Tag Archives: Family

Being an Engineer and Mom is Awesome!

I am really excited to have Christie Holmes on the blog today – she is another fellow WPI alumna who always seemed like super woman. She was thoroughly interested in her classes at school, studying hard to learn as much as she could while staying very involved on campus (we even played a season of Rugby together!). Since graduating collage, she has maintained super woman status and is now a full time engineer, student pursuing her Masters, and mother. I can assure you, she is doing a wonderful job at all of these but I’ll let her tell us more about how she became an engineer and also how she manages an adorable son while maintaining her professional career. Without further ado, here’s Christie…

Work Life Balance

When I was in 7th grade, I did my first ever Science Fair Project on Newton’s Three Laws of motion; you could say I have been hooked on science and engineering ever since.  In high school, I continued my love for science by taking every course my school had to offer.  I also discovered my second passion while in high school; travel.  In my junior year, my Spanish 4 class traveled to Spain for 10 days.  It was an amazing trip and I couldn’t wait to plan my next adventure.  That summer, I qualified to play field hockey in Europe and traveled through England and Holland for a month while playing.  The following year I had to select colleges, and I was immediately drawn to WPI, not only because it was my Dad’s alma mater, but also because I loved the idea of being able to travel while pursuing my love for science.

Christie Photo Collage 1

I started as a Biochemistry major, but quickly changed to Chemical Engineering halfway through my freshman year.  I completed one of my projects required for graduation while living in beautiful Venice, Italy.  In 2006, I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree and was fortunate enough to be given an opportunity to work in a rotational program for a large chemical manufacturing company.  I moved to South Carolina immediately after graduation and began working in a chemical plant.  Moving that far from home was a total culture shock (what do you mean I can’t buy groceries until after 1pm on Sunday???), but I really enjoyed learning about new places. Shortly after I started working for the company, I became very interested in continuous improvement, lean manufacturing and Six Sigma.  I attended several training courses in Tennessee, Chicago, and Italy and within a year I was promoted to a Global Improvement Engineer, which was a role that fulfilled every wish I had when graduating from WPI. I was doing engineering, while traveling, and meeting new people all the time.  I spent many weeks in Germany, Brussels, Italy, Spain, Austria, New York, Chicago, West Virginia, and South Carolina.

Christie Travel Collage

During my visits to these sites, I was tasked with training the local plant employees on basic lean manufacturing principles, then I would work as a project facilitator to attack some of their more pressing issues such as waste minimization, cycle time reduction, increased plant capacity, and controlled inventory levels.  These projects were often a month or so in length, and it allowed me plenty of time for leisure travel while I was working in these beautiful places.  I feel very fortunate that I am able to say I have been horseback riding in the Alps and had the opportunity to spend weekends trolling Milan for the latest fashions.  It was a wonderful experience and one that I am so glad I was able to do before my responsibilities to my family became too strong.

After two years of this amazing lifestyle, my long term boyfriend (also a Chemical Engineer and WPI graduate) and I got married and decided to start a family.  I took a job with a local  pharmaceutical manufacturing company (in Rhode Island, where we are both from) working as a capital project and new product engineer.

Christie Photo Collage 2

To date, my greatest achievement has been the birth of our son Oliver in 2010.  I never really understood how large an impact such a tiny person can make on your life, and I would be lying if I said I was totally prepared for all the changes that came as a result of his arrival.  I had a (very) short maternity leave of 6 weeks.  At that point my company graciously allowed me to come back to work part time, thirty hours a week.  In six short weeks, I went from being the person that worked 80 hours a week, the woman that came to work while in labor to tie up loose ends before she was out for a couple of weeks, the woman that often opened and closed the building each day, to the woman that didn’t want to work anymore.  It was a long transition, but slowly I found myself feeling more and more comfortable at work.  I looked forward to being able to drink an entire cup of coffee while it was still hot and was thankful for the adult conversations.

Baby Oliver Collage

When Oliver was 9 months old, I came back to work full-time and it was another huge adjustment.  I found myself spending a lot of time worrying about my schedule, getting home to him, and reaching a balance in my work and home life.  One thing that has helped me find great peace is that to me, balance doesn’t mean you do all things equally always, it means that you are able to devote your time where  and when it is needed.  When work is crazy, I spend more time there and ask my husband to help more at home.  When Oliver is sick or going through a transition, I devote more of my time to him and work from home when possible.  By no means is my life very Zen, but I strive for balance between work, home and friends; some weeks it is more of a struggle than others.  I also feel like I am setting a strong example for him about what it means to be a professional and a parent at the same time.

