Lisa Abrams

Lisa Abrams

Associate Chair
Department of Engineering Education

If you had to define a Glass Breaker in one word, what word would that be? And explain why you chose that word.

If I had to define Glass Breaker in one word, it would be risk. Taking risks, overcoming adversity, being uncomfortable and really getting outside of your comfort zone.

Describe your career path that has led to your current post.

My career path has focused on engineering. I'm an engineer and worked in industry for about seven years, then decided I wanted to teach, so I got a masters and a PhD. Since then, I've been an administrator and a clinical faculty member. But really my passion lies in focusing on the success of students, especially women students.

How would you describe your leadership style?

It's all about relationships and making connections. Whether it's the students that I'm leading or people that I'm supervising, I really try to focus on getting to know them.

What were the best career investments made along the line?

My best career investment was getting a PhD. In my field, in engineering, there are not many women with PhD's. When I tell someone my credentials, there is kind of a shock and awe. It has really given me credibility in my field.

Any mentors or champions who supported your professional development?

I've been lucky since I received my PhD. My mentors have been the deans that I've worked with, as well as my PhD advisor. They've always supported me, even when I wanted to do something nontraditional.

How would you describe your career goals today and how have they changed over time?

My career goals haven't really changed from when I started on this journey. I've always wanted to make a difference and I've always wanted to make a difference in the lives of women engineering students and women engineers.

What kinds of challenges have you faced along the way and how did you overcome them?

I've been lucky to have mentors since I graduated with my PhD. But it was really challenging before then. I have to be honest and say that I really didn't feel that I had any mentors in my undergraduate career or when I was an engineer. There weren't many role models; there weren't many women faculty. It was challenging and it forced me to look inside myself and really stick to it, in spite of the fact that I couldn't see anyone who looked like me in the position that I wanted.

When you think about serving in a leadership role as a female, do any unique experiences come to mind?

Some of my most rewarding experiences have been in education working with the students. I teach an inclusive leadership class, one for men and one for women. It’s really, really heartwarming and rewarding when the men come back after they've graduated and say, “Your class really made a difference. I know what it means to be an ally.”

What advice would you give to other women looking to reach similar goals?

 I would tell them, "Take risks, be curious and make connections."

What's next for you? Something you're looking forward to.

The next step for me is to take my inclusive leadership class for men into industry. I want to teach men who are new in the workforce [about] how to be an ally to women, how to be an inclusive leader and how to work well in teams.