunities to learn from someone’s story.  I feel honored to have met such a pioneer. Please listen to Renee Joseph‘s story here:

A short pause…I had to take a break from writing this article to have ice cream with my mom and daughter (because sometimes ice cream with loved ones just can’t wait ;D ). And now…a quote that came to me during that ice cream break:

“Thoughts can change your attitude immediately”

Which is why listening to the Empowering Women podcast is so powerful and enlightening…

On to Episode 3…