Christie - Oliver Collage

Being an Engineer and a Mom is awesome! I love teaching Oliver about science. He may be the only three year old that knows when the bath water goes down it makes a vortex, or that gravity makes his ball fall out of the sky when he throws it up.  Our home is filled with blocks and puzzles and we spend lots of time talking about space and robots and dinosaurs; in fact he recently asked if our next vacation could be to the asteroid belt!  It makes me so happy to see how eager he is to learn and I am proud that I can answer so many of his questions.  I love that he shares my deep curiosity for how things work and always tries to figure out “what da pwowbem is” if one of his toys isn’t functioning the way it should.  Deep down I know that he is an engineer in the making and by setting the base for strong problem solving skills and instilling a desire to answer the question “why” all the time we are hopefully culturing a strong leader.

Christie and Oliver Photo Collage

Today, I am still working full-time at the same company, but I am now a Senior Process Engineer overseeing everything from new product introductions to process optimization projects.  I also went back to school to earn my MS in Operations Design and Leadership (from WPI) and anticipate graduating in May 2015.  Although my priorities have shifted and my next trip is scheduled to Disney instead of some exotic locale, I am honored to be on the biggest journey of my life - motherhood.

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Reunited and it feels so good!

We reached our one year anniversary living in Korea and hadn’t seen most of our family and friends in that amount of time so we asked Ryan’s brother and best friend if they wanted to meet us somewhere tropical and fun. To our delight, they said yes and so we planned a trip to the Philippines for all of us to get open water dive certified. We all made our way to the small town of Moalboal on the island of Cebu in the Philippines. We took different routes to get there – Ben and his girlfriend were coming from Connecticut, Matt was coming from the Middle East, his friend Renee was coming from Baltimore, and Ryan and I were obviously coming from South Korea. We all flew in and met up at our hotel which was right on the water. It was so great to see them! The start of our incredible adventure was just about to begin…

Philippines Group Picture

Spoiler Alert: We had an absolutely wonderful time…can’t wait to tell you all about it!

Good ‘ole Scotland!

I am extremely proud to say that I am half British and my very first tastes of travel were going to the UK to visit my mom’s side of the family. My mom and dad got me a passport when I was a baby and took me to England & Scotland to spend time with my Gran and Grandad. I have not been back to visit their house since I was 12 – over half my life has now passed without going back. I really wanted to visit my Gran and Uncle Barry so we bought plane tickets to go (thank goodness for frequent flyer miles!). Ryan and I have both been to England and Scotland in the past but never together so we were looking forward to exploring the area as a pair.

The road to Scotland is much longer coming from Korea – it was over 30 hours of travel time but it was well worth it. We took the bus-flight-flight-underground-hotel-flight-car route to get to my Gran’s. We took our first flight from Seoul (after the first bus ride from Geoje) and ended up in Glasgow…we made a pit stop in Germany, taking advantage of the access to delicious German wheat beers while in the airport, and then spent the night in London before catching our flight to Glasgow. On the underground on the way to the hotel to stay overnight, it struck us that everyone around us was speaking our native language. This may sound odd, but this was our first time in an English speaking country in almost a year – it was weird that this made us feel out of place and we had to remind ourselves that everyone could understand what we were saying.

Ryan with German Beer

Once in Glasgow, we were up for our first big milestone – Ryan’s first time driving on the left side of the road. This may not sound like that big of a deal, but it’s probably because you’ve never done it…it is a truly bizarre experience and borderline terrifying while driving on tiny and windy Scottish roads. Ryan was a pro in no time and we made it safely to my Gran’s house.

Ryan Driving on Left

As soon as we got there, we were greeted by my Gran, Uncle Barry, and our friend Linda. It was SO great to see them! We gave big hugs all around and had tea together. It was so nice to be together and enjoy each others’ company. Gran made us a delicious salmon dinner and we relaxed and caught up. After dinner, my uncle took us to his chiropractic clinic which is also complete with a Kung Fu studio where we got to sit in on one of his classes….totally cool!

Uncle Barry Kung Fu

The next day, we took a trip down to Saltcoats which is a little town on the coast. When I was younger, my Grandad used to take my brother, sister, and I there so it brought back good memories to walk around.

Gran and Erin Saltcoats Beach

Saltcoats

Saltcoats, Scotland

Afterwards, we went out to a very cute bakery/restaurant where we had a wonderful lunch. It included a black cherry shortbread dessert that Ryan is still talking about to this day. On the way home, we stopped by the grocery store to pick up some ingredients for dinner. I had been looking forward to cooking for Gran and Uncle Barry and was planning to make Thai Pineapple Curry which is our favorite. This was the first time in almost a year that were in a place where we could read all of the signs and food labels – it was amazing!! They also had all kinds of goodies that we can’t get in Korea so it was great to explore a little bit and soak in the familiar language and flavors. We made dinner that night and hung out which was a ton of fun.

Black Cherry Delicious!

