Oct 15, 2019 | Kayo Women, Professional Advice, Your Community, Your Path, Your Super Powers

When engineer Amanda Freick was asked if she was in the wrong classroom on the first day of Microelectronic Circuit Theory at Cal Poly, she chose to flip that feeling of not belonging into “YOU BETTER BELIEVE I BELONG HERE.” And it was true. She DID belong there, and we were lucky enough to cross paths with her at our Power Summit, where she was wearing her Director of Business Operations hat for TRC. We say “hat” because Amanda is also a rockstar entrepreneur and former bodybuilder (oh, yah know, just a little something on the side), plus a wife and mother of a toddler (wait, how is this even possible?).

She seems superhuman (and we’re not convinced she is not), but during our Q&A with Amanda it’s as if she handed us a big drink of inspiration and motivation so that we too could gulp it down and gain the superpowers that she truly believes are instilled in all of us. After you read this, you’ll be ready to conquer the world. Take the time to soak it all in, and expect to dig into these top learnings:

  • Engineering is not for nerdy men
  • Everyone deserves cake
  • It is possible to be creative and analytical
  • Finding something that sets your soul on fire is key to living a meaningful life
  • Be unapologetically you. Find your superpowers and use them

Below is the full interview with Amanda Freick, Director of Business Operations for TRC.

Tell us briefly about your current role in the Power Industry.

Currently, I serve as the Director of Business Operations for TRC. We’re a full-service engineering firm supporting many markets, but I focus on partnering with electric utilities. Business Operations is just that… the business of operations. About half of my time is spent focused directly on my clients. This can include discussing future partnerships, existing projects, or learning from our past experiences. The other half is looking at my “internal” clients, or the various engineering practices within our Engineering Operations, to find opportunities for creative improvement, support, and driving things forward. I am excited to share that I recently launched the first internal podcast for TRC called Enlighten. It features authentic conversations with members of our organization, in hopes of creating a stronger sense of community within our employees.

What advice would you give to a class of 11th grade girls interested in engineering?

Engineering is not just for nerdy boys. It is for dreamers. For creatives. For women with an entrepreneurial spirit. Engineers literally create the world of tomorrow, and your degree is only a stepping stone into whatever path you decide to take. I once had a mentor tell me, “No matter what the job, I always love to hire engineers. Not because they have the knowledge of what I’m hiring for, but because I know they know how to learn.” So, know that just because you’re an “engineer” doesn’t mean you’ll be engineering things forever. I have personally worked in Engineering, Operations, HR, Sales, and now Strategic Leadership roles.

I will not say that being a female engineer is always easy. Unfortunately, there are still stereotypes and ridiculous assumptions that come with joining a technical field. The world of engineering needs more girls, more minds that think differently, more humans who will question the way “we’ve always done it.”

I believe that everyone on earth has “superpowers.” Gifts that are within you that when used, make you light up and put you into your purpose. For me, I am wildly creative and have this weird ability to get people really excited. Not always welcomed in a very traditional, technical environment, but powerful with the right opportunities. I was told by a previous boss, “When I’m having a bad day and need to get re-energized, I call you. You’re like a shot of tequila and wheat grass. Fun, but also good for you.” Find your superpower and USE IT. Are you an incredible listener who makes people feel truly heard? Are you a total math whiz who can explain complex problems in simple terms? Whatever comes so easy to you that you don’t even realize you’re doing it, but it gets your blood pumping and soul on fire, that’s your superpower.

What is the best advice you have received?

At a very young age, my mother taught me that whether it’s the janitor or CEO, everyone should have cake on their birthday. It seems silly, but I honestly remember the cakes she would make and take into work when it was someone’s special day. The lesson here is not about the cake, but about recognizing the incredible people around you. Making them feel special, feel appreciated, feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves goes a long way. It’s honestly the smallest gestures that make the largest impact.

You are not only a power executive but also an entrepreneur in the fitness/fashion space. How did you get into fitness? What drives you to pursue both? Have any lessons from your fitness/entrepreneurial experiences impacted your role in power (or vice versa)?

The engineer who designs swimwear. Weird, right? It’s been an interesting conversation since I started my swim line, Amanda Louise, in 2014. I was competing in the Bikini division of Bodybuilding shows and had ordered my first suit (the bikinis worn are very specific) online and wasn’t happy with it. I had learned to sew from my mother and grandmother at a very young age and thought, “there’s got to be a better way.” From the design to the customer service, I knew I wanted to create something better.

When it comes to these competitions, women work REALLY hard to step on stage. It can be months of dedication to a very strict diet and exercise plan. The suit becomes your uniform while presenting all of your hard work to the judges, and getting on that stage in anything that doesn’t feel perfect seemed like a waste. So, I set out to make it better. I put my focus on the athlete and providing them the highest quality suit possible, with one-on-one attention so they feel sure about investing in a suit from Amanda Louise. The company has morphed into this amazing community of like-minded women that I am honored and blessed to lead. We now have a booming competition suit business, a beachwear line with a collab with Gretchen Rossi from the Real Housewives of Orange County, and a podcast called Confessions of a Fit Chick. I also have to put in a shameless brag because we made it into the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue this year, which is basically the holy grail of swim. I’m still very much in a state of “pinch me.”

