Q&A with NRG's Amanda Wisinski About #IntroduceAGirlToEngineeringDay

Mar 8, 2018 8:20 AM ET

Meet Amanda Wisinski, she's been with NRG since 2008 bringing electrical engineering expertise to our plant management. 

Q: What is your role at NRG? 

A: Operations Manager and Electrical Engineer at Waukegan Power Plant

Q: Have you always been interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math? 

Growing up I loved math, it is the universal language, 2 apples in the USA is 2 apples in China, there are no hidden meanings behind it, it’s just 2. 

When I worked at a company in high school, doing customer service, I would often do math problems at my little desk to help me pass time (now, that’s when you know you really love something!!)

Physics was another class I loved, it was so much fun getting to play with hot wheels, or building roller coasters and the whole time you were actually learning physics.  I really got interested in Engineering as a junior in high school thinking about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.  I knew if I really wanted to enjoy my job and turn it into a career I needed to make sure I was doing something I loved and math was one of those things.  Math was going to be my focal point which brought me to 2 career options engineering or accounting, I ended up choosing a career that I knew was fun….engineering.

Q: What was your favorite part of your education?

The challenges it all brought, I loved being surrounded by people that were smart and problem solvers and asked questions.  The problem solving and working with others to come to solutions was rewarding.  Working for hours or days on a problem and finally having that ah-ha moment where I got the right solution or a solution that worked was the best feeling.  

Q: How has your education prepared you for your career? 

College wasn’t a walk in the park; it was a lot of late nights studying for tests or finishing projects, paired with working part time. There were plenty of times where I just wanted to walk out the door and say, enough!  But I never did, I always worked through it and told myself that I made a commitment to be an engineer and I am not going back on my commitment.  It’s the same way for my career, it isn’t always easy, the answers aren’t always right in front of me and sometimes I just want to say enough!  But I remember the commitment and the struggles I would go through in college and remember that I know how to handle this, I’ve done it before just with a different problem.  It showed me that working hard will get me where I want to be, just don’t give up.

Q: What is your favorite thing about your role at NRG? 

I work on a lot of different pieces of equipment and learn about all of them.  My background is Electrical but I get to learn about pumps, valves and steam.  I love the challenges that my job brings and all of the constant learning I experience.  I also love it that I work with some of the smartest people I know, power plant workers.  The knowledge they have on the equipment or how something works is amazing and I love learning from them; no better way to learn than from someone who actually has to use the equipment.  

Q: Why is what you do important?

I get to help keep the lights on, the iphones charged, the electric cars driving, the AC running in the heat, the food in the freezer frozen.  Without power, none of those things would be possible.

Q: Why do you think more young women don’t pursue careers in STEM? 

Possibly because the “face” of STEM isn’t always female.  Sometimes, when a girl enters her first engineering class in college she won’t be greeted by other women, in fact she may not see even one. Thank goodness that is something that's changing; girls can do whatever they want but it’s still difficult to be the only one.

Q: What do you can we, adults, parents, community leaders, educators do to encourage more participation in STEM?

We shouldn't point out the difference between girls and boys. Engineers should only be classified one way, what type of engineering they studied! It's also important that we show kids all of the amazing things that they can do with their education, and how what they study can apply to society. 

Q: What advice do you have for young people, especially young women, who want to work in a STEM-related field? 

Don’t be afraid to be you! If you like math and you’re a girl, then like math and be a girl! Be proud of that.  If you are a girl and know a lot about cars, don’t be afraid of that, embrace it, and use it to make a career.  Even if you don’t see a large number of women as engineers or scientists doesn’t mean you can’t be one. If anything, use that as a challenge and be the best engineer/scientist you can be.  Sometimes the best path we take in life is the one that we make for ourselves.

Q: What is one thing you wish you knew before starting your professional career? 

After college not much surprised me in my career. I enjoy being challenged and my career has done a good job of challenging me.  The only thing I thought I would be doing more of is using that sweet graphing calculator I had in school, and running equations far more often than I do now! 

Amanda recently participated in a panel hosted by FIRST Robotics and The Society of Women Engineers in 2017. See the full conversation here