The next day, we took a trip to Glasgow and spent some time walking around the city. We went to a Glasgow Cathedral (formerly called St. Mungo’s Cathedral), hiked up to the old cemetery on the hill behind it (called Glasgow Necropolis), and saw the oldest house in Glasgow (Provand’s Lordship) which was built in 1471. We also stopped for our first British pub meal – fish & chips, haggis, and cask ale. It was really delicious! 

Glasgow Collage 2

Glasgow Beer Meal

First British Pub meal together in the UK!

On the way home, we stopped by this huge wind farm: Whitelee Wind Farm. We really enjoyed looking around the museum (I even got to hold an owl!) and looking at the wind turbines…very cool, particularly for two engineers. 

Glasgow Wind Farm

We had another great dinner cooked by my Gran and talked about our family history which is always interesting. Naturally, I am a descendant of royalty way back when which is pretty cool. The next couple of days, we went up to the Scottish Highlands. On our last night in Scotland, my Uncle Barry took us out for a really delicious dinner. He asked us what our favorite part of our visit was and I told him it was vising with them – my Gran and Uncle Barry – and I meant it! It was truly great to get to spend time with them because I haven’t seen them nearly as much as I would have liked in the past. It was a wonderful visit to Scotland and we can’t wait to go back to visit them again.

Fam at Dinner in Scotland

Exploring Geoje Island with Ryan’s Parents!

We spent the rest of the week exploring Geoje island which is quite beautiful. On New Year’s Eve, we went out for a great dinner and then woke up early the next day to watch the sunrise. We were told by all of the Koreans that this is the cultural tradition here. Luckily for us, we had a great spot in our apartment to watch this, so we brewed some fresh coffee and enjoyed it together. Great way to see the first sunrise of 2013!

First Sunrise in 2013

Afterwards, we went on a great hike to one of the smoke signals up on the mountain that was used many years ago to warn Korea against a potential invading Japan. Then, we took a wonderful drive around the island, stopping at two of our favorite beaches: Gujora Beach and then the Pebble Beach – I’m not sure what it’s called but it’s full of black pebbles, so we just call it the pebble beach. We had beautiful sunshine and truly enjoyed our day!

Exploring Geoje Island

Exploring Geoje Island

We also made a stop at one of the local open markets which was fun – the fish market is an experience that everyone has to have in Asia. It’s hard to describe  in words and have someone truly understand what it’s like – you have to experience it. It certainly gives a new meaning to the word “fresh.”

Local Korean Fish Market

We also took them to our favorite Korean BBQ place, Seo Rae.

Enjoying Korean BBQ

The best part was getting to see them – being around family is so important to both Ryan and I so this was such a blessing! CeCe even taught me to crochet so I need to get back to practicing so I can start making fun gifts for everyone! CeCe and Tim did some exploring on their own during the day while Ryan and I were at work…she’s already promised me a post about their experiences, so stay tuned!

New England Trip!

One of the most important things that we had on our list to do before we left for Korea was to visit our friends and family in New England one more time. We flew out there for Easter Weekend and had such a wonderful visit – it was so nice to see everyone! We will miss everyone so much, but can’t wait to swap stories on what’s been happening when we come back to visit!On Friday, the Prokops (well, soon to be Prokops…) graciously picked us up from the airport and let us stay with them! We headed out to dinner with some of our dearest friends in Boston. I can’t even explain to you how great it was see all of them! We are lucky to have such wonderful people in our life! I wish I had taken more pictures but here are a couple from the dinner – thanks for meeting up with us! :)

On Saturday, we headed from Boston down to Ryan’s family’s house in Connecticut. Mama Kendrick had planned a big get together for us to see everyone before we leave. It was tons of fun – lots of food, hugs, margaritas, and plenty of laughs! Thank you to everyone for coming out to see us – we will miss you lots!

We also spent a day with the Kendricks and took a hike up by their house…it was a beautiful day and we really enjoyed spending time with them! It was also complete with Ryan and Ben racing (Casey joined in, too) – I’m pretty sure Casey won! ;)

Last but certainly not least for our New England weekend, we headed to Nonni’s house to spend some time with the Vozzolas! We had the famous Ad’s pizza (Nonni’s speciality) with a lovely salad made by Aunt Elly and some delicious cupcakes from Aunt Cilest! We were also pleasantly surprised to be joined by my cousin, Crystal, and her two super cute kiddos! You can see us all in the picture below :)

(Aunt Cathy and my cousin Peter joined us as well, but they sneakily left before the picture – we’ll make sure to take another one with them in it next time!) 

My friend Vicki came to visit, too and it was great to see her! She’s such a world traveler, I’m sure we’ll see her in Asia some time! :)

All in all, we had a fantastic weekend getting to see some of our favorite people! We caught the 6:15 AM flight out of Hartford back to Houston the next day – talk about an early morning and a long day, but it was well worth it to spend the spring weekend out in beautiful New England! Now to continue packing and getting ready…only a little more than week left!

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