My SWE Experience
“SWE provides you with a support network – you may feel alone or isolated with a certain challenge, but there is always someone within SWE sharing that challenge who can help”
How did you get involved with SWE?
I work for Keysight Technologies which is a member of SWE’s Corporate Partnership Council (CPC). Keysight maintains an active SWE network within the company, and when I saw SWE promoted in one of our internal newsletters I joined and was immediately attracted by the Advanced Learning Centre. As a CPC company, Keysight has chosen to cover SWE membership costs and actually any employee can join, even men or those who don’t have an engineering background.
I immediately enjoyed the content and especially the live Q&A at the end of sessions, so I was watching a few sessions every month. Topics were very varied, starting with outreach (getting kids inspired by STEM). As I have a daughter, these sessions were of personal interest. Other sessions were about interpersonal workplace dynamics, for example, I remember a session on “Frenemies”. The more I explored SWE content, the more I started seeing ways to get involved directly in other SWE activities like joining a committee.
Job Title & Company: Software Businesses Sales Admin Specialist, Keysight Technologies
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Academic Background: Higher Technician in Organisational Management and BA in Business Administration with specialisation in Finance
Years in SWE: since 2018
“SWE is really good at facilitating your self-development. In particular, I found the Leadership Competency Model very helpful and very well structured”
What is it that makes SWE valuable for you?
SWE is really good at facilitating your self-development. In particular, I found the Leadership Competency Model very helpful and very well structured, and it gives you a clear focus to guide your skills development. Plus, it’s self-paced so you can work on it on your own time and schedule.
Another aspect that I enjoy with SWE is that development sessions at conferences and in the Advanced Learning Centre cover all kinds of engineering and technical topics, which are explained at a good general level for non-specialists in the field. I was therefore able to learn the fundamentals of subjects such as blockchain, DevOps, etc. that allowed me to both broaden my general knowledge and choose areas where I wanted to learn more in depth and invest more time in. As someone who is naturally curious and inspired to continuously learn on diverse topics, this was like a goldmine for me.
Additionally, because of the way things were described and structured, I could link the learning to metrics on our Keysight Leadership Model and demonstrate the ROI on time spent on SWE activities to my company.
What kind of people does SWE connect you with?
All sorts! Just posting a question generates spontaneous replies from people all over the world, with all types of companies and backgrounds – big corporates from many different industries, key organisations like NASA, and people from academia and the US government.
In our European network, we currently are mostly members from large corporations but we’re actively working to expand and diversify that community.
On a personal side, you are connected to a network of supportive women – they may have very diverse roles and interests – but all have a common vision and the will to support women in STEM. There’s always someone available and, if they can’t personally help, they likely know someone who can.
In comparison to other organisations I have been part of, some boast about having the “biggest” or “best” network, but I’ve never experienced the type of support that SWE brings anywhere else – even shortly after joining and watching a few sessions, I got a lot more replies to my questions than ever before in other networks. The culture of support is always there.
Can you give us an example of how your SWE connections helped you?
I got an email one day from Heather Doty, FY21 President, where she said, “I heard you’d make a good SWE Senator and she wanted to connect me with someone who was a current Senator”. I was very surprised – how would she know me from over 40,000 members? And I do not even have an engineering degree. Heather introduced me to Lisa Rimpf, who was very involved in SWE and had just moved to Germany right as COVID hit and was keen to make connections. Lisa and I built up a nice regular virtual coffee routine. At the time I wanted to start a Global Affiliate in Spain but had challenges to launch. Lisa was able to introduce me to “her friend Pam” who happened to be the global SWE lead for HP – a major STEM employer in Barcelona – and HP’s support was key to launching the affiliate. All this happened with help from one connection to another and us being open to getting to know and help more people.
Since I am in the SWE Senate, I get lots of contact requests and conversations starting spontaneously. And although SWE is not as well known in Europe (yet!), when I’m talking to US colleagues, especially senior leaders, being active in the SWE and in the Senate is highly appreciated.
Also, from a European point of view, SWE is good at encouraging self-promotion in the right way. People are generally more comfortable with that in the US, but less so in Europe and being able to advocate for yourself is so important in career advancement.
Can you tell us about