Hi friends! Today is a great day because next up in the Celebration Series is my friend Nicole Wehner. If I may be frank (and I may, because this is my blog), Nicole is a badass. She's an electrical engineer who climbs on top of huge wind turbines on the regular (see below), is one of few females in a very male dominated field (girl power), and is never afraid to stand up for what she believes in. She's brilliant, kind, funny, powerful, thoughtful, determined, beautiful and an incredible friend. I'm so grateful to be doing life with her in Portland and I'm hoping that some of her badassery will rub off on me eventually. She's the Princess Leia to my C3PO and, c'mon, everybody wants to be more like Princess Leia.
Speaking of which, I recently heard the idea that we are a product of the people that we spend the most time with. What a cool thought! I'm honestly so lucky to have such an inspiring group of people in my midst and Nicole is one of them. Nicole, it's been such a privilege to be your friend and watch you chase down your dreams over the past year. Thank you for the example you've set!
Let's get into the interview, shall we?
Give us a quick background on who you are and what you do for work.
Hey guys! Usually when I start to explain what I do in depth people get bored so I’ll try to make this quick. I am an electrical engineer and I help design the drawings and do the calculations to build power plants and electrical substations. I have worked on natural gas, solar, and wind plants. There’s a lot of sizing and safety measures that go into building a power plant and getting that power to your home and I deal with everything from 24 volts DC (what electronics charge at) to 230,000 volts AC (those huge power lines crossing fields and mountains). Most days this means I’m in the office marking up drawings, writing technical specifications for equipment, and emailing vendors, but every now and then I get to go out to the project sites and help resolve issues as they come up on the construction site (what I’m currently doing right now).
What about your work brings you the most joy and fulfillment?
I love being out on a project and seeing what I’ve put on paper actually get built. It’s super dorky, but every time I drive up to a new project site I get a little giddy. Then down the road I love hearing about how that plant is commercially operating. When things are frustrating I try to remember that what I’m doing is making a direct impact on people, by providing them with electricity. The current job I’m working on will power a large part of the southwest part of Jamaica, and I know it’s needed because the power flickers and goes out at the hotel I’m staying at.
Who or what is inspiring you right now?
Mostly it's other people right now who are inspiring me. The project manager I’m working with has been yelled at and refused time and time again, but he keeps going and working late nights to get a project done that has been awful to him. A superintendent I used to work with would figure out a way to get something done no matter what you threw at him, and I’m very much trying to channel him on this job. Lots of people from my personal life too. I, like Lindsay am a medical resident significant other, and seeing how much my boyfriend and his fellow residents care about their field makes me want to do nothing but good things. And Lindsay, with this blog and starting up her own business. And all the other friends and family I could go on about…
What has been difficult lately?
Working with some big egos, big personalities, and stubborn people. My last job taught me how to be assertive and stand up for myself to people older and with more industry experience than me. My current job is teaching me how to be humble and how NOT to say something in a room of screaming people. To instead just nod, tell them I understand, and that I’ll take a look at it and find a way to figure it out (even if I already know they won’t like the answer). I didn't expect to do so much of the people management side of things as an engineer, but now that I’m in the thick of it, I don't think I'd be happy in a job where interacting with different types of people wasn't an everyday occurrence.
What makes you different from everyone else in the world and how does that uniqueness manifest itself in your work and life?
Well I'm currently writing this from a construction trailer in rural Jamaica with my steel toes on, so I guess that's pretty unique for the average 20 something female. My parents instilled a desire to try new things and go new places in me pretty early in life. We took your usual family trips to Disneyland, but we also went to Italy and Spain, and Peru, and New York, and I think that’s a big part of why I’m here. It made me wiling and open to travel and be open to other ways of life.
I have to say though, that in my travels, it’s less of a uniqueness that defines my experiences, and more of a commonality. When meeting new people, human nature is to bond and find something you have in common. When I was studying in London, and met a girl from France at orientation, we talked about the troubles of navigating a new city. A couple weekends ago, I went to the beach with a couple of people working on the project here in Jamaica who had a baby. Someone found a starfish and put it in front of the baby. This led to me from the US, the dad who was from Spain, the mom who was from Mexico, another Indian tourist, and a local Jamaican all fawning over this baby because it was so adorable trying to figure out what the hell a starfish is. Everyone understands a baby's laugh and smile and it's all something we could all appreciate.
Which Monopoly game piece was your go-to?
When I was really young, I owned Star Wars Monopoly. I was of course, always Princess Leia. Except regular Monopoly is really too boring for 8 year olds so we ended up just making up our own version of the game. (No one should really be surprised that I am now an engineer)
Nicole, thank you so much for being a part of the blog and sharing your wisdom! The world is more powerful with you in it. GET IT?! Sigh.
You can find Nicole on instagram and probably also on a wind turbine near you.
Love & Respect,