Amanda Huffman Civil Engineer Mom

Air Force Civil Engineer to Stay at Home Mom

Amanda Huffman served in the Air Force for 6 years as a Civil Engineer Officer. She then retired in order to raise her family and support her husband in his continued military career.

Photograph of Amanda Huffman, Air Force Civil Engineer, Stay at Home Mom
Amanda Huffman, Air Force Civil Engineer, Stay at Home Mom

Amanda has begun blogging at about being a female veteran, a military spouse, and a mother. One of her goals is to help amplify the voices of female veterans whom she says are often lost in the shuffle as they are such a small percent of our nations’ service members.

Amanda enjoys the daily challenges and rhythm of caring for her two sons ages 5 and 2, and speaks fondly of her tenure serving in the Air Force.


Amanda’s advice is to study as much as you can within the STEM fields. She says to not shy away from math and engineering as the military looks at these disciplines.

She also says the Air Force needs all personality types as each brings something to the table. Amanda also notes that you should have a willingness to meet the mission and go where you are directed.

As for being a mother – a hefty dose of humbleness is either required or learned upon taking on this role. She notes that she has learned to be more ‘in the moment’ with her second son and enjoy the fleeting time she has to watch them grow.


Amanda is an advocate of changing the world one person at a time. She and her husband have donated financial .resources to for years. They have also sponsored children via organizations like Compassion International and Food for the Hungry. Amanda said their first match was 8 years old when they began supporting her and is about to graduate out of the program at 17 years old.

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Nancy Mellard Executive VP General Counsel

Executive VP & General Counsel

Nancy Mellard is the Executive VP and General Counsel for Benefits and Insurance Services Division of CBIZ, Inc. She is also the national leader of CBIZ Women’s Advantage. Nancy knew from a young age that she wanted to be an independent, professional, career-focused woman and the path to her present position developed from there.

Photograph of Nancy Mellard, Executive VP and General Counsel CBIZ Inc
Nancy Mellard, Executive VP and General Counsel, CBIZ, Inc.

Nancy also defined her personal priorities early in her career. Her desire to integrate her professional goals with her personal goals helped her craft a fulfilling career.

She finds excitement in the daily challenges that are the insurance industry and enjoys being capable of continuously learning.

One of the most exciting days in her three-decades and counting career thus far occurred this past February. She and her fellow Executive Board members of CBIZ Women’s Advantage rang the closing bell on the NYSE. Check out this photo and corresponding post!

photograph of CBIZ Women's Advantage ringin NYSE closing bell
Nancy Mellard and the Executive Board of CBIZ Women’s Advantage ring the closing bell on the NYSE.


Nancy’s advice for young women is to be open to change, to move in the direction it takes you instead of resisting it.

She also says there are three main personality traits that suit Executive VPs, General Counsels, and professional women. In no particular order, Nancy lists cultivating a strong executive presence, leadership skills and competency as top traits to possess.


Nancy places her efforts on focus on education. She is an advocate of continued professional education, as well as early educational opportunities within her community. Nancy and her husband also make it a priority to support those in need through various Catholic charities.

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Lynn Ballou CFP

Certified Financial Planner

Lynn Ballou is a Certified Financial Planner and entrepreneur with EP Wealth Advisors, LLC. Lynn says she loves being able to guide clients through the financial complexities of life transitions. She feels she has a magic wand to make people’s lives better.

Photograph of Lynn Ballou, CFP
Lynn Ballou, CFP

Lynn began her career as an enrolled agent preparing taxes. The brand new field of CFP® was beginning to emerge and she took the certification course and follow-on study groups building her knowledge. The first female firm launched January 1, 1998, and on January 19, 2016, they joined forces with EP Wealth Advisors. When Lynn began she says the female professionals only amounted to about 5% of financial planners, now that number has grown to 23%. Plenty of room for more women she says!


