My SWE Experience
“SWE provides a great platform to make connections to the right people, understand your future steps, avoid and learn from the mistakes of others, and to understand more about different organisations.”
What is it that makes SWE special to you?
I am passionate about supporting women. I personally experienced barriers and obstacles during my career path and personal life as a woman in a technical role and working as an engineer, so I’m very interested in any initiative which can support women and improve the culture of equity for all genders.
I have joined a lot of networks because of this personal passion. But something unique about SWE is that when you join, you feel you belong.
A lot of groups, networks, and companies invest in such activities, but when you are there you still feel excluded, you still feel your story is not considered there or you cannot really feel comfortable to act and go forward.
And that’s the great thing about SWE – they’re very open to new ideas, they benefit from the support and energy of everyone involved and they also enable you – if you say “I want to do this” – they provide the content to support you to be more empowered to do that thing in the right way.
SWE is perfectly aligned with those personal goals that I have, and it’s full of great examples of women supporting women, men supporting women, and women supporting men. It’s like a close group, you feel like you’ve been friends for a long time even if you just met – and this provides a lot of opportunities – to grow within the path you have and support others wherever they are or whatever their job or life situation.
Dr. Hamideh Ahmadloo
Job Title & Company: Strategic Sourcing Manager-Americas at SIKA
Academic Background: PhD in Chemical Engineering
Years in SWE: since 2019
“Something unique about SWE is that when you join, you feel you belong”
How do you use SWE membership in your day-to-day work?
I use the SWE learning platform at least once per week to improve my skills and work on specific interests. I find the SWE platform very flexible. I can personally start a journey to learn on a topic and create a portfolio so I can easily look back on something again. If I find I still have a gap in one of my skills, I can track it and get suggestions of more content to learn further about that area.
The other thing I’m active on, both for myself and to try to benefit others, is the mentorship platform. There are other professional women and men that I connect to as their mentor or learn from as their mentee. This is another great advantage that SWE brings to us.
How does your company use the SWE network, activities, and resources?
[At the time of this interview, Hamideh worked at Dow Chemical]
At Dow, we use SWE’s content and resource in a range of important ways.
Firstly, the podcasts and videos prepared by SWE help us teach about cultural initiatives – topics about equity, women’s rights, etc. – within our organisation.
This is really appreciated within our operations team. In production plants, people have shifts and they have a lot of priorities, so they struggle to block time for training. So, we use lunchtimes to get together, eat and at the same time play one of the on-demand web sessions – for example on women’s career growth, or parents’ conditions, or working effectively during the pandemic.
Everybody watches together, discusses it in a friendly environment and we use that as a cultural driver for those conversations.
Also, in collaboration with our HR partners we developed a very nice portfolio from the SWE trainings, so that people at different stages can work on their skills – from junior to mid to senior levels. And there is very good content on the SWE platform for all these levels.
One challenge we have is that there is a major gap for women in technical roles in operational jobs – for example – production managers or site leaders. These are challenging roles as they need specific skills, plus shift work and a lot of other complexities.
Our HR partners in Dow could identify trainings within SWE and define a one-year programme – which shows how rich the content is in the SWE platform – for these type of career profiles.
This helped us to improve the engagement of women in these jobs, bring more women on board for this type of job and get the gender balance level that we want in our organisation.
We also provide recognition through SWE Awards, for example nominating team members who excel in inclusive leadership, or by supporting colleagues as speakers at SWE conferences to share what we have learned to help other organisations.
“Our HR partners could identify trainings within SWE and define a one-year programme – which shows how rich the content is in the SWE platform”
Can you give us an example of how SWE connections help one another?
I have a very nice example. There was a woman engineer in Canada who approached me via the SWE mentor network to be my mentee. Our discussion was mainly related to my background as a Chemical Engineer and work on the development of innovative ideas aligned with sustainability goals.
We had very nice, fruitful discussions. We didn’t just focus on which approach I took or learning in my career, but also compared our perspectives on sustainability initiatives from both strategic and practical viewpoints.
And of course, we spoke about more than our jobs. She had a daughter as well so we would discuss how we balance professional life with personal life, and how we could support our kids better.
She gave me clever ideas on sustainability strategies and I shared what I learned over the years – and all this happened because of SWE – a person in Ontario, Canada with a person in Zurich, Switzerland, connecting and exchanging to improve each other’s quality of life and support each other in our careers.
Does SWE also help senior professionals in leadership positions?
Absolutely, for example, you may face the challenge of being considered so senior that you aren’t “included” in your own teams. SWE provides a lot of content on how to connect to others, how to share your knowledge, how to bring this understanding to the younger generation and how to connect and include everybody. So, for all of us I would say it’s a very good network to connect, to be active and to give back to as well.
What would you say to a university student in a STEM field wondering if SWE would be valuable to them?
When I was 18, I had a dream. I wanted to be an engineer, I wanted to work in a multinational, huge organisation, and take care of great technical development…but I didn’t know where to start, how to start and I actually didn’t have any idea about my future challenges, or how to find the sweet spot and knowing the best place for me.
I would say to all young engineers and junior students in STEM, look at your wishes, and how you want to connect to the business, to the market, and what type of technical teams you want to be active in.
Then SWE provides a great platform to make connections to the right people, understand your future steps, avoid and learn from the mistakes of others, and to understand more about different organisations.
We have members from many companies and within the SWE network we learn about their internal culture and how they work together, so you can find out more and understand is it aligned with what you wish for your future? And you can connect to those individuals personally, so I would say that’s a great benefit for all students and all women or men in the early stages of their career.