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Society of Women Engineers Conference

by Haley Knapp, Conference Coordinator, Society of Women Engineers

The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) recently attended the Society of Women Engineers Conference in Austin, Texas.

Recap of the conference and our return

During the conference, our members learned a lot about networking, resume building, and current advancements for women in science. Upon returning from the conference, those who attended put together a presentation on everything they learned while there. It was an excellent way to educate and involve those that could not go. Each also mentioned they were willing to meet with other members who did not go to share their knowledge on a one-on-one basis and help them with their skills the same way they were helped at the conference. Many of the members that went came back with a lot of new connections, business cards, and a better understanding of their engineering field. Overall it was a very helpful event for our club and we hope to continue to send members in the future years.

swe conference


Below are some statements directly from student members who attended the National Conference about their individual experiences.

Rebecca Walton:

“The conference was an invaluable experience. I attended lightning talks on the transition from university to industry and general career advice. I learned about how to receive and give feedback, increasing your activity level when you’re at the office, leadership advice, and the basics of being an independent adult. I was able to network with representatives of many different companies and work on my elevator pitch. I hope we can continue to send members to the national conference so they can get advice from experienced women in engineering too.”

Shenyjie Xiang: 

“This was the first time I had a chance to go to a national conference in the US. I participated many different seminars and workshops. My first stop was a resume workshop. Many volunteers from the schools and companies helped students to revise their resumes, and I got a lot valuable advice and techniques about writing my resume. After that I went to a seminar where many successful women in technology companies gave speeches.

My favorite one was called “Let go of your ego and your expectations.” In her speech, this professional shared her experience from when she had to leave her position to be a mother with her son, and how she got back to work in another company doing something different than what she had done before. She discussed how she left her comfort zone and how she adjusted her mind and attitude, and I definitely learned a lot from it. Another workshop was about how to deal with the feedback that you get from others that you might not agree with, how to become a person who welcomes the feedback from others, and how to make use of that feedback to be successful.

The third seminar that left a deep impression on me was one that talked about communication. Working as an engineer often means needing to work with a group of people, but sometimes people don’t do what they are supposed to do. In these situations, if you just pointed out their fault, they might react negatively. Good communication is really important when we communicate with customers as well, who will decide whether they will still buy your products in the future.

I also went to a speech held by seven NASA woman engineers. They shared their stories about how they worked in a male-dominated company and how they do new things every single day. The most impressive part about the speech was about how they deal with huge failures, which can always happen in a company like NASA.

Besides those amazing seminars, I also went to the career fair. This was also the first time that I’d gone to a career fair in the US. Before I talked to the companies that I was interested in, I was really nervous, but actually every conversation was great. I learned something new from every talk! I know what they’re looking for and how to be a more competitive candidate for internships in the future. Because I am an international student, I have a lot of constraints in finding an internship in the US, and I didn’t know many of the companies at the career fair. I only spoke to those well-known companies that welcome international students. I had conversations with the HR department from Apple, Accenture, 3M, National Instrument, intel and HEXCEL. I received an interview offer from Apple that day, and recently I also got a phone interview! I also received an email from HEXCEL and I am ready to talk with them.

This conference trip was amazing. I got the chance to know ten other students in our school with different majors and in different years. I learned a lot about how to prepare for my career! Also, we explored Austin a little bit, which was amazing!”

Gabrielle Dimoff:

“There was a career fair for two days and that was mainly what I went to. There were scores of companies at the career fair, and I talked to a little under twenty companies over the two days. There were many companies that worked with water allocation, purification, and resource allocation, and I was really interested in the kind of work they did. I hadn’t considered the water sector as being part of the sustainability field before, but now I do. Because of this, I have added this interest to my professional identity.

Through this experience I have become more confident in my professional identity. Seeing potential employers respond positively to me has given me confidence in my experiences and capabilities.”

Frances McAfee:

“This was a great experience. I had the opportunity to practice my public speaking, networking, and other professional skills at the career fair, where I was able to speak with recruiters from many companies from all over the country and with locations all over the world. The career fair also included a section of graduate school booths, and speaking with representatives from these schools helped me start to figure out what kind of programs I might want to apply for and look into. Graduate school was a topic I had been putting off giving much thought to because I was unsure how to get started, and having those conversations with school representatives at the career fair really helped me get over my apprehension and find a direction.

I was also able to attend many incredibly helpful seminars on topics ranging from ‘how to confront subtle workplace sexism’ to ‘new 3D printing and modeling technologies and their biomedical applications.’ It was inspiring to hear powerful woman engineers in my field talk about their work, journeys, and successes, and it helped me reinforce my confidence that I have chosen the right field of study. I really appreciate all of the sponsorship that we received so that we were able to have these amazing experiences.”

Coline Reinhardt:

“This conference, the largest in SWE’s history, gathered more than 10,000 women from all parts of the United States, at all stages of their engineering careers. Participants had the opportunity to receive advice to succeed in their career, share histories, build a strong network, and get to know potential employers and impress them.

As a first year, I took part in this experience to seek internships, discover what companies are looking for, start developing a professional network, and learn about different experiences shared by speakers across different disciplines and themes. I attended five presentations, either technical talks, career advice, or sharing personal stories, on how to help women rise throughout their professional life. This broadened my view on engineering challenges and expectations and offered me great tips for success.

As a mechanical engineering student interested in the automotive field, I had the opportunity to talk to a lot of car and motorsport companies such as Tesla, Mercedes, Fiat Chrysler Automobile, General Motors, Ford, and Harley Davidson. I also talked to employers from Praxair, Novelis, Intel Corporation, and TE Connectivity, as they presented automotive-related industries or projects. I was even able to schedule an interview with a recruiter from TE Connectivity, and got to learn more about internship opportunities. Those two days of career fair were beneficial for me as I practiced my language and interview skills, and got to know what I could do to impress companies.”

Claire Evans:

“This conference was an extremely good way to practice professional interpersonal skills. I’ve not had the chance to do very many interviews, but many representatives asked interview-like questions. This was an invaluable chance to practice interviewing, even if no formal interviews were offered. It’s a good way to learn more about the industry that I’m interested in and the positions that are available.

There are lots of companies that are hiring chemical engineers, but some are only looking for process engineering roles. Since going to the conference, I’ll be able to narrow my job search and make it more efficient. This will help me find jobs and companies I’d be happy with. The conference was overall a good event and helped me develop professional skills and connections.”

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