On October 18 to 20, a group of students from the UMass Amherst chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) attended WE18 - The World's Largest Conference for Women Engineers in Minneapolis. “The annual national SWE conference provides our students with opportunities for internships and fulltime employment with corporations that don’t directly recruit at UMass,” commented Paula Rees, the assistant dean for Diversity Programs. “In addition, the women have access to an incredible set of role models with career and life advice through the numerous keynotes, panels, and workshops.”
As the conference website explained the event, “WE18’s theme, Let’s Break Boundaries, is rooted in the notion that all women engineers – young and old, veterans, those in the early stages of their career, and engineers still pursuing their collegiate degree – are breaking boundaries both personally and for women across the globe.”
The WE18 website went on to say that “The conference itself breaks boundaries by being the largest gathering of women engineers across all major engineering disciplines. Facing challenges and breaking through barriers is something SWE has done since its inception in 1950.”
Linda Goldstein, the executive secretary in the dean’s office, accompanied the UMass Amherst SWE group to the conference. As she explained, “I took the group out to dinner on the Friday of the conference. They were very excited about the career fair and how well prepared they felt talking with various company recruiters. Many of them had interviews scheduled and some came away with job offers. They specifically mentioned that, although there were students from more ‘prestigious’ schools, they felt far better prepared to interact with the various recruiters. They acknowledged that the support they had received from the Diversity Programs Office and the Career Office was a crucial part of their success.”
As Goldstein concluded, “I found them to be an articulate and poised group of young women who took full advantage of SWE conference attendance.”
The UMass SWE students were equally excited about all the opportunities afforded by the conference. “This is my second year attending the SWE conference, and I am very grateful to have such an excellent resource available to me as a woman in engineering,” said SWE member Abby Laughlin. “Last year, I got the opportunity to speak with representatives from Danaher Corporation and was offered an internship at one of their diagnostic companies in the San Francisco Bay area. I loved this internship and received a return offer to intern at another one of Danaher’s sites this summer.”
After attending the conference this year, she also received an offer to intern at Boston Scientific, which is one of the companies that inspired her to pursue a degree in engineering in the first place.
Laughlin added that “Without this conference, I would not have had the opportunity to speak face to face with recruiters from so many incredible companies and, thanks to the excellent resources from College of Engineering Career Services, I felt extremely prepared and comfortable throughout the interview process.”
Another UMass attendee was Olivia Mosolgo. “The National Society of Women Engineers Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was incredible,” she exclaimed. “The networking and career opportunities were unparalleled, and I truly hope that someday every woman in our college has the opportunity to attend. If we are able to inspire more donors, we might be able to send freshman women in the future, which I think would benefit our female engineering retention rates.”
Mosolgo revealed that she personally received five interview opportunities with companies that she “would be proud to work for.” In addition, she was able to practice her networking skills with professionals at “hospitality suites,” which are evening events in which companies discuss positions and company culture with SWE members in a more relaxed setting.
“I was also able to attend seminars and [listen to] key note speakers who reaffirmed my desire to be an engineer and gave me the motivation to finish my senior year strong!” said Mosolgo. “It was incredible to be surrounded by passionate, intelligent women. This was by far the most motivating and inspiring event of my college career.”
Indeed, that was the whole point of the conference. As SWE explained on its website, “For more than six decades, SWE has given women engineers a unique place and voice within the engineering industry. Our organization is centered around a passion for our members' success and continues to evolve with the challenges and opportunities reflected in today's exciting engineering and technology specialties.” (November 2018)