Starting out, building a business, Lynn knew she had to save in order to grow to a point where her business would sustain her. She has reached that point. She says those who want to be an entrepreneur need to be able to hear ‘no’, to be truthful to themselves and be capable of pivoting.

Find your passion! Become your best authentic self!

Her advice for young women interested in becoming certified financial planners would be to shadow or intern with a financial professional. She says you cannot be what you cannot see. Even more than shadowing a CFP®, Lynn says to find a professional who lives in that profession, who really understands the nitty-gritty so they can give you the most comprehensive view of the career.


Lynn advocates for financial literacy for everyone – man, woman, child. She says we should be requiring financial literacy courses in order to graduate high school. Not simply how to buy and sell stocks; more practical money applications. How to budget, how to save, how to spend and invest and grow your wealth.

We can all get started on our financial journeys with some education ourselves. Lynn recommends perusing the CFP® board website at On this site one can find a local CFP®, or a mentor in the financial planning realm, and even learn a plethora of topics ranging from budgeting to growing your nest egg thru to retirement.

You can also get a hold of Lynn and she’ll guide you! Email her at


Lynn has made it a focus of EP Wealth Advisors to invest in their client’s charities. She also manages EP Wealth and Women Initiative wherein they support the careers of fellow femme financial pros.

Lynn also supports the YWCA Berkley Oakland Chapter and Girls Inc of Alameda in Oakland.

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Elizabeth Jacome Executive Director Elementary Curriculum Instruction

Executive Director of Elementary Curriculum and Instruction

Elizabeth Jacome is the Executive Director of Elementary Curriculum and Instruction for Rio Rancho Public Schools. She says a normal workday consists of teaching, planning, being flexible to the needs of her students and teachers, and always being available for them.

She says that people who are passionate about teaching, passionate about learning, and capable of imparting their knowledge thrive in the education environment. Elizabeth does say that she feels no educator is appropriately financially compensated for the work they do; it’s rarely why teachers are teachers.

Elizabeth says you should be flexible, reflective, a great listener and be willing to learn and embrace change.

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Ailesha Ringer Ph.D. Candidate

Ph.D. Candidate in Communication

Ailesha Ringer is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in Communications with one year left until she has completed this degree. Ailesha has been pursuing higher education for 12 years and has always known she wanted to obtain a Ph.D.; she just thought it’d be in a different field than Communications.

However, her path to be where she now is, though a bit winding, has shown her how much she thoroughly enjoys parsing the world through the lens of the Communications discipline.


Ailesha’s advice for anyone interested in pursuing an advanced degree includes taking some time off. She says to finish high school, maybe that first bachelor degree, but then to take a minute and reassess and make sure you are learning what is truly interesting to you and what you can make a career out of. She says a Ph.D. is not for everyone and that it really needs to benefit you in the long-run in order to pursue it in the short-term.

Ailesha says you must be self-disciplined, highly motivated, thick-skinned, and be willing to expand your horizons. She adds that a tenacious curiosity will serve you well.


Ailesha regularly donates to Planned Parenthood, a community service clinic offering care to people from all walks of life who may not otherwise be able to afford the vast array of medical services the locations provide.

She is also involved in her graduate programs and volunteers when she can, most recently at St. Martin’s Hope Works.

Extended Interview

Special note** I had to edit the interview with Ailesha to fit within the format of the podcast. However, we discussed even more of the ins and outs of the world of academia, feminist theory, tax law, deep work, the value we place on academics, and much more! So as a special treat, I invite you to listen to the full, unedited conversation by clicking here Ailesha, Ph.D. Unedited Interview.

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Adrienne Quintana Publisher


Adrienne Quintana is a writer and micro-publisher. In many ways, she is a matchmaker. She introduces authors to illustrators and utilizes her vast network of literary big shots to market works of written art.

Adrienne has loved to read for most of her life and when she wrote and illustrated a children’s book for a friend, found a passion for writing and subsequently publishing.


