In her day-to-day, Rebecca Lorman manages technically complex projects — from the initial collection of design requirements to the coordination of teams and SWOT analyses through to scheduling, fulfillment, and invoicing. Many of the projects she manages are related to critical life safety systems — specifically fire alarms, suppression systems, and integrated security and emergency communications.
Lorman was drawn to the sciences at an early age.
“I’ve always wanted to understand how things work and how we gain understanding … and most importantly, improve ourselves through learning. I was particularly fascinated with the vastness of the universe, and my dad fostered this curiosity. We would watch lunar eclipses and mathematically figure out by hand how many miles away stars were based on their light year distance — so enjoyable. He also taught me early on to work through problems one step at a time … and to not give up due to frustration.”
Project management is a natural fit for Lorman, who also developed leadership skills as a child — and often found herself in the position of group leader with peers and schoolmates. She’s crafted her management style to incorporate the best of what she’s seen in others.
“Every leader with whom I’ve worked has been instrumental in my development. I’ve learned valuable lessons under dynamic leaders — and I’ve learned valuable lessons from negative supervisors as well. All of those experiences have been valuable and influence how I lead teams today.”
She adds that it’s critical to learn firsthand what does and does not work so those behaviors can be either incorporated or avoided all together.
One of the bigger challenges of being a woman in leadership is finding your unique voice and staying true to your leadership style.
Of course, managing multiple complex projects at any given time demands that Lorman be highly organized and engage experts in a timely manner. It’s also critical to the success of projects and the betterment of teams to provide accurate and effective communication, she notes. “Being in charge of a project team means making the best use of everyone’s time and expertise … and being the person who must push the project forward means I must lead and positively influence stakeholders so the project and team succeed.”
“One of the bigger challenges of being a woman in leadership is finding your unique voice and staying true to your leadership style. Women have a distinct view and provide input that sometimes goes against the tide.” However, it is beneficial to the health of organizations to prevent formation of ‘yes-men echo-chamber’ corporate cultures by encouraging the expression of disparate ideas.
On the topic of ways to promote greater participation of young women in engineering leadership, Lorman sees a need to expose girls to interesting aspects of science at a young age — and continue mentoring them in STEM topics through their primary-school years. Young women who show interest in math and science and are mentored and encouraged to grow in these areas will be more apt to stick with these technical subjects later, she notes.
“For me being a strong leader means lifting up your team members and providing them every opportunity to succeed and grow. Finding out what motivates individuals and removing roadblocks are also key to being a leader,” says Lorman.
Of course, the influence of women in leadership roles goes beyond just an organization. “Women in visible positions provide encouragement to young women — and just other women in general — who also want to reach leadership positions one day. It’s important to see people in such roles who are representative of the workforce we want to embrace. Female leaders also provide unique perspectives — often by considering complex issues and minute details holistically … and remaining cognizant of the greater impact to customers and personnel.”