What does it take to be an effective engineering executive? How can women in engineering overcome adversity to reach VP level positions? Is delivering top performance enough to make it to the top?
In this episode, meet the VP of Engineering at Freeosk, Megan Ford.
Now a female engineering executive, her career path was a winding road and ups, downs and lots of challenges. But she held on to a core belief that you must keep an open mind, ask lots of questions, and be willing to make decisions.
Megan shares how self doubt can be really loud when facing a big transition, and you suddenly feel like you have to learn everything all over again. You might also be surprised to hear that Megan, a top performer, was let go.
That was something she never expected to face in her career. But it happens, and it is 1000% ok.
We dig into the reality of career building: Not every job, role, boss, is going to be a good fit. Reflect and move on.
And if you’re a woman in engineering, this conversation will be doubly encouraging.
So press play and let’s chat… the path for your career growth begins now!
Join us in a live workshop for deeper training, career coaching 1:1, and an amazing community! HAPPY HOUR Workshop Live with Zach!
The Happy Engineer Podcast
WATCH EPISODE 140: Empowering Women in Engineering: Advocacy, Standing Up, and Finding Joy in Projects
LINKS MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
- Connect with Megan Ford on LinkedIn
- Do you need help accelerating a successful engineering career and a creating a happy, balanced life? Book a FREE Career Growth Audit™️ now!
LISTEN TO EPISODE 140: Grow to VP – Female Executive Journey to the Top with Megan Ford
Overcoming Barriers and Embracing Growth
In this episode of the podcast, Megan Ford and I engage in a thought-provoking conversation that delves into diverse aspects of career growth, personal challenges, and discovering joy in our work.
Here are the top three insights:
1. Seek Opportunities for Growth: Both speakers emphasized the importance of actively seeking opportunities to learn and grow in our careers. Don’t be afraid to ask for access, shadowing, or challenging projects. By expanding our skill set and experiences, we can unlock new possibilities and accelerate our professional development.
2. Embrace Crucial Conversations: Addressing performance issues or personal struggles can be daunting, but it’s vital to have empathetic, uncomfortable conversations. Building trust, providing grace, and offering support to team members going through difficult times creates a compassionate work environment that ultimately empowers individuals to bounce back stronger..
3. Find Joy in Your Work: It’s not just about career growth, but also about finding joy in the projects we undertake. By actively seeking out projects that align with our passions and values, we can cultivate happiness, fulfillment, and a greater sense of purpose in our work.
To go deeper and build an action plan around these points and why all this matters, click the podcast above and listen to the entire conversation.
ABOUT MEGAN FORD
Megan Ford, VP of Engineering at Freeosk, is a results-oriented senior project leader and engineering professional with a robust technical background. With expertise in large-scale product development project management, business process reengineering, and data analysis, Megan excels in building high-performing cross-functional teams. Holding a BSME in Engineering from Western Michigan University and an MBA from the University of Phoenix, she is also a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and actively contributes to education as a classroom teacher for Junior Achievement of Southwest Michigan. Megan brings a wealth of experience in driving process improvements, managing budgets (up to $20M), and fostering continuous improvement within organizations.
FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:
Please note the full transcript is 90-95% accuracy. Reference the podcast audio to confirm exact quotations.
[00:00:00] Zach White: All right. Happy engineer. Welcome back and Megan. I’m so happy you’re here. Welcome to the show.
[00:00:06] Megan Ford: Thanks Zach. I’m happy to be here.
Expand to Read Full Transcript
We need to quickly back up right before. We hit record today, we were both lamenting the fact that we’re sitting inside recording this podcast, which is super fun and awesome to do, but it’s one of those days in Michigan here.
[00:00:22] It’s, it’s early October and it’s like 80 degrees and sunny. And we were like, maybe we should be outside and it hurts. Uh, what would you be doing outside if you weren’t here with me, Megan, if you could be doing anything right now? Where would you go? You know,
[00:00:37] Megan Ford: I love all the things outside. uh, afternoon golf maybe a run.
[00:00:42] all things are better outside.
[00:00:45] Zach White: Everything is better outside. think a lot of engineers appreciate and agree with that. You also told me that everything is better with something else when we were prepping for the show today. I wrote this down. And I’m enjoying a cup right now. But is it true for you that everything is better with coffee?
[00:01:02] Is that right?
