Our US Female Engineer of the Year is 29-year-old Cindy Rom, a Senior Engineer in Melville, NY. Here she talks about what the accolade means to her and keeping engineering in the family while finding her own path.
When I was a kid, I had it all planned out – I wanted to start out working at the library and the grocery store, because I was fascinated by the barcode scanners and thought I was super-fast at bagging groceries. Then I wanted to become a teacher or a vet, because I love kids and animals. I’m always volunteering and working with animals in one way or another and teach a college engineering class on the side, so I haven’t completely deviated.
My high school’s oath or mission statement has always resonated with me immensely: ‘I shall not leave my city any less but rather greater [and better] than I found it.’ Engineering enables me to help do that. Plus, I’ve always loved puzzles, problem solving and a good challenge.
With both parents as engineers, I guess you could say it’s in my genes, but I wanted to develop my own reputation and merit. Since one of my parents studied computer science and the other electrical engineering, I went into mechanical. I studied at Polytechnic Institute of NYU in Brooklyn and graduated in 2014 with my Bachelor and Master of Science in mechanical engineering.
While there were many opportunities available elsewhere in the US, I opted to stay local. As I was anxious to begin work right away, I started as an intern for another company. Three days on the job and I got a call from National Grid. I ended up liking the people I met during interviews and turning down other offers, because I recognized the invested interest folks at National Grid have in their communities and community service, and the sense of family here.
In this job, I’ve had opportunities to expand my knowledge of the industry, to exercise my ability to manage big projects and to bring new ideas to the table. I work hard to learn as much as I can from every experience.
I’d say to others to never stop learning. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or bring up new ideas. Asking questions is a sign of courage, genuine interest and acknowledgment that you don’t know everything. If you go into a situation thinking you know everything, there’s no room for growth.
Asking questions is a sign of courage, genuine interest and acknowledgment that you don’t know everything.
I’ve learned so much but I also appreciate that National Grid allows me the opportunity to teach engineering alongside my career. One of my proudest achievements is maintaining a successful career in the field, while continuing to educate others as a professor at NYU.
As a female engineer in a male-dominated field, I think that it goes without saying that I’ve had to overcome obstacles, both in school and in my career. It also doesn’t help that I look very young. I’ve been asked more than once on a job site ‘is it take your daughter to work day?’ or ‘Are you a summer intern?’, to which I respond ‘No, I’m the engineer running this job’.
Research shows that diverse teams perform better, leading to more innovative solutions. Women want to make a difference in the world too. Why restrain that drive or that passion in anyone? Though not always prominent, female engineers have made some of the most significant advances in the field.
I believe women tend to express empathy and humility, which in turn leads to more effective collaboration. Emotional intelligence is often overlooked, yet it’s critical to effective leadership and, ultimately, progress.
I plan to continue to educate myself and expand my horizons in all aspects of engineering and encourage others to do the same. I’ve a vested interest in sustainability and reducing our environmental impact too – it’s about making a difference and inspiring others to challenge the status quo, influence change and leave our community ‘greater and better than we found it’.
I’ve a vested interest in sustainability and reducing our environmental impact.
I’m deeply honoured and humbled by being chosen as the US Female Engineer of the Year. After hearing the list of my contributions to the company acknowledged by my colleagues, I admit it’s rewarding to take a step back and reflect for a moment. I’m so grateful to receive this recognition.