I left industry 4 years ago to become the Executive Director & CEO of the Society of Women Engineers. This is a 19,000 member organization that focuses on recruitment of women into engineering and their retention and advancement in the field from when they begin their engineering studies until retirement. I love the opportunity to lead an organization that has such a positive impact on the engineering community.
Engineering is an exciting career filed with opportunities to innovate, work in teams, and make a difference in the world. Unfortunately, some of the high school and early college preparation consists of classes that are very different from that day-to-day experience of the engineering profession. I'd encourage any student to take advantage of co-op or internship opportunities very early in their studies so that they get a better understanding of what an engineering career is like, even while working through the foundation classes.
I began my career at Data General Corporation. My first major project was the subject of the book Soul of a New Machine. In that project the team consisted of a number of new graduates. We were given an immense amount of responsibility and opportunity. Not only was that a great for my career, but it also established my self-confidence in trying something new and trusting my skills.
I particularly remember Dennis Nyquist, P. David Fisher, and John Kreer keeping things light and being very approachable. Dr. Nyquist was our advisor for Eta Kappa Nu and in the spring would have us canoe down the Red Cedar to his home for a picnic. I really appreciate that we had such great rapport with the faculty.
The engineering profession is the hidden profession. So few young people and the adults that influence them understand what an engineer does or the value of engineering. Engineers bring us everything from the basic necessities of life, such as clean air and water, to products and services that improve our quality of life and entertain us. I'm fortunate to have the opportunity to share the breadth of the opportunities in engineering with so many in the public.
My high school speech coach encouraged me to attend a Society of Women Engineers event at the University of Illinois since I was enjoying math and science. That was the first time I encountered engineering as a profession, and was very interested. A week-long summer program at Purdue reinforced that introduction.