[00:01:03] Megan Ford: Everything is better with coffee. Yes. Cream or
[00:01:06] Zach White: black. What’s your style? This is black coffee. I just, if it’s a high quality roast and it’s prepared, you know, it’s brewed. Well, then black coffee is all you need. If it’s, I mean, I don’t mean to insult anybody, but like diner, just not good.
[00:01:23] Coffee. You need a little half and half. I got it. Yeah. You got to pull something, something. Yeah. I’m with you. Okay. All right. I’m glad we’re on the same page. enough wisdom already on this episode. You could stop listening. Everything is better outside and everything is better with coffee. We could just end it here, but we won’t because Megan, you have so much to bring from your career journey and executive in engineering, currently vice president and a long winding road to get here.
[00:01:52] And I want to unpack that whole journey because so many engineering leaders. Really do aspire to high levels of leadership and impact. And at some point in that growth curve, bump into one or multiple really hard things. And in some cases, give up on that dream or feel like it’s not possible for me or you name it.
[00:02:15] Things that get in the way of us landing that next promotion or creating the impact we really want to make in engineering and technology and in the people that we work with and who work for us. So take me back to the beginning for you. Early career days, how would you describe your mindset about career building as a young engineer?
[00:02:38] If you could go back and talk to Megan right out of college, what would she say about this whole career thing?
[00:02:46] Megan Ford: Oh my gosh. So, I don’t think I really even understood what it meant to be an engineer when I graduated from college. Right. have a couple internships and then you start working full time.
[00:02:59] you realize that it’s, not all fun and games, but there’s a lot of really cool things to do. So early in my career, I, I had this growth mindset from day one. Like I started as an engineer at Whirlpool in top load washers. And I think one of my first questions to. My boss at the time was, how long until I can be promoted to project engineer?
[00:03:25] And what do I have to do to get there? What’s the hardest project you can give me because I want to work on that one.
[00:03:31] Zach White: Megan, where did that growth mindset start for you? Is that something you’ve had your whole life? Or was there something you learned in college? Like, how did you have that on day one? So many people don’t.
[00:03:41] Megan Ford: think that was just intrinsic for me. I really enjoyed, the challenge having something to work towards. Like I, I needed a goal at all times.
[00:03:53] Zach White: Was the goal obvious or were there times where you really weren’t sure you, like, you knew you should be going for something, but it was hard to decide what that goal actually was?
[00:04:04] Megan Ford: no, the goal is not always, always obvious. especially as a young engineer, when you start to look around and, there are some leaders that you, you really aspire and look up to.
[00:04:17] And then others, you’re like, yeah, that’s not quite what I want to be when I grow up, so to speak. it’s easy to lose your way When you’re unsure what the path is like, what experiences do you need? Not necessarily what projects do you have to complete, but I started looking at it through the lens of.
[00:04:39] Experiences versus what roles did I have to get myself into, if you will. I started to ask
[00:04:47] Zach White: different questions. Experiences versus roles. This is an interesting distinction, and I really agree with what you’re saying, that it’s, it’s about the experience, not the title or the role of the project.
[00:04:59] But it’s not always obvious. The reason I’m not sure why that distinction matters or like what do you mean by an experience? So can you unpack that a little bit? What are the types of experiences versus, hey, you need to do this job or this project to be ready for the next level?
[00:05:15] Megan Ford: again, early in my workflow career.
[00:05:18] As a young engineer, when you’re running, a project, one experience that you may not have is managing the budget for the whole department. You may have no exposure to that budget, right? You just go to your boss and say, hey, can I spend? X dollars for prototypes for my project, but you don’t have any visibility to how that impacts the overall team.
[00:05:46] managing a budget, for example, for a whole team is very different than managing a budget for your small piece or your project. So to me, that there’s a difference there between your project impact and the department impact and having, having both of those experiences.
[00:06:06] Zach White: What would you say to a young engineer who finds an experience gap? Let’s pull this example, you know, Hey, I’ve never. I’ve never owned the budget for the department. That’s not a part of my job description. And maybe it’s one or two levels above me before that would be a part of my job description. So what am I supposed to do?
[00:06:28] How do I? Get these things when they’re not a part of my job, this is resistance that I hear from engineers all the time when I’m coaching. It’s like, okay, yeah, that’d be great, but that’s not part of my scope. It’s not something that I get to do. So how do I cross this catch 22 chasm? Like you can’t do these jobs without these experiences, but you can’t get these experiences without the jobs.
