Category: Society of Women Engineers

‘SWE Sounding Board’: It Takes Two

With the SWE Conference being my first professional conference ever, I was extremely anxious. After all, a concentrated amount of passionate, professional women in one place at one time is a bit intimidating.

To prepare, I learned more about the Society of Women Engineers and attended a session discussing how to effectively work with men and women in a professional environment—featuring a panel of professional men.

The main idea of the session boiled down to the power of effective leadership, whether you’re a woman or a man. In order for a team in any environment to function, a leader needs to ensure that everyone on that team, man or woman, is included and that everyone’s voice is being heard. I think that was an important takeaway from the conference:

It’s a two-gender issue.

Yes, professional women need to know how to approach situations of gender discrimination in the work place and integrate their voices into a team, but professional men also need to be aware that gender preferences and prejudices are sometimes conducted automatically, without much thought. Men also need the education about how to approach these situations with other coworkers.

Trying to fix this issue by solely educating the women is like sailing against the current. However, by incorporating both genders into that education, we will see much smoother sailing.

If you – regardless of your gender – want to learn more about what to do once you get the job, sign up for tonight’s $tart $mart Salary Negotiation workshop.

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‘SWE Sounding Board’: These Women’s Work

Have you ever wondered what you will do or what you will become after getting your engineering degree?

Well, I have thought about it a million times. And I never come up with an answer.

After meeting 8,500-plus women engineers under the same roof of WE ’15—all of whom have achieved/are achieving great things in various fields—I have an idea.
I had my doubts when I registered for the conference…

Will I enjoy it?
Will I learn something useful?
Will anyone be interested in networking with me?

The answers to each of those questions was “YES.” It was much more than what I had expected.

I am not an extrovert so talking with several people was strange and difficult, but the ambiance made it quite easy.

The conference had diverse sessions based on leadership, career, cultural awareness, technical innovations, graduate students, etc.

I was intrigued by one of the technical sessions based on “gamification of demand response.” The presentation was done by a utility company that provided electricity to one of the counties in New York and uses games to reduce the electricity consumption of customers in the summer.

It was inspirational to see a panel of women engineers who are successful in both their professional and personal life. It never occurred to me that it was possible for a woman to be a chairperson of an XXX company and also be a mom of four kids. It was amazing what these women have already achieved and what they went through to reach that position.

This conference has provided me with one strong take-home message: As a woman, I can get everything I want if I work hard for it.

‘SWE Sounding Board’: The Adventure of Life

What does it mean to make your own path in life?

I used to ask myself this question a lot. There are so many people on earth—even just in America, 20.2 million students will attend universities this year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. It is incredible that so many people can achieve a higher education; however, it does make one feel like a small fish in a very expansive sea. With so many other people pursuing higher degrees, how can I carve out a path that is truly my own?

I witnessed the answer to this at the SWE national conference in Tennessee. I became a part of an entire convention center full of motivated women with unique aspirations. Even though we were all women in engineering and most of us had similar skills in math and science, I was exposed to so much diversity of thought. We could all see the world’s problems, and we each wanted to help tackle them in our own particular way.

When I was at a panel about women having a global career, I discovered how professional women are taking what they learn on international engineering trips and applying them back home. They used good team work skills from Spain and relationship-building between corporate partners from Japan; they were open to better ways to solve problems.

During a session for LGBTQ inclusion, I discovered different ways to be a voice for colleagues and help them raise their own, to be an ally.

The most exciting discussion session for me was about women in sustainability. There were five different women who each were discovering their own way to help overcome environmental issues. One woman was part of the Clinton Foundation’s initiative to bring solar power to island states. Another was the founder for Woman in Wind Energy. Yet another was a graduate from MIT who worked with a solar installation company. Others graduated from the Naval Academy and decided to go after careers in renewable energy services. All of these women started somewhere different and, through their technical careers, decided their mission was to give back to the earth. They each had their own way of solving what they thought were the most pertinent environmental problems.

What one of the panelist said really impacted me. She said how each of us may believe we have to solve all of the world’s problems, but if you think of the world as a human body, you can remember that there are countless cells working toward the body’s health. Not one cell contributes wholly. Each cell works beside the other. I felt like that was very true for this situation because all of these women came from different backgrounds and were working on their own tasks in order to better the world, and I know that there are countless others tackling separate environmental issues and other problems such as poverty, education, and social justice. We will all find a way to contribute to the earth by being part of the world and working through it to carve our own diverse path.

SWE ‘Sounding Board’: Reaching Out to Reach Up

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It isn’t what you know; it’s who you know. We’ve all heard this cliché countless times, but how true is it? Do we even want it to be true? I can’t think of too many people that I’ve met who have been thrilled about this prospect—plastering on fake smiles and rubbing elbows to get ahead in life? No thank you! I would like to amend this cliché: it’s about who knows what you know.

