Today we’re happy to feature a Real Life GirlMogul, Joelle Hinds-Ware, entrepreneur, engineer, wife and mother – who says you can’t ahve it all. Read on for her take on being a female engineer, balancing career and family and seizing an opportunity in the market to start her own business.
Joelle Hinds-Ware is the managing partner of Verify-ED, an HR (Human Resources) Services Company she co-founded. Her background however, is in engineering, so we were intrigued – how does an engineer become an HR entrepreneur, and how did an engineering background set her up for success, no matter what the field? Read on for her story, as well as great tips on finding a mentor and studying and doing what you love. Check out Joelle and her company, Verify Ed at Verify-ED
Q. Why/How did you decide to study engineering in college?
A: Fate and good luck. When I was a senior at Cardinal Spellman HS (Bronx, NY), I fell in love with Calculus in Ms. Sirakos’ class. I was a member of the Bronx YMCA gymnastics team and, before practice, the father of one of my teammates would often help me with my Calculus homework. One day he asked me about my college plans, and I really had no idea where I wanted to go and what I wanted to study. He said that he had never met any girl who loved Calculus as much as I did and he invited me to visit his alma mater, Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, NJ). Without David Silverberg’s intervention, I would not have known that engineering was a viable option – so I am indebted to him for his help.
Q: What did you study in school that helped you?
A: Calculus and algebra were the most applicable courses to engineering that I took in high school.
Q: What was your favorite subject growing up?
A: Algebra. In algebra, I love that it is so applicable to solving everyday problems. You are always trying to find the unknown X to something – and that does not only apply to math. It could be the unknown X in a logic statement, but it is still algebra.
Q: What were/are your hobbies?
A: I still consider myself a gymnast, and I have parlayed this love into coaching my daughters’ competitive gymnastics teams. I was also introduced to fencing in college, and I take any opportunity to pick up my foil. I am also a certified fitness instructor. I really like teaching strength training to women because I recognize the great effects of muscle development on your health and positive self-image.
Q: What was your favorite book growing up?
A: I was such a voracious reader when I was younger. I am sure that I read almost every young adult fiction book in the Castle Hill (Bronx, NY) public library. I can’t recall that I had a favorite book, but I do recall immensely enjoying The Chosen by Chaim Potok and The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. Interestingly, those books were required summer reading and they really made lasting impressions. My reading choices have always been for books that make me happy – I do not like horror stories!
Q: What was your first engineering job?
A: I have never held a traditional engineering job. Many people may not realize that employers seek engineers for their analytical skills – not the ability to use a compass. My first job out of college was with a management consulting company – where I did not do well. I was not mature enough to work on client sites, but I was GREAT at creating analytical spreadsheets that used macros to perform amazing calculations.
Q: Why did you switch from engineering to HR entrepreneurship?
A: I wanted more control over my schedule. I have 3 children and a husband. I was getting up every morning to catch a 6:15 am train and rushing home to relieve the au pair – it was stressful. At my job as a business analyst at an executive staffing firm, I recognized that the vendor that we used to verify education degrees could not fulfill a basic need. I formed a partnership with someone who had extensive background screening experience and we developed a way for our clients to verify degrees without collecting sensitive data from job candidates. This feature is how we stand apart from our competitors!
Q: Were you the only woman in your class, at your job? If so, was it weird?
A: Not only am I often the only woman, but I am often the only Black woman – and it is fun! I don’t mind being the most different, because people tend to remember me and I believe that I get more opportunities to present my ideas than others. The hardest part is being confident that you “belong” because there are many people who seek to belittle others. That was the situation at my first job. There were not many women at the company, and most of the women were very helpful and provided guidance. But there was one woman who was determined to make me feel badly. That experience actually makes me very aware to provide guidance and assistance to other women when I can. Our interns are all women and I am asked to speak about my experiences at events geared toward women.
Q: Is engineering family friendly?
A: As with everything, it depends on the engineering path taken. I have friends who have become staff engineers at large firms that have structured programs geared toward work-life balance, so managing family and work is easier. I also have friends who have chosen to work in very hands on, small environments where the demands on their time do not make it easy to find a good balance.
Q: What makes engineering a great career for a woman? (Or not)
A: First, engineering is a wonderful major for women because it is a great way to apply the analytical strengths women and girls have. Women tend to think and ponder issues. The application of engineering studies is limitless. An engineer can be anything from a teacher to a medical doctor, so women can find a career that utilizes their engineering skills and complements the life they choose.
Q: How do you know if engineering might be right for you?
A: If you like to analyze and find solutions, that is a good indicator that you will enjoy engineering. There are many engineering disciplines, so you can find a focus that you enjoy. I chose to major in Engineering Management because I enjoyed getting a foundation in every engineering field and studying management concepts to complement my engineering skills.
What are some good resources for students thinking about becoming an engineer?
A: Another engineer is always great! You can also check out engineering organizations like the Society of Women Engineers (www.swe.org) or professional organizations that focus on specific disciplines like the American Society for Engineering Management (www.asem.org) . These organizations usually have programs for providing information about engineering and mentoring programs.
Q: Quick paragraph about what you’re doing now – promote your business of course…
A: I am a Managing Partner at Verify-ED, a company that provides background screening services. Employers come to us to check the backgrounds (education, past employment, criminal history, etc.) of people who they are considering to hire. We also have a tool called Val-ID-ate that lets job seekers use our services to show proof of their qualifications. For example, you would use our services to show proof that you earned your engineering degree and Val-ID-ate lets you create a screen of this information that you can show to prospective employers. People can attach the URL to their MySpace or LinkedIn profiles. We are very excited about this product!
Q: And anything else you want to add?
A: We would love to hear from you! Please visit our website and tell us what you think. You can view our past monthly newsletters (www.verify-ed.com/inthemedia.php) and sign up to receive future ones. You can also read my blog (http://verify-ed.blogspot.com).