[00:06:49] How do you solve that?
[00:06:51] Megan Ford: you have to be willing to swim outside of your lane, right? You have to be willing to ask the questions and put yourself out there. if it’s not your direct leader that you need to have a conversation with, then. Go have a conversation with your leader’s leader or whoever is responsible for that experience that you want to have.
[00:07:13] Like you simply have to have the courage to put yourself out there and say, Hey, I want to learn about this. I want to learn about this. What’s the worst thing that’s going to happen? Maybe they tell you, no, probably not though. Right. more than likely, they’re going to be excited that you want to learn something new.
[00:07:33] But if you don’t ask, you certainly won’t get it.
[00:07:37] Zach White: You already have no, if you don’t ask, you’ll never get a yes. Yeah. Really important. I remember in my early career days asking all the time, if I could sit in on meetings that I had no business being in, if I could watch my boss do stuff, like the budget example is funny.
[00:07:56] I vividly remember asking one of my bosses if I could just sit over their shoulder the next time they ran the budget for our team, because I just wanted to see what the heck was going on. What was the answer? Oh, absolutely. Yes. Every time now. Okay. Not always on the meeting thing. Sometimes I ask for access to rooms that I wasn’t allowed to be in, you know, they’re going to talk about things that are either currently confidential or, there’s a certain audience understanding.
[00:08:24] It’s not like everybody can just bring whoever they want into the room, but on the shadowing side. The only time I would ever get what would feel like a no was more of like a not right now. it wasn’t a no, it was just, I’m busy, or hey, I really, you know, you need to go focus on X before we can do that together.
[00:08:43] Let’s make it happen sometime down the road. But, what do you think then, Megan, from your… Again, kind of early stages, those first couple of promotions, you’re still in IC, you’re moving up, at Whirlpool, the career ladder engineer, project engineer, senior engineer, every company has their version of the levels.
[00:09:00] What are the biggest barriers to growth in those early stages before you hit kind of middle management? If we were just taking IC and IC plus type roles, where do people get stuck from your estimation, both doing it yourself and now as an executive looking back on this?
[00:09:15] Megan Ford: I think there’s a couple of things.
[00:09:17] I think our mindset often holds us back. that fear of, of failure. and also simply not having a conversation. If you don’t talk to your leader about the fact that you’re a senior engineer today and you want to be a lead engineer, that you actually want to do that. You want that opportunity.
[00:09:39] How do they know? Like you have to set some expectations.
[00:09:47] Zach White: I’m thinking about that training that HR gives all the time on crucial conversations. Have you done that? You read that book? I have really popular. And it’s a great book, by the way, I think. Anybody who reads it will get value from it. But one of the things as you answered that, and I’m connects these dots for me.
[00:10:08] I think that’s frustrating is that we want to solve some of these problems for engineers at any level by giving them training and tools like crucial conversations, but nobody asks the question, why are we not having any conversations? Like, why are we lacking the courage to at least. Go have some kind of conversation even if you don’t follow the Five step framework of crucial conversations and the pool of shared meaning and all that like who cares about the framework We’re not talking about it at all, right?
[00:10:43] That’s a different A different problem. And so what would you give somebody, if you were coaching a young engineer or mentoring them, and they were really struggling with that courage to have the conversation and maybe they’re caught up and like, I don’t know what to say, or I don’t know how to do this, or what’s the thing you would say to encourage them that like, look, here’s how you get over that threshold.
[00:11:03] Here’s how you get out of fear and into action. For me,
[00:11:06] Megan Ford: when I find myself nervous or hesitant, even still today, That happens. We’re all human. Um, write it down, write it down and read it. And if it helps you take that note with you to the conversation, right. Do you ever get nervous?
[00:11:22] Like, and then you like, literally can’t say the words that you need to say, Um, and it’s never as scary as you think it’s going to be when it’s over.
[00:11:37] Zach White: Yeah. We do these challenges in our coaching program. We call C4 challenges. It’s crush comfort and create courage.
[00:11:45] And one of the common themes when people finish these challenges and we say, okay, well, how’d it go? What did you learn about yourself? What did you learn about your career? Every single time there’s this breakthrough awareness of like, It’s not actually as scary as I thought it was going to be. It wasn’t as bad as I thought.
[00:12:02] Our mind has a way of really building that up. So let’s come back to your thread then here. You’re moving up the ranks. You’re getting promotions as an IC. When was the first manager job for you?