READ and then read some more. After that, pick up another book and read. She associates being a writer to being a runner; one step at a time, one mile at a time, one page at a time. Once you’ve become an avid reader, start writing. Write as much as you possibly can she advises.

Adrienne also says you need to develop a thick skin and a love for feedback. She says to look for ways to grow in the feedback being given. To give feedback is to genuinely care about the work and want to help make it the best piece it can be.

See constructive criticism as a big hug!

She also says to leave your options wide open and to continuously move forward.


Adrienne donates her time, teaching expertise and devotion to her church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

You can find Adrienne online  at

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Amber Pechin, Writer and Entrepreneur

Writer & Entrepreneur

Amber Pechin is the co-owner of Amplitude Media, a creative agency that “writes words that sell stuff”. She and her business partner provide branding, content, and strategy for businesses to reach the right audience, with the right story, at the right time, and turn them into customers.

Amber says she has always enjoyed making ideas come to light with words. She’s a storyteller, a creative, and enjoys figuring out other humans. She says that how you tell a story makes a difference and that we should use our powers for good.

Amber touches on some points that are particularly challenging for women. One item of note is that we tend to pick something to do for a career and then feel like we are supposed to continue on that path for eternity. She says that what we want to do at 19-years-old may not be the same as at 35 or even 60.


Amber says that when we stop having at least some fun with the work we are doing then it is time for a change. She says that if you are interested in becoming a writer or an entrepreneur that you should seek out a mentor in that field and ask them questions. You should also write; every single day. Amber advises you to be open to constructive feedback and develop a thick-skin for both career pursuits.

I would add that a level of curiosity would serve these professions well as would the ability to collaborate and always strive to be a better version of yourself in these roles.


A pro bono client of the company is Heart Affect. It’s a group started by two mother’s whose children had complications from Congenital Heart Defects.

We believe all children deserve a healthy heart. Heart Effect advocates for children with congenital heart defects by educating communities and funding programs and research for Phoenix Children’s Heart Center and Cardiac 3D Print Lab. -Mission of Heart Effect

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Sara Garrigan Executive Director of Non-Profit

Executive Director of a Non-Profit

Sara Garrigan has been the Executive Director of the non-profit Watermelon Mountain Ranch Animal Center for more than 5 years. She did not even know this was a possible career growing up but truly appreciates being in the position now.

Sara loves being able to work with animals each day and talk with people. She says you should have compassion, empathy and be a master multitasker to succeed in this type of role. Sara says that she loves making a difference and being able to work from anywhere for some of the tasks required of her. She also mentions that compassion fatigue can be the most challenging aspect of her role.


Sara enjoys being a storyteller and giving voice to those amongst us who cannot speak for themselves. She advises young women to go volunteer at every non-profit they can find in order to see the inner workings and identify if the work is something they want to do and if the cause is one they believe in.


In addition to her full-time role, Sara has worked hard to support the Relay for Life chapter and is an advocate for the American Cancer Society in addition to the Watermelon Mountian Ranch itself.

(*note, Want to see the dog who accompanied us during the interview? The video interview is posted here. )


What is it Like to be a Firefighter

To fully grasp the lifestyle of a firefighter, you have to think of the occupation on a level that you might be more familiar with. Last September, my students and I delivered breakfast items to a local fire station where we were able to visit with and express our appreciation of some of the heroes working close to home. They were so thankful and willingly showed their gratitude by giving my students a tour of their station as well as some of the equipment, and of course, the fire trucks. I couldn’t have wiped the smiles off my 7th graders’ faces even if I wanted to! They were so intrigued by all the equipment and the daily routine of people who save lives for their career.

The work schedule was one of the benefits that the firefighters seemed to like best. As a firefighter, you would stay a certain number of nights in your fire station with your fellow firefighters, waiting and preparing for calls of varied natures to respond to. Then, they spend a number of days off where they get to rest at home and spend time with family and friends.

If you ask any firefighter, they would be very likely to tell you that the life of a firefighter is never put “on hold” just because you have days off. However, they would also tell you without hesitation that they wouldn’t want days off from a career that is so fulfilling.