My entrepreneurial life keeps me in a state of constant creativity, a place of craving knowledge and always looking for the “angle” to create new opportunities. This has flown so deeply into my corporate career and I believe makes me 100 times more impactful to my organization. My previous Vice President would laugh that I “always have an angle,” but it’s true. I love getting creative and squeezing every last drop of opportunity out of any situation. Spending so much of my free time on self development through books, podcasts, and online communities has helped me grow into a person I am truly proud of. All that said, having a “side-hustle” is not always seen as a positive.

There is still this mentality within some of the more traditional corporate environments that you need to be 100% focused on your “job.” From 9-5 (or whatever your hours are), then yes. You’re getting paid to be there, so BE THERE. But outside of that? I find this absolutely ridiculous. Are they saying that they’d rather see their employees spend free time on Netflix binging Scandal rather than reading Marie Forleo’s latest book? Whether you coach your child’s soccer team or are building an empire outside of your day job, finding something that sets your soul on fire is so important to living a meaningful life. Now, I’m not saying that my corporate job doesn’t set my soul on fire because, and this is true honesty here, I am a full-blown utility nerd. Give me an electric reliability issue and I’ll roll up my sleeves faster than anyone in the room… want to debate renewables? Bring it on. But that isn’t ALL of me.

I get asked a lot if I would “leave corporate for Amanda Louise?” The answer is yes, under very specific circumstances. That said, the question that doesn’t get asked and truly is far more likely the outcome is “Would you shut down Amanda Louise for the right opportunity in corporate?” Hell yes. It’s no secret that having a Director level role within an organization can be demanding, and adding not only a fashion and lifestyle brand, but a husband and toddler on top of that is some days, insane. I am constantly working on myself to make sure I don’t burn out. I have a personality that can run a million miles an hour for too long. I’ve recently spoken at a couple events for female entrepreneurs, many of whom are also still working in corporate, and describe it like this:

Think of your life as an engine… spinning. We measure this spin in RPMs, or rotations per minute. Some engines max out at much higher RPMs than others. I play with this acronym and have dubbed those who are able to “spin” faster as “Rapidly Productive Minds.” We just work faster. Are you finished with a project exponentially faster than your coworkers? Were you always the first one done on tests in school? That’s being an RPM. This way of life is a blessing and a curse. The blessing is obvious, you can get things done. I’ve found these women are usually the “go-to” at work for their organizations. The curse I describe like this… the faster you spin, the harder the crash. Burnout is an epidemic plaguing our workforce. (Did you know it was recently declared a legitimate mental diagnosis by the World Health Organization?) Glorifying the “hustle” is anything but healthy. Believe me, there are times to hustle for sure, but there are also times you HAVE TO take a step back and care for yourself.

I was recently nick-named the “woo-woo engineer” by one of my mentors because although I am wildly Type-A and logical, I am also deeply spiritual and practice different forms of mindfulness every single day. I believe that for an RPM who doesn’t infuse their life with some sort of mindfulness, it’s not a matter of if burnout will happen, but when. Being so involved in entrepreneurial communities has not only taught me this, but helped me really step into it. Within corporate, I don’t see this talked about nearly enough. I plan to change that.

What is a goal that you’ve set for yourself in the coming year?

I want to leverage my entrepreneurial spirit even further in my corporate career. Whether that be speaking to women in the industry, volunteering for board positions, or becoming even more bold with my pitches for innovation… it’s time. I’ve been using the theory of having an alter ego from Todd Herman’s book The Alter Ego Effect. My alter ego is the BEST version of myself, and way more confident. I have been training myself to think “what would SHE do?” and step into that. She still needs a cool name though… if you have an idea, shoot me an email! amandafreick@gmail.com

Networking with other women seems important to you – why?

The power of one female mind is amazing, but if you put multiple great female minds together? Watch out world. Now let me be clear, I am NOT one of those anti-man feminists who comes at this subject with anger. I am a woman who is incredibly proud to be female and has a passion to see women succeed, not at the expense of men, but in collaboration with men.

This is why it’s so important to build a strong female network. There are just certain things your “girl gang” can support you with that not even the best male mentor would understand. Mom guilt. Emotions in the workplace. Allowing your feminine side to shine, while still driving success in an overly masculine environment. Having women you can lean on for support, motivation, and inspiration will literally change your career path and life. Recently, I have intentionally been focusing on elevating the network of women I surround myself with… I’ve found role models and mentors who quickly became more like big sisters than anything else. They help me think bigger, see blind spots, and offer advice when I’m way off base. They listen when I’m going through a difficult situation and provide guidance based on their own experiences. These relationships are precious, and I am so grateful for them. It inspires me to be there for the women following in our path; to help them find even more success than we do.

The thing about networking though is that so many people approach it with “What can this person do for me?” I challenge you to turn that around to “What can I do for this person?” Can you introduce them to a possible business deal? Do they love ice cream and you offer up your favorite local spot? It doesn’t have to be something big, it just needs to be something. I can honestly say that helping others is THE single habit that has propelled my success at a young age. Yes, I work hard, do my homework and put myself out there, but it’s truly going out of my way to help people that has made the biggest difference. Because then, when that person has an opportunity on their lap and needs to tap someone, you’re going to come to mind.

My last piece of advice…

Be unapologetically you. Find your superpowers and use them. Look up and see the women you want to be alongside and reach out. Look down and see the women coming up behind you and reach out. Help yourself by helping others.

My current motto: I don’t just want a seat at the table… I want to buy the damn table.

Special shoutout to Susan, Lucy, and Maria. Your mentorship, love, and guidance is invaluable.