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Achieving work-life balance as a female engineer and military spouse

Achieving work-life balance as a female engineer and military spouse

I come from an engineering family. While I was surrounded by industrial, chemical, and mechanical engineers my whole life, I didn’t always know that I wanted to be one myself. My father, a mechanical engineer, taught me how engineers are involved in almost everything that surrounds us—they design the houses we live in, buildings we work in, the cars and roads we drive on, and even the food we eat. I was drawn to engineering for the opportunity to help people in a real, concrete way.

As a Senior Structural Engineer with Barr Engineering Co.’s Minneapolis, Minnesota office, I’ve been able to focus on my passion in the renewable energy industry, including wind and solar power, but I’ve worked on projects ranging from designing a rollercoaster foundation to a wastewater treatment plant. In fact, my work as a project manager and design engineer for a pilot concentrated-solar power project in California was featured on the National Geographic program Worlds Toughest Fixes. Being an engineer has allowed me to positively impact people on a large scale, and it’s motivating to know that my designs have helped bring clean and renewable energy to our country for generations to come.

Being an engineer has allowed me to positively impact people on a large scale, and it’s motivating to know that my designs have helped bring clean and renewable energy to our country for generations to come.

As an extroverted engineer (I’m an ESFJ, for those who love personality tests), I quickly had the need to work with people more. Early in my career, I had the opportunity to take on project management and work directly with our clients, as well as to serve in an internal role as a staffing coordinator associate responsible for hiring and integrating new staff.

While I’ve enjoyed contributing to the renewable energy industry, my career took a shift when I had my second child. At the time, I was managing several projects with a major client while spending half my time as a staffing coordinator associate, all while trying to maintain a 30-hour base to be at home more with my kids. In addition, my husband had taken a new job and traveled 50% of the time, including being away for several weeks to complete training as a Lieutenant in the Navy Reserve. It became too much for me and my family! I made the difficult decision to switch to part-time hours and focus solely on my staffing coordinator associate role. I am so grateful for the ability to continue working while also taking care of myself and my young kids in this phase of life.

The story doesn't end there. My husband was deployed for several months in 2020. Though we had been planning for deployment for some time, I knew it would be a challenge to have my husband away for several months, while managing work and caring for two small children.

I expressed to my staffing coordinator that I wanted to take some time off to take care of my kids. There was no hesitation, and I reduced my hours while keeping the same position. Then, the pandemic hit and schools shut down. Faced with additional homeschooling responsibilities, the few hours I was working became too much.

I spoke with my staffing coordinator again and her response was, “Take care of yourself and your family. Work will always be here.” I took the summer off and continued on leave until my husband returned from deployment and my kids were safely back in school. When I returned to work, I was able to ease back in at my own pace.

I could have never managed without Barr’s and my staffing coordinator’s support. She went above and beyond to support me and my family in unprecedented times and was honored by the U.S. Department of Defense with an Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) Patriot Award for all she did to support my family. Her support led to Barr receiving the prestigious ESGR Above and Beyond Award, an award given to only 25 Minnesota businesses in 2022, selected from the hundreds of nominations received.

It’s not easy to balance my desire to spend time with my family with my drive to contribute to the community as an engineer. I’m grateful to my company and my coworkers who help me find a balance that’s right for me.

I am incredibly fortunate to have all the support I need to succeed. I hope that I can help other women find ways to make the same opportunities for themselves. 

Interested in joining the Barr team? Check out our open positions.

About the author

Jennifer Entwistle, senior structural engineer, is a registered professional engineer who joined Barr Engineering Co. after earning her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering with a structural engineering emphasis from the University of Minnesota. In her 16 years at Barr, Jennifer has served as design engineer and project manager for over 50 wind-turbine foundation projects across the country. She has been featured on the National Geographic program World’s Toughest Fixes.

 

Image gallery (below):

  1. Jennifer is a proud mother of two boys and supporter of her husband, a former officer in the United States Navy Reserve.

  2. Barr’s President and CEO Ward Swanson and Vice President Teri Perry recently accepted the Above and Beyond Award on behalf of Barr. This award recognizes employers at the local level who have gone above and beyond the legal requirements of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. Given by the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) during a ceremony at the Minnesota State Fair, the award recognizes Barr’s support of Jennifer Entwistle, her husband, USNR service member Matthew Entwistle, and their family.

  3. As an extroverted engineer, Jennifer enjoyed performing at the EFO Open House with Barr.

  4. Since Jennifer loves to work with people, serving on Barr's Holiday Committee was a great opportunity to interact with her colleagues.

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