To become a firefighter is already one of the most courageous careers an individual can pursue, but it is also comparable to joining a big family. A family solely focused on putting others first, and running in when everyone else is trying to run out.

Daily Work as a Firefighter

The job of a firefighter is defined by the ability to fight and deplete fires in homes, businesses, and environments of varied sorts. Also, if disaster strikes, firefighters are there to make sure that everyone involved is safe, and provide additional medical attention that might be needed.

Firefighters are also expected to not only protect lives, but to also protect property and avoid damages involving either. As a firefighter, you would also participate, enforce, and evaluate preventive activities and practices within your fire house, as well as for different families, businesses, and communities. Maintaining the cleanliness and efficiency of your designated fire station to ensure timely proficiency is something that firefighters work together to achieve, because it can be difficult to respond to emergencies quickly if it is a challenge to leave the station in a timely manner.

Another aspect of this occupation is that you get to participate in the development of public education, including information on fire safety and handling procedures for situations where a firefighter is needed. Going into schools and businesses, or speaking at public events, you are able to interact with students, parents, and employees about how to stay safe when the unexpected happens.

Not only are you a selfless hero of epic proportions, but you are passing on the knowledge you have to those in the community around you, making them better with every lesson.

Working Conditions for a Firefighter

  • Works both indoors and outdoors depending on circumstances
  • Exposure to extreme temperatures, depending on assigned tasks during emergency situations
  • Extreme noise levels and stimulations (sirens, lights, etc.)
  • Exposed to some hazards such as driving hazards, rescue attempts and difficult terrain. The possibility of hazardous material spills. Firefighters might be exposed to exhaust fumes, heat, smoke, water, dusts, fire retardant chemicals, and toxic fumes

This list shouldn’t scare you because you get trained on how to mitigate accidents as well as how to handle them if they were to unavoidably occur.

Physical Performance – Strength, Endurance, and Speed

As we’ve discussed so far, the daily work of a firefighter is nothing shy of extraordinary. And where there is “extraordinary”, hard work, discipline, and sacrifice stand behind it. From a daily career like this, it is impossible for a working woman like you to be absent from feeling empowered beyond your wildest dreams. Women one hundred years ago would have jumped for an opportunity such as this, and here it is, within our reach.

Job Requirements for Firefighters

Effective communication skills will take you far in whichever dream you decide to chase. Along with that, having the ability to be an effective, helpful, and encouraging team player in all circumstances is priceless, especially those where stress and adrenaline have a tendency to take control.

Whichever state you decide to work in as a firefighter, you must be at least 18 years of age and have a valid driver’s license. Most of the time, firefighters beginning their careers won’t exceed the ages of anywhere from 28 to 35. Not to say that those limits can’t be broken, but it’s the average age of firefighters because the physical requirements of the job as well as the fundamental need for physical excellence.

Being a firefighter requires at the very minimum a high school diploma or GED, and highly encourages EMT certification as well as a secondary degree in fire science. Upon being hired as a firefighter, all applicants are required to pass a physical ability test that includes tasks such as the stair climb, hose drag, equipment carry, ladder raise and extension, forcible entry, search, rescue, ceiling breach and pull.

Part of being a visible hero in a community is holding yourself accountable to the tremendously honorable position that you hold. Most fire station jobs will monitor things that you post on social media, as well as things like your credit score to ensure that they are hiring a wise and responsible citizen. Fire stations, as well as any number of employers, will respect individuals that take ownership of any mistakes they have ever made as long as they also commit to being a better version of themselves.

Men and women striving to be firefighters must also pass the written exam that is included in the hiring process. Thankfully, there are a lot of test taking practices and exercises available to help you feel more comfortable and prepared for success.

