Playing the Engineering Card

OK, so I’ll admit there have been times when working with various contractors, auto mechanics, auto dealers and job-related contacts that have required me to play my Engineering Card. This is a device that is used when the top of my head has been patted enough times, that I’ve been patronized and told to go play with the other girls to make me scream.

I worked as a construction engineer in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The plant was typical in that it consisted of a four-story structure with various tanks, pumps, piping and electrical conduit. Additionally, we installed an incinerator that had an exhaust stack about a hundred feet high. We weren’t too far from the Fayetteville airport and I had a little knowledge regarding heights of things in the runway path. High enough and close enough requires lights to be installed. We didn’t have any plans for lights and I didn’t know if it had been covered yet.

So I took it upon myself to call the local airport to understand their regulations for tower height in relation to distance from the airfield. The man on the end of the phone listened to my questions, but I could sense some resistance to fully answering my questions. As his frustration grew with my numerous inquiries, he finally said, “Why don’t you have one of your engineers call me?”

Out came the Engineering Card.

“Sir, I AM an engineer.”


And our conversation continued.

In my personal life I’ve had similar reactions, as I’m sure most women will attest when getting your car fixed. The auto mechanic who always grins and smiles as I tell him what is wrong with the car. I stuck to the mechanical facts, as I understood them, of the symptoms of my car’s illness. I never made an imitation of the sound the car makes, as we have all seen in various television skits; Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett come to mind.

The auto mechanic pats me on the head, with a “well we’ll look into that” and I know he doesn’t believe one symptom I’ve told him.

Out comes the Engineering Card.

“Well, I’m only a mechanical engineer, but after hearing the grinding, I’m pretty certain it’s…”


And so we continue to nurse my automobile back to health. Together.

Then there’s the Auto Salesmen; probably the worst persons to take me seriously. I looked to buy my first car and salesman after salesman stared at me as I peered into the windows of potential purchases. They ever helped, they just looked.

After I had been in the workforce for a number of years, I was in the market for a vehicle again. This time I attracted a salesman. It didn’t take him long to be sure to point out the lovely cup holders that included not only service for the front seat, but the back seat too! And don’t forget the Kleenex holder. Seriously?

Out comes the Engineering Card.

“So how much horsepower, what kind of warranty, what gas mileage does it get?” (These are the questions an engineer wants to know.)


And so it goes. Are things better? One hundred percent better. Not only are female consumers and engineers a recognized fact of life, we are sought after. Car buying is now a pleasant, although expensive, experience. I can even get my car fixed without so much of a pat on the head. Professionally, the interactions I have with my peers and customers, male and female, are professional and respectful. I’ve not used my Engineering Card in awhile, but it’s always available, just in case.


About stemzandroses

I'm an engineer and writer with a built-in need to share my nearly 40 years of experience working in a male-dominated field with the rest of the world.
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2 Responses to Playing the Engineering Card

  1. CE Jones says:

    Surly, the car salesman also pointed out the mirror on the back of the sun visor? My daughter bought her first car by her self. She’s that way. She didn’t want me with her. But, she allowed me to coach her a little. Starting with an Excel file where we determined together how much she could afford a month. She did good. She overcame the sales people who saw her as a college age “girl” they could talk down to. She showed them. LOL. Her stories are so funny!!

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