[00:12:14] Megan Ford: Oh, let’s see. I was, leading a couple of people as a senior engineer and a lead engineer. then I went into an engineering manager role.
[00:12:24] And had a, a larger team, eight or nine
[00:12:28] Zach White: maybe. What would you say shifts the most between being a individual contributor, working on projects and leading a team of, five people plus that engineers really need to pay attention to?
[00:12:45] Megan Ford: You are no longer. The one doing the day to day work, right? You are trusting your people to do their best work. So you have to be willing to let go of that day to day control and know that your people are doing the value added stuff.
[00:13:11] Zach White: I’m going to be devil’s advocate, Megan. I love it. I get that. I agree with you. That all makes sense, but it’s. It’s not so simple to lead that way. What do you think actually makes it so hard to make that shift? You know, you can hear yourself say that and lots of people have read the books or listen to the podcast.
[00:13:34] They’re like, okay, I got it. I’m not the person who delivers all the results anymore. And yet they’re not letting go. They still want to control every outcome. Their ego is invested in this. They don’t trust, you know, their micromanaging, whatever it is. The knowledge of. It’s not up to me. Doesn’t reflect in the behaviors of how they manage and lead the team.
[00:13:56] So where’s the disconnect? Why is it so hard?
[00:14:00] Megan Ford: that’s a tough one.
[00:14:01] Zach White: Was it hard for you?
[00:14:03] Megan Ford: I really, no, it wasn’t. And I, I truly believe it’s because at that time, I had a really great team. And, This goes in both directions, right? Being a leader and having a challenging team, being a leader and having a really great team, or even being an individual contributor and having what you perceive as a challenging leader or a really great leader, right?
[00:14:35] That affects your mindset and your approach to every day to every task. I’ve. Always had a very optimistic mindset I believe that that is a part of my success because I’ve walked into those situations and every new role every new team that I’ve had, I walk into that with an open mind,
[00:15:05] These folks are here for the right reason, and I’m going to get to know each of them. And build a relationship so that we can be successful together. that perspective, is simply so important. I mean, that we talk about the fixed mindset versus a growth mindset. you know, that’s terminology that everyone is familiar with.
[00:15:29] I like that terminology. but genuinely have always had. An optimistic perspective on work or life, however, you want to sum it up. I believe that is a key factor.
[00:15:45] Zach White: Multiple important points to consider as an engineering manager and leader. One, the importance of building a great team. And I’ll just add to that. if you get promoted or you change companies, change industry, and you inherit a team, it’s really easy to just settle and assume It is what it is.
[00:16:07] This is what I’ve got. And I just reject that thought. It’s like, no, no, no. You are responsible to either help that team level up or have the hard conversations with whoever you need to have them with to go create that a player team. That’s your job. That’s the managers. Like you don’t just settle for the team you’re given.
[00:16:27] would you enthusiastically rehire these people knowing what you know now? It’s like, if not. Take action. Let’s do something. It doesn’t mean fire everybody, but let’s make sure we’re giving everyone a chance to either hit the standard and be an a player or find a slot. Where they can be or, or get them off the bus.
[00:16:44] all right, optimism, it’s easy to say, Oh, you know, so far Megan’s story. She’s just naturally a growth mindset person. She’s optimistic. Everything seems to be easy for Megan. so Zach, the key lesson, if you want to make it to vice president of engineering is just be good and have it easy. And then that’s all there is.
[00:17:03] So. Is that, is that the takeaway, Megan, or am I missing part of the story?
[00:17:08] Megan Ford: there’s more to it. Um, I, I am optimistic and I remain optimistic, but real life happens to all people, real life has happened to me. And
[00:17:22] I think it’s important for everyone to understand that, you are a whole person. you know, this kind of bleeds into my thoughts on work life balance. But, 2018 and 2019 were very challenging years for me personally. I experienced some loss and a divorce and those things are all real life, right?
[00:17:50] Everybody has instances where bad things happen or hard things happen. maybe you’re at a place where you are given a lot of grace at work and at home, and you’re able to kind of ebb and flow through that hard time and recover. And everything’s good. through my real life experiences.
[00:18:13] I also was let go from a job that I thought I really liked. Wow. Yeah. And I don’t think that it’s something people really talk about all that often. it’s easy to feel shame when you get fired. maybe it’s a little embarrassing and you’re just angry. certainly was. but I walked away from that realizing that.
