Meet Kelli Hendrickson, STEM PhD
Career and Leadership Coach for Women in Higher Ed

We have the power to MAKE OUR OWN PATH as women of STEM.

Because, if we don’t rewrite the rules and create a new, sustainable vision for our work in STEM…no one else is going to do it for us.

It’s time for STEM careers to include: Success, Time, Energy, and Meaning!

And there’s no better time to start than now!

I’m Dr. Kelli Hendrickson,

Ph.D. in STEM, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, and card-carrying member of the squeezed generation – with demands on both sides of the timeline.

Here’s what I discovered (the hard way):



While playing all the roles on the home front – parenting, kids parties, tidy house, potty training – I gave work an EQUALLY large space to fill.

I was juggling it ALL, expertly.
Smile on my face.
“Don’t ever let them see me sweat.”

I spent well over a DECADE on that hamster wheel…

…sweating it out (on the inside only) – performing research, publishing papers, writing grants, advising students. As time went on, I found myself RESENTFUL of the time that working DEMANDED of me without a lot of recognition or acknowledgment. 

Every SUCCESS felt like – and yes, BUT there is still MORE TO DO.  

I could NOT see a way OUT of this cycle. I felt very STUCK without any idea of where I would go IF I decided to leave. 

In 2018, I lost a very dear friend and that jolted me into a new level of awareness of how STUCK and UNFULFILLED I felt. I needed to face that personal truth head-on if I were ever going to be able to MOVE FORWARD.

As I contemplated leaving a STEM career I had worked so hard to establish, I found myself facing questions that like:


If I leave without securing a tenured research position, am I giving up?



Was getting a PhD a mistake?



Am I just not cut out for this job?



What if I just worked harder, played the game better?



What else could I possibly do at this point in my career?


I realized all of these questions were fair, if I let myself fall into the trap of believing that somehow, somewhere I had made a choice that was wrong for me at that moment. And that is a slippery slope my friends. Once I let the doubt creep in that I was incapable of make good decisions for myself in the moment, I knew that I had dug a hole for myself and that I needed to get support and create a path for myself to get back out.

This lengthy process of healing and questioning ultimately led me back to STEM, but not the traditional definition of STEM

Labeling what I needed to create my path came early in the process. I need more Success, more Time, more Energy and more Meaning. Where the real work showed up was identifying what that really meant for me and then acting on it so that it became a reality.

I now see my career as a journey rather than a destination
and have taken control of my career path

Looking back, the loss of my dear friend in 2018 was one of these moments in time where I can say there is a before and an after. Technically, it was a singular event, but the reality is that it took years for me to develop into my “before” state of feeling stuck and disillusioned and it has taken years to develop (and continue to develop) my “after state”. In this new state, I can proudly say that


I make choices about work/life because they are relevant to what experience I want from them.

I speak up in meetings and have started making my seat at the table. 

I push back to the people in my work circles who take my time and energy for granted or expect them to be limitless.

I feel like I have fight left in me to take on the battles I WANT to fight.  

I say NO a lot more, without regret or concern it’ll be bad for my career – because I know what I WANT from my career.  

I recognize when I’m sliding into my old way of thinking and intentionally act to create the outcomes I want for myself.

and I can honestly say that


I feel hopeful and already SUCCESSFUL

I feel like I have TIME for the “things” I want to do and accomplish. 

Even though I am tired at the end of the day, I still have the ENERGY to want to go back to it the next day. 

have found the MEANING of my work by knowing the career I want to have.


Here are my current GPS coordinates on my career path

I am a STEM Ph.D. currently working full-time in higher ed (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Massachusetts Institute of Technology).



  • Doctor of Science (Sc. D) in Ocean Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Bachelor of Science (B. S.) in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Cincinnati

I’m an Associate Certified Coach who supports other women in STEM who want create MORE SUCCESS, TIME, ENERGY, AND MEANING in their STEM careers.

Kelli Hendrickson: Beyond the titles

marvel movie legos

Cold weather usually has me hunkering down into hibernation mode. That’s when I get my fill of Marvel movies, sci-fi/fantasy, quirky comedies, and Ted Lasso! I love a good pizza and don’t forget the piled-high plate of nachos, all of the fixings, the spicier the better

My children (teenagers now), while the source of a lot of my grey hair, keep me young. They make me laugh, usually at my own expense.  They keep me sassy, because I have to keep up with being teen-splained on an almost daily basis. And they keep me grounded, because they could care less that I have a Ph.D. 

shoes, footware, grounded
cottage, late, water, sunset

One thing that is always consistent with my more peaceful times is being on or near WATER. In the summer, I like to kayak and wakesurf. Year-round, I fantasize about having a forever home with a sunset view that I watch every night with a seasonal drink (wine, festive spirits, cognac…it depends). Ironically, I used to be more of a sunrise girl but the SUNSET thing feels like a way to say goodbye to a well-earned/worked day.

There is an art to creating how we want to work and live rather than just summoning up the discipline to get stuff done.”

Kelli Hendrickson

Curious about how a Career Coach can support you to navigate the system without sacrificing success or satisfaction as a STEM PhD? 

Let’s chat! Book your complimentary, no-pressure 30+ minute session today.

Dr. Kelli Hendrickson lives in North Carolina, USA. She delivers her Career and Leadership Coaching services for Women in STEM locally or anywhere online. Time zone EST/EDT.