SoCalGal: Carol Mak talks about the benefits of working for SoCalGas

SoCalGal: Carol Mak talks about  the benefits of working for SoCalGas -

SoCalGal: Carol Mak talks about  the benefits of working for SoCalGas -What are the benefits of working for SoCalGas?

One of the benefits of working at SoCalGas is that you get to work in an exciting space as we lead the way in innovation around safety, clean energy, and sustainability.  We’re a company that is always innovating and I feel fortunate to be on a team that supports groups involved in methane detection, emissions capture, pipeline safety enhancements, integrity management and infrastructure modernization.

And there are diverse opportunities available to employees. Besides many traditional engineering routes, you’ll also find engineers involved in customer service, outreach, policy, regulatory, financial—nobody is limited by their discipline. The company is very supportive of peoples’ interests in learning different parts of the business.

What were some obstacles leading to an engineering career?

When I was taking classes from Cal Poly Pomona, it was predominately a male field, with the gender ratio probably close to 1:10. There weren’t a lot of women to relate to or many role models. I also found certain classes to be challenging to follow, and later I learned what works for me personally was understanding the theory behind engineering principles and physics. I realized I had struggled more when professors emphasized less in terms of theory, focusing more on patterns, process, procedures, and structures. It took me a while to figure out what my learning style was and how important it is to have mentors – and those lessons apply throughout life!

In the beginning of my career, the perception of being too young and inexperienced was also something I worked to overcome. Early on, I made it a priority to attain my engineering-in-training (EIT) and professional engineering (PE) license to help build credibility.

What drew you to STEM?

My Dad was an engineer and played a key role in the early 90’s to convert public transportation buses to compressed natural gas (CNG), which was responsible for reducing vehicle emissions and cancer-causing particulates from the bus fleet by 98 percent, lowering carbon monoxide emissions by 80 percent and offsetting greenhouse gases by 150 tons per day. I really looked up to and admired him—there also wasn’t a problem he couldn’t solve around the house.  It made me want to follow in his footsteps.

How did you land at SoCalGas?

I started as an intern in Gas Engineering – Applied Technology, measuring emissions from LNG. To learn more about the business and our impact and value to our customers, I did a second internship in the Commercial and Industrial Services department. I’ve had lots of roles, and it’s been great being able to build forward-looking teams, always with an eye toward emerging policies and regulations so that we can plan for future activities.

 What has helped you succeed?

I’m curious and I like to learn about new things and be helpful others.  Give me a problem to solve and I’ll look at it from different angles and help connect the dots. Also, strong communication skills is key – it’s important to be able to convey to others what the problem is, what the solution is, why they should care, and asking the critical questions to drive that type of productive conversation.

How would you describe your leadership style?

It’s quite informal, and I always try to lead by example. I really encourage people to ask lots of questions and I want them to make a recommendation.  Have you explored X, Y and Z?  What do you propose?

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

Don’t sell yourself short! Always be ambitious enough to look ahead and don’t be afraid to fail. It’s one thing to set up short term goals that are attainable, but it’s important to also set yourself some long-term and stretch goals that may feel unattainable right now. If you can have the ambition and confidence to strive for something you may not achieve, that’s where you’ll test yourself and find that you can grow a lot farther than you may have expected.

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    SWE Blog provides up-to-date information and news about the Society and how our members are making a difference every day. You’ll find stories about SWE members, engineering, technology, and other STEM-related topics.