[00:18:35] Not every role, not every organization, not every boss, however you want to frame that up, not every single position you find yourself in will be a good fit and that is okay.
[00:18:49] Zach White: there’s two or three really important things to address that engineering leaders I know bump up against and struggle with through life.
[00:18:58] So first of all, 2018, so, so where were you working at that time? I
[00:19:04] Megan Ford: had left Whirlpool after 13 years, which also big, big change. Yeah. you make a huge decision to leave, really all I had ever known. and I was working at a company called Landscape Forms and I had been there a couple of
[00:19:22] Zach White: years.
[00:19:23] Okay. A manager level role or were you higher than that at that time? Yep. Nope. I
[00:19:27] Megan Ford: was a manager level there leading, their engineering team.
[00:19:31] Zach White: Okay. Yep. And so then whatever you’re willing to share, Megan, what started the real life experience? what happened?
[00:19:40] Megan Ford: in 2018 I had, some back to back experiences.
[00:19:45] I lost my father and then I had a stillborn. and. those were within a couple of months of each other. Yeah. Like that’s real life. I took my maternity leave, and went back to work and thought I was okay. And then all of a sudden was feeling really unsettled There were some organizational changes and I found myself, with a new team and under a new team and it did not fit.
[00:20:15] It just flat out didn’t fit. And shortly after that, I was like, Oh,
[00:20:21] Zach White: first of all, So sorry. those are incredibly challenging experiences. And Megan, how did dealing with that on the personal side impact? Your ability to even show up and do the work at all. I mean, that’s really heavy. I mean, I’ve been through some stuff, but that, not like that.
[00:20:42] And it was hard enough for me to kind of keep my work happy face on and deal with my divorce and depression, like trying to keep those two things separate, but I can’t imagine what you described. So how did that show up for you? What was that like trying to juggle this personal trauma and the grief and the stress with still doing a job?
[00:21:05] Megan Ford: I think I, I got lost. I was showing up to work. I felt engaged but in the background, I think I was just going through the motions, Because that’s what I was supposed to do. and as things started to become unsettled, became more real, right? You find some clarity, the fog lifts a little bit and you’re like.
[00:21:29] Oh, this seat at the table isn’t the right one for me anymore.
[00:21:34] Zach White: Did you feel that way at the time of being let go or did that? Being laid off, feel unfair and unjust and maybe trigger some anger or like, how did you feel towards that situation when it happened? I was
[00:21:47] Megan Ford: definitely angry. did not feel fair.
[00:21:51] looking back, I wish it would have been differently. I wish the conversations would have, Happened differently, but they didn’t, and you can’t, go back and do anything about that. you process it and you accept it and you.
[00:22:07] what I really want people to understand is that top performers get let go, you can show up every day, work really hard, meet all your objectives, and you still may not be sitting at the right table
[00:22:20] and it’s okay.
[00:22:21] Zach White: that’s, that’s the tweetable tweetable moment, man. I’m so glad you said that. I’m thinking of multiple, amazing engineering leaders that I’ve coached who are in either wrong place at the wrong time. They worked at Amazon or they worked at Meta during big layoffs and their whole department got cut.
[00:22:38] And these are incredibly talented engineers who got let go and others where. Something personal happened and they, weren’t able to be that top performer the way they always can, which is completely understandable and something happens and then the shame. there’s two words you said that I want to unpack with your experience through this.
[00:22:59] One was shame. The other was grace and maybe I’ll do them in the reverse order. So grace, either how you need to receive it when you’re the one going through real life, or if you’re the leader and someone on your team.
[00:23:17] What does grace look like in the workplace that is good and healthy and, fruitful to, to bring versus maybe something that we want to call grace, but we’re actually enabling, or it’s no longer the right approach and we need to take action and we’re just avoiding the situation. Can you unpack that from your perspective?
[00:23:39] Megan Ford: from a leader’s perspective, having managed, uh, different teams and people for a number of years, I’ve had folks on my team experience real life for me, I simply, I don’t ask details. But I need to know what they need to feel supported. in my current role with Friosk, we had a teammate, experience a loss.
[00:24:04] And my direction to him was simply take the time you need and let us know what we can do at work so that these tasks don’t fall behind, like the team is here to support you. to me, it’s more important that they feel, connected and supported and not worried about missing a couple of days of work, it’s a couple of days. They’re not asking for six months. That’s a different conversation, right? There is nothing we are doing so critical being gone for
[00:24:40] or even two, right? Is more important than anything we’re doing at work.
