Molly Lebowitz shares her LEGO-tastic journey through the world of engineering—plus, her coolest piece of advice for girls!
Is there really a career where you get to play with LEGOs for a living?
Yes, there is! Molly Lebowitz (an engineering instructor and manager at Play-Well TEKnologies in Kirkland, WA), traded her career as an environmental engineer for an office made of toys.
She’s living proof that you can have fun while exploring ideas, testing your brain and helping others do the same.
So…How Do You Get to Play with LEGOs for a Career?
Molly has one big piece of career advice for all girls: if you pay attention to the things you like to do, that’s a good clue for what kind of a career you might want.
“I didn’t know I wanted to be an engineer until I went to college. I remember it was so daunting looking at all the glossy brochures, trying to figure out where I wanted to go … I liked math, and was good at it. I went to math and science camp with a friend, and she asked if I had thought of engineering before. I had never even heard of it.” Once Molly started exploring engineering, it caught her interest—finally she had her major!
When Molly started her engineering career, she was an environmental consultant. She loved working on so many different projects, but the work was intense and she needed a break.
“I found this job as an engineering instructor for Play-Well TEKnologies,” she recalls. “Now, I get to teach as well as work with local partners to run our classes and camps. We run K-8 programs, and have over 200 summer camps. We do things like robotics, a junkyard challenge, bash ‘em bots, vehicles and machines, Jedi-engineering, and pre-engineering!
“We’ve had different courses, but we’d never had all-girl courses. That’s something I’ve started. We began with three camps in 2013, and now we have 15!”
This is great news for girls who love to build! Taught by women engineers and scientists, these courses provide a supportive environment for girls to apply real-world concepts in physics, engineering and architecture through engineer-designed projects such as arch bridges, motorized cars, skyscrapers and amusement parks!
The Girl Scout Connection
Molly started Girl Scouts as a Daisy in upstate New York on the Hudson River, with her mom as her troop leader.
“She was constantly organizing unique field trips, herding girls on city busses, making millions of phone calls just to give us excellent experiences,” Molly says. “Memorable field trips aside, seeing my mom as such a superstar manager has stuck with me the most, and has been the keystone in my ability to see myself as a capable leader in work and life.”
What she remembers most about her Girl Scout experience, however, was that she was in an all-girl environment.
“It was special for me because every other activity I did was boy heavy,” she recalls. “I have all brothers and all boy cousins. My family is very boy heavy. Because we were in an all-girl environment, it felt less competitive to me than other activities I participated in. Plus, I was allowed to be silly. We did a bike race, but you had to go as slow as you could. The last person won. It was so silly, it was fun. We got a badge for it!”
Molly’s Advice to Girls Who Want to Become Engineers
1. Focus on Fun: “What do you have fun doing? That’s a clue for you what you should do later on. Try to remember what classes seem totally effortless and so enjoyable that it doesn’t even feel like school.”
2. Don’t Limit Your Career Ideas: “Kids have this impression of careers they can have. The real world is not like that. There is almost an infinite number of careers. You don’t have to pick between being a lawyer or a doctor. There are so many different careers to choose from!
Talk to people who do different majors or are in different types of engineering careers. Find out what things are like. Going after the ones that sound good. Diversify your summer experiences. Try different things out. Don’t do the same thing all four years. Having fun is really important.”
3. Make College a Priority: “If you think you’re inclined to like engineering, then you want to go to college. You’re not going to specialize in a certain kind of engineering until your junior year of college. Pick a college that has a lot of choices in terms of different types of engineering degrees. You won’t know what kind of engineer you want to become until you get your feet wet. Schools allow for transfer of majors if you decide you like a different kind of engineering.
Also, you don’t have to pursue higher education in order to be an engineer. Most engineers don’t have Master’s degrees or Ph.Ds. You can become what’s called a professional engineer. During your final year of college, you take a test. Then you get a job and work under a professional engineer for four years. After that, you take a big test, and then get your Professional Engineers certification.”
4. Think Critically: “Being a critical thinker is important. If you like to approach and solve challenges, this is a good career path for you.
Different kinds of play are important in order to figure out what you like to do. There is expressive play, where you perform. Problem solvers want a challenge to solve. Explorers are always asking, ‘what would happen if?’ If you find that you’re in the problem solver category, then you might be an engineer.”
5. Pay Attention: “Tune in to what you’ve enjoyed doing as a kid and what has been the most fun for you. That’s a clue in your quest for a happy career.”