Change-Maker: Nicole Ng
Hometown: Honolulu, Hawaiʻi
Education: Sacred Hearts Academy in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi; B.S. in Electrical Engineering with a minor in Math from Seattle University in Seattle, Washington
Profession: Electrical Engineer
Coffee of Choice: Green Tea Latte
Where do you work?
I am currently working at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. I am a Non-Nuclear Engineer. At my job, there’s nuclear engineers and non-nuclear engineers. The nuclear engineers work with the reactor of the ship and the non-nuclear engineers work with everything else beside the reactor. So, I basically repair, maintain, and upkeep all the naval ships, all the carriers, and all the submarines. You know in the Marvel Avengers, they had the ship that floated into air that saved all the people? I work on those kind of aircraft carriers. But, our aircraft carriers don’t float in the air – not yet – they just float in the ocean right now. That’s the easiest way to explain what kind of ships I work on.
Do you actually go on the ships?
I actually do go on the ship and we have a trailer. They put a trailer on the ship on the hanger bay and that’s where our office and trouble desk is. What trouble desk is really like: when people have a problem or issue when they’re installing a ship alteration or upgrading something and they have questions or an issue with it, they come up to ask me how to solve it. There’s no pause in my job. Because it’s Department of Defense, they want the ships to be out really fast – they don’t like when the ships are in port because they rather have their ships out to sea circling around.
What made you want to become an engineer?
In high school, I did robotics. I actually really liked it. We got to build our own robots and do the programming of it and drive it after and that was really fun. But when I went to Seattle U, I didn’t know what type of engineering I wanted to do. I didn’t really like the civil engineering classes or the mechanical ones. The electrical ones spoke to me. There was hardly any girls in the electrical engineering classes and I liked that. Going to an all-girl high school it was a shock going to a co-ed college.
Did you have a cohort?
Not a cohort but all of my classmates were really close. In junior and senior year, our classes were really small because in electrical engineering there’s not a lot of people in it. We had a max of 10-15 people in our class. So, we would always study together in lab and we would also go out to eat and go out to the bars together. I thought that was pretty cool. We’re actually still close too. We all talk to each other and even though everyone works at different places we managed to still keep in touch.
How many girls were there?
There were four other girls with me in my graduating class. The electrical engineering graduating class had a total of five girls out of twenty people.
What about at your work place?
At my work place, there’s three girls out of thirty electrical engineers. I’m the youngest. It’s a pro and con being the youngest. My co-workers treat me young like their daughter. They always take care of me but sometimes they overlook my opinions and I don’t like that. So, I have to speak up more at work. Especially being a girl, I have to speak up extra loud. I used to be quiet. But, going into this career made me more outspoken and more outgoing because if you’re not, then you’re just going to be trampled on.
How do you feel about sexism in engineering?
I wish it wasn’t a thing. But it is a big thing. I even see it at work. It gets tiring too. Some of my co-workers and some of the sailors too will come up to trouble desk and they’ll give me their numbers and try to flirt with me. But I’m like, “Dude, I gotta work. Ask me your question and leave.” But they always want to stay and get to know me. I don’t mind that but when I say gotta work, I gotta work. One time, I was working on trouble desk and I was walking from the submarine back to my office. This production man was outside getting fresh air and he was on the second floor while I was walking below. He was like, “Hey, are you an engineer ?” I was like “yeah,” and he said, “You’re too cute to be an engineer.” I said, “Why are we supposed to be ugly?” He quiet himself after. Sometimes it’s funny but sometimes it’s annoying.
How do you feel about feminism and the movement right now?
In general, I think it’s really good. Especially for younger girls. I want the younger generation to feel like they are stronger and they have the same capabilities as boys. Sometimes when you’re younger people say, “You run like a girl,” or “You throw like a girl.” Why does that have a negative connotation? So, I think it’s really good. It’s kind of sad that we’re only now looking at it. But it’s good that it’s being addressed. If I have a daughter, I don’t want her to think that guys are better than her, I want her to be better. Now that I think of it, at work there aren’t that many girl managers. There’s more guy managers. I noticed that, especially in engineering, that there’s more guys than girls and I just want that to change. Level the playing field.
Do you have any advice for girls trying to get into engineering?
I would say to go into robotics. It’s honestly really cool. Go into computers, especially coding. I wish I could code. Don’t let guys tell you that you’re not strong enough or smart enough because girls are definitely stronger and smarter. Do your best. Don’t let people tell you that you can’t do it.
Where did we have coffee? The Seattle Starbucks Reserve Roastery on Capitol Hill. If you’re ever visiting Seattle, Washington, I definitely recommend having a drink here and checking out how they make their coffee. They even have a Cold Brew Bar where they make incredibly smooth nitro cold brew and alcoholic coffee beverages.