[00:24:49] Zach White: Well, and from that individual’s point of view to your point earlier, maybe you do. Worst case scenario, get let go. Well, guess what? There’s light on the other side of that fear as well. And so prioritizing your mental health and emotional health and family and spiritual life, whatever it needs to be is so important.
[00:25:09] So then Megan, if, if someone is an engineering manager, director, VP, there’s someone on the team going through it, but they’re not recovering. I’ve had multiple clients in this situation where there’s got someone on their team, they want to extend grace and support, but that first week goes by that second week goes by.
[00:25:31] And it’s not that they’re on vacation the whole time, you know, not at the office, but they’re continuing to lag you know, they’re constantly their head is out of the game. They’re not performing. They’re not recovering. and then it gets to that point where now. We can’t necessarily say take all the time you need anymore because that reasonable period of healing and recovery has passed at least in the eyes of you as the leader, but the individual hasn’t overcome it yet, which is no judgment.
[00:26:00] It’s just the reality that we’re facing. So it’s like business needs and how much grace to extend. What’s your wisdom around how to approach that? Is there any guideline or any way that you think about what conversation to have and when? Um, When someone’s going through it when I
[00:26:18] Megan Ford: feel like we’ve got, um, when we’ve gotten to that point, my approach is to have.
[00:26:27] What is maybe the uncomfortable conversation, But to ask, are you okay? How are you feeling from my seat? These things are falling behind and I want to help you be successful. Yeah. So it’s not an attack and I think you have to approach it from a human perspective, not a, your work’s not getting done.
[00:26:53] Zach White: Yeah, I think this is such a hard balance. Thanks for sharing. And I don’t know that there’s a single right answer, but as a leader, it’s so important. So then if we come back to your experience, you’re going through incredibly hard real life pain and trauma and grief, and then you get let go.
[00:27:14] And you mentioned the shame that can come with that. What was the experience of shame like for you?
[00:27:22] Megan Ford: it’s almost hard to talk about. Right. there’s this like embarrassment of like, Oh, it’s been so successful. And I left this career then I got fired. Like what just happened? you know, after the initial anger is over, you have this.
[00:27:41] Realization of maybe I wasn’t in the right spot at the right time. it took me a few months to get there. Right. but you move on, you, you find something different that fits and, and feels good I go back to that whole idea of real life happens. To everybody. So it’s, it’s still something that, gosh, even talking about it today.
[00:28:10] It like brings back those feelings. I’m like, ah, I can’t believe that happened. it stings.
[00:28:16] Zach White: Yeah. The process of going from anger, it stings, it hurts to, Hey, maybe I was in the wrong seat to then turning over a new leaf to a vision again. Like I see myself the way I used to see myself. What would be for you the, the thing that tipped the scale?
[00:28:37] So you’re kind of coming out of that trough. We might think about the grief cycle, you know, it’s like we’re going through this and you start to come back out again. Is there anything that you remember? Yeah. That started to shift and change where you saw yourself again as that top performer and you got your career back on track.
[00:28:53] And there’s only here we are four or five years later, and now you’re vice president. So clearly you got back on track, but what shifted, where did you feel that energy change?
[00:29:03] Megan Ford: gosh, I hate to hang my hat on this, but I’m going to go back to that optimistic perspective. bad things happen. that was then, and this is now, like, I truly believe I have no choice to move forward I know what I want, so go get it.
[00:29:25] And I know that maybe sounds oversimplified, but you’re not going to get different answers unless you ask different questions. And you’re certainly not going to get a new job or a different job or a promotion if you don’t put yourself out there. So through that shame and anger, I mean, that shakes your confidence.
[00:29:50] I continue to tell myself like that happened. It clearly wasn’t a good fit. If that’s really how they felt, I don’t want to be there either. I’m going to go find where I do belong.
[00:30:02] Zach White: When you talk about having this thought process and rebuilding or reconnecting to the optimism inside you, is there any particular? Action or ritual, maybe that you do that helps you get to that place. Is this a, you know, a journaling exercise or meditation or some sort of visualization? Or how are you actually doing it?
[00:30:26] It’s like, I understand what you’re saying, but sometimes it’s useful to just see like in real life, what was happening that got you reconnected to that.
[00:30:36] Megan Ford: personal source of, truth and, and calmness has always been running. Okay. Yeah. So all things are better outside. All things are better with coffee, right? Wake up, have a cup of coffee, go for a
[00:30:54] Zach White: run. Go for a run.
[00:30:56] Megan Ford: Yeah. I realized that doesn’t work for everybody, you know, you mentioned other things.
[00:31:01] Meditation, journaling, going for a walk, find
[00:31:05] Zach White: your thing, find your thing. Yeah. My wife’s is riding horses. We have a horse and I told you she’s at the barn today as we’re talking, enjoying the sunshine and riding and she’s been through real life. It’s her story to tell another time, but riding the horse is her place, you know, to go and get away.
[00:31:23] And it’s that meditative place. And Uh, I love the horse. That’s a really good one. But I also, just sit at the beach with an empty journal, and just start writing. I love to write. So Megan, you’re an executive now. We probably need to do a whole nother episode to talk about being an executive in engineering versus, you know, an IC or even middle management positions, but if you were going to say the one or two things that really stand out to you as different to be successful as an executive versus earlier in your career, what stands out?
[00:31:57] a couple things
[00:31:58] Megan Ford: that come to mind are being willing to make decisions, even if they’re the wrong ones. You got to make the decision and you got to stand behind it.
[00:32:08] The 2nd is. being courageous enough to have a different opinion than everybody in the room
[00:32:16] uh, I guess I say courageous because maybe you have that opinion, but you have to be willing to say it, actually do it. . , yeah. I realize I missed that part. Yeah. Like you are gonna find yourself surrounded with other really brilliant people and. Everybody’s going to have a unique perspective on whatever the topic is, right?
[00:32:40] How this project should go or how this team should be structured or what we should spend the money on. if you disagree or have a different opinion to share, that’s your responsibility, right? As an executive, as a leader, your responsibility is. To share your opinion, that’s part of what got you there and why you’re in the role.
[00:33:04] So if you think we need to spend the money on project A instead of project B, you better speak up.
[00:33:11] Zach White: I’m so glad you said those two things, because literally decisiveness and courage, my company is named the Oasis of Courage for a reason. And I firmly believe. Those two qualities and a handful of others are essential if you want to experience rapid acceleration of your career success, but the impact of the role, like if you want to actually make a difference and, and do something meaningful, you got to have it.
[00:33:38] And nothing is harder than to see for me as a coach, right? Nothing’s harder than to see an engineering leader. for example, just got off a call with a senior manager. Great resume, great experience, but been stuck at this level for five or six years and really getting frustrated, beating his head against the wall, wondering why it’s not happening.
[00:34:00] Other people are getting promoted. He’s not getting promoted. We’re having this conversation and we laid out the entire plan, everything, found some really big blind spots and barriers for him and showed him how we could support him through that and said, all right, are you ready to do this? You ready to take action?
[00:34:16] and go solve these problems and have the courage to step into it. And his answer, no judgment, his answer was, let me think about it. It’s like, well, think about what? Like, what is there to think about? We just completely laid out exactly what’s going on. And you told me just a minute ago, this has been a problem for five years.
[00:34:34] And It’s that pattern of indecision, that hesitancy that we build as engineers. maybe it’s because we’re trained in FMEAs and we don’t want to let anything happen that could possibly go wrong. But it’s this isn’t a life on the line type of situation. This is a very simple decision. learn to value your time.
[00:34:51] Let’s go get started. There’s nothing to think about, but
[00:34:54] Megan Ford: yeah. And making mistakes is okay. as engineers, think about the number of. Tests that you’ve completed that didn’t go the way you thought, but you learn from those failures and try again. that is also really important. Like you need to be in an environment where it’s safe to fail.
[00:35:20] Zach White: Yeah. So good. Megan, I almost hesitate to ask this last question because it may be the kind of thing we need a lot more time to unpack, but I, I just can’t have you here and not get at least a little perspective from a female engineer who has succeeded at the highest level. so often, there’s things that are just either H.
[00:35:41] R. We can’t talk about it directly. It’s hard. It’s awkward. Zach is a white male engineer trying to talk about these topics. It’s difficult, you can speak to it from your own experience. So I’m curious. For the young female engineer out there, that engineering manager who wants to make it to that director and executive level, and she’s facing something that’s different than what the men face in their career path, would you be willing to share some of your own either experience with that or encouragement for that person in how to approach that?