If you are an even-tempered and emotionally intelligent person, being a firefighter is a fulfilling career where you will be tested, but the rewards are more than could ever be expressed in one blog post. Being the hero to someone in need might not be a cakewalk, but someone out there needs the heart that you have. Also, if you or someone who knows you well would characterize you as a fast-learner, this is the perfect career for you.

Above all else, the heart and attitude of a firefighter is the number one thing that stations are looking for. When you’re in the business of saving lives, there can’t be any exceptions within that area.

Resources/Benefits of Field Experience

As we have mentioned countless times here on Career Talk with Working Women, and will continue to mention for all of our posts and podcasts to come, one of the most important things you can do for yourself is to VOLUNTEER.

One thing about firefighting is that they encourage and accept any form of volunteering as “experience”. Work in any area within your community, whether it’s fire related or not, and fire stations appreciate all of it. As I also mentioned earlier, look into taking extra credits/ classes that will contain useful and practical information that will prove beneficial to you as you dive further into the pool of fire safety.

Licensing Required for Firefighters

  • High school diploma or GED
  • EMT certification
  • Additional education in related field
  • Pass written exam
  • Pass physical ability exam

Make sure to research the fire station you want to work at and the state you want to be employed in. Sometimes the requirements and licensing are different or have more that they request.

Salary and Employment Outlook for Firefighters

As it is with any career choice, it’s always wise to not only consider the lifestyle and the job requirements, but it is also prudent to research the information regarding salary and employment.

When I took my students to the fire station, the first question they all wanted to ask was how much the firefighters make. There isn’t anything wrong with wanting this information– the only logical way to make an educated decision is through genuine inquiries such as these.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual salary average for firefighters is $50,520 with a mean average wage of over $24 an hour. The highest employment rates of firefighters are found within local governments, followed by support services, and then with the Federal Executive Branch.

This is notable because that means you can potentially work under a variety of employers and you can serve a number of purposes within those communities. At the top of the employment averages in the United States are California, Texas, with Florida in third. And if you are like me, then it might not come across as much of a surprise to know that there are higher percentages of employed firefighters in metropolitan areas as opposed to non-metropolitan areas.

How to Get Hired as a Firefighter

One of the first steps that should be taken when pursuing the road to fighting fires and saving lives should be to speak with a local firefighter.

Here on Career Talk with Working Women, we have provided firsthand information from a working woman who fights fires for a living, and that will pose as an excellent resource for real information from a real hero. You can listen to the episode where we interview Michelle Vasquez-Herrera here.

Also, don’t be afraid to go out into your local fire stations or departments and ask to speak with and interview firefighters working in your community. Most firefighters are more than willing to speak with people, especially those aspiring to the career. Also, be aware of the fact that each state and firehouse could have different criteria expected from their applicants, so professionals say that speaking with the fire station you want to work for is the optimum thing to do for qualifications and certifications.

Lastly, it is crucial to prepare yourself for the interview. Interviews are pivotal for all career paths, but it is imperative that you contemplate the different questions in order to present genuine and thoughtful responses for this specific career. Sites such as Fire Rescue 1 and Fire Science provide resources for ground work such as this.

Don’t forget to listen to the weekly podcast to hear directly from working women on their careers, work-life balance, and advice for young women. Listen to an interview with Firefighter Engineer Michelle Vasquez-Herrera who is a certified Firefighter. Subscribe to the podcast, and share it with your friends.

Michelle Vasquez-Herrera Firefighter

Firefighter Engineer

Michelle Vasquez-Herrera is a career firefighter engineer with more than 16 years under her belt.

She says you must be willing to work hard, be physically fit, and react at a moment’s notice. Michelle says more of their calls are for medical emergencies than for fires themselves so they are all EMT certified in addition to their firefighting training.

Michelle has some great advice for young women, and for us all really:

Draw a map of your life, but do it in pencil.

Wise words from a woman who has crafted a life and career that works for her, her firefighting husband, and their two daughters.


Michelle has donated her time and resources to the Girl Scouts as a troop leader, Fill the Boot for MDA and Firefighter Random Acts.

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