Through my involvement with the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), I have had the privilege of forming lasting relationships with countless outstanding women. These women come from all different places in life, from collegiate to professional to retired, and all different fields of practice, from technical and design-based engineering to project management, leadership, and entrepreneurship. These women come together, reach out, and reach up: hoisting one another to great new heights.

Many people see networking as an uncomfortable experience in which you cannot be true to yourself or just connecting on LinkedIn with that person you met on the elevator with a fancy sounding title. While in some situations, yes, that’s how you make connections, it isn’t the only way. Forming those connections is as easy as reaching out: find someone you admire and ask them to be your mentor.

Forming these relationships, dreaming big, and voicing those goals will ultimately help you achieve them. Those who believe in you, want to help you succeed, and have the resources to do so cannot unless they know where it is you want to be. This is what being a SWE member has taught me.

Most of my SWE-based network may not be directly related to companies I want to work for or even fields that are of interest to me, but it is full of leaders whom I admire. Those that dream big and empower other women to do the same. These women know what I am capable of and have faith in who I am as an emerging leader. They serve as role models, cheerleaders, coaches, and advocates.

Surround yourself with strong, empowering people and you will go far. Networking is far more than who you know—that is only scratching the surface. Your network should have confidence in who you are and what you are capable of and be willing to stand up and say, “Yes, I have absolute confidence they can do that.” These are the connections that will make a difference—not only in your professional career, but in your life.

Photo courtesy of Jessica Messick: (Left to right) Brooke Sroczynski, Melissa Lindsay, Jessica Messick.

SWE ‘Sounding Board’: In a Room of Engineers…

Picture this: a room full of 9,000 women engineers ranging from first-year college students to seasoned, middle-level engineering managers. The excitement fills the air as these ladies fill the room, chat, and hustle to find their friends and meet new people. This is the first event of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) 2015 Conference, taking place in Nashville from Oct. 22 to 24.

The SWE Conference is the “world’s largest conference for women engineers,” as it says on its website. This year’s theme is “Reach Out to Reach Up,” a message of how women standing together and supporting each other can make dreams become reality. Voices Raised will be the sounding board for the 12 SWE-UD members traveling from Dayton to Nashville to experience the seminars, speakers, networking, professional development, and career fair opportunities this conference offers. Be ready to hear from all 12 members.

Here’s an overview of what happens:
Our 12 SWE-UD members pile into vans and drive down to Nashville on Wednesday. Thursday will be filled with seminars and speakers on every topic under the sun, related to collegiates, professionals, career movement and more. The keynote speaker is Nicola Palmer, the senior vice president and chief network officer for Verizon Wireless. Other seminars include “What to look for in an offer and how to personalize it,” “Overcoming the hype of 3D printing,” and “Mind the Confidence Gap: How to overcome fears of being a young professional in a technical environment.”

Thursday night will be busy with “Hospitality Suites,” where companies from the career fair each take over a room (similar to the conference rooms in KU) and host open networking hours – a great way to talk one-on-one with a couple of your top companies before the career fair even starts. Friday consists of even more seminars and “lightening talks,” shorter talks on hot technology or topics in engineering, and, most importantly, the massive career fair. Over 290 companies will be represented at this year’s fair. Everyone from NASA and Google to Boeing and Praxair (and 286+ more companies) will chat and interview the over 9,000 SWE members that attend. Talk about a lot of awesome opportunities at your fingertips. Friday night will conclude with a night of exploring, as the SWE-UD section carries on it’s annual tradition of eating dinner one night with all our members at a local restaurant.

Saturday continues with even more great speakers, volunteering opportunities at the annual “Invent it Build it” event for middle school girls and their parents. This wonderful event promotes STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) careers and opportunities to young girls, since most girls choose whether or not to continue studying science or math as a life dream when they are in middle school. This event provides parents with loads of information on how to keep their girls interested in math and science, as well as numerous hands-on activities and experiments for the girls to play with and try their hand at, all with some of the 9,000 SWE members that attend conference as their volunteers, role models, and activity helpers. Talk about inspiring.

Saturday evening concludes with the annual “Celebrate SWE!” awards and dinner event, where the collegiate scholarship winners and SWE award winners are recognized, and everyone celebrates and remembers the advances of women in engineering and is motivated to continue working in engineering. Then, the event turns into the dance party for all the collegiate members. Finally, the conference wraps up as everyone packs up and heads home on Sunday morning. And it’s back to the books.

You can follow @SWEtalk on Twitter and Instagram and look for #WE15 and #BeThatEngineer for daily content on SWE and WE15.