[00:36:17] And, and what has helped you be successful in your own path?
[00:36:21] Megan Ford: I have always felt like it’s Megan and the boys, the only girl in many engineering classes and school and throughout my career, I was often the only woman, in a room with other engineers or engineering leaders. and even today I lead a team of.
[00:36:43] All men, don’t let anybody tell you that your opinion doesn’t,
[00:36:50] I was told as a young engineer that I didn’t know what I was talking about or you get interrupted in meetings and those things do happen and personally for me, it just kind of fueled My personal fire to prove them wrong. if you face those things in your day to day career, I would argue that, you know, maybe you’re not surrounded.
[00:37:20] By the right people you know, you, do have to from time to time, simply be willing to push through. don’t accept being told that you don’t know because you’re a woman push back on that as hard as you can. it’s so sad to me that this is still a real topic thing. That this is a thing, I’m having all sorts of like,
[00:37:46] Zach White: I understand, please. I
[00:37:48] Megan Ford: mean, all sorts of like real life flashbacks, of this stuff. And this is like another topic that’s almost hard to verbalize, to talk about. even as far as like having blonde hair and blue eyes, And the anti, anti stereotypical engineer, however, you want to say that a female I’m blonde and I have blue eyes.
[00:38:10] I would encourage young women to stand up for themselves and find partners, friends at work will help. Also be an advocate for them.
[00:38:23] for example, if we were sitting in a meeting and I was explaining a project and somebody continued to talk over me, you, Zach, as my advocate could be like, Hey man, what?
[00:38:36] I can finish your thought. Yeah. Like, cause it’s perceived a lot differently when somebody else steps in versus. if she were to advocate for herself, be an advocate for
[00:38:48] Zach White: herself, even more so as a peer versus the boss, always having to be the one to do it. Yeah. So, so for all the men listening, first of all, if you feel any of those tinglys or uncomfortableness of the topic, I totally get that.
[00:39:04] But, but happy engineer, like it doesn’t matter. You, we all have a role to play in this topic and be that advocate, be that support. And for the ladies. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. And Megan’s a great example. I’m thinking back. We interviewed Myra Nawabi on the podcast. Her story is incredible.
[00:39:22] People told her you’ll never be an engineer and she is absolutely crushing it. Um, so many people, but it’s still a thing. To Megan’s your point, it’s still a thing. So, well, thank you for sharing that. And, and happy engineer. If you want to hear more from Megan on this topic, send me a note and we’ll, we’ll get her back and we’ll talk, talk more about it, but, uh, we got to land the plane it’s that time.
[00:39:43] And I’m so sad because there’s probably 10 more hours of amazing. Pieces of your journey, Megan, to unpack, but thank you. Thank you for sharing this. If someone does want to connect with you, maybe they have a question or need some support in their career path and want to see that success like you’ve seen, where can they reach out and connect with you?
[00:40:02] The easiest
[00:40:04] Megan Ford: LinkedIn. That is. The easy spot, we can, put my profile and in the show notes, I think you said. That’s a great place.
[00:40:13] Zach White: So we will do that. We’ll link up Megan in the show notes. Go check that out and mention to her in your connection request that you heard her on the happy engineer podcast.
[00:40:21] So she knows you’re not just a total stranger who’s connecting and she could prioritize that conversation. Megan, thank you for. Your vulnerability and just being so open and honest about your story and real life happens to top performers and it’s okay. Top performers get laid off to, so many important things to take away from this.
[00:40:42] You’ve experienced it. You know, it now as a vice president of engineering, you’ve known it for a long time that if we want to have the life of our dreams, the career of our dreams, questions lead. Answers follow, and you’ve mentioned it earlier. Great questions really matter. So Megan, what’s the question that you would lead the happy engineer with coming out of this conversation?
[00:41:07] Megan Ford: I would ask what projects really bring them joy.
[00:41:14] And I say that because we all work on projects that we don’t want to, whether it’s at home or at work, but we also. Should have an opportunity to work on things that truly bring us joy. And I think that is another factor of how we find success is working on things that truly bring us joy and happiness.
[00:41:40] So I would challenge, uh, folks to look at their day to day. and find projects, whether it’s home or work, that they really enjoy.
[00:41:54] Zach White: Amazing. What projects in your whole life will bring you joy? Megan, thanks for being here. This has been awesome.
[00:42:03] Megan Ford: Thank you so much.