Rachael Barlock is a one-woman show working as a Water Resources Engineer by day and as a creator & owner of her own business by night. Rachael brings to light the importance of her underrated work in water resources and reveals how her creative outlet grew into a full-time business.
I didn’t really know who I wanted to be back in high school. I was never introduced to engineering and certainly didn’t know any women engineers.
Rachael discovered environmental engineering while obtaining her civil engineering degree at Michigan Tech University. She decided to specialize in water treatment and water resources and worked hard to be a Water Resources Engineer for Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG).
Rachael Barlock, Water Resources Engineer at SEMCOG
Improving Southeast Michigan’s Water Resources
SEMCOG is a regional planning agency that serves the counties in Southeast Michigan. Rachael is currently working on an Infrastructure Asset Management Program which collects data on each community’s underground water infrastructure. The majority of Rachael’s work consists of large-scale projects involving programs that help improve communities in the region.
Rachael and her team at SEMCOG analyze drinking water pipes, wastewater pipes, and stormwater pipes to determine how to improve these systems. They gather information about what these systems are made of, how big they are, and how old they are in order to present detailed findings to the state and receive funding for projects that will improve local communities.
Rachael received the 2019 Young Professional of the Year Award from the Michigan Section of the American Water Works Association for this very program and to accredit her other accomplishments in the water industry last year.
Typically, we see infrastructure that was put in place a long time ago when the region was first developed. These systems are very outdated and there’s not much state and federal funding to improve them. People talk about improving road conditions because they can visually see the potholes. But just think about what the condition of your water infrastructure must be like underground!
Working in a “Dirty” Industry
Rachael prides herself on being able to share her engineering expertise with simple language and meaningful data.
I don’t want to be a stereotypical engineer who gives you the numbers and hard facts. I think it’s important that we share what we’re doing because this field of engineering is not glamorous. It’s not like I’m designing luxury cars, I have spent my work days in the sewers.
Rachael is thankful to work with a team full of women at SEMCOG, but this wasn’t always the case. Like most engineering industries, Rachael worked for companies run by white men.
Historically, women haven’t worked in this role in water systems since the perception of this industry is dirty and nontraditional. There are definitely more women in the industry now, but I think it’s been harder for women to enter the water resources field of engineering because of these stigmas.
Greetings from Hazel + Dolly
In 2016, Rachael visited a local craft fair when she got inspired to explore her creativity through an artistic outlet outside of the day-to-day engineering job.
Rachael signed-up for community classes to learn techniques of antique machine printing and hand-lettering. She then began to create her own custom-made cards and shortly after launched Hazel + Dolly, a modern greeting card company based out of Detroit.
Named after Rachael's grandmothers, Hazel + Dolly promotes sustainability, mental health, and the intentional act of writing letters.
I admired how people in my grandparents' time spent more effort on communication and writing a letter to someone had more intention behind it. I wanted to represent that time when we cared more about communicating with each other.
Rachael is the proud founder of Hazel + Dolly
When Rachael first started creating greeting cards she just wanted to show her work in a booth at the craft fair, she never anticipated that her business would grow to this scale. Today, Hazel + Dolly is a full-service greeting card eCommerce store that also offers colorful pop culture pieces like pins and stickers.
Striking a Balance
As a full-time engineer and business owner, Rachael tries to find ways to balance her social life with work.
I'm realizing that it is super important to make time for friends and family. I have been using Google calendar religiously, however for 2020, I’m trying to keep some weekends free, because when those days are filled I tend to not look forward to them as much.
Rachael cherishes life's little moments
Embracing Yourself Through Style
Rachael personally connects with Xena's mission to empower women with confidence through style. Rachael's personality is colorful & bright and she likes to express its vibrancy through her wardrobe.
I like to think I have a weird sense of style that’s difficult to fully express at work. Xena represents to me that you can still be you and not sacrifice your personality even when working in nontraditional roles.
Rachael advises to embrace who you are and to not compromise yourself just to fit in.
Whether if it's a job or a relationship, never feel like you have to sacrifice some part of who you are. If you feel like yourself and you're not compromising your personal values or goals, then it'll be a good fit.
Rachael expresses her personality through style
By Courtney Faye Brown. Courtney shares human stories that raise awareness and help advocate for women empowerment. She is a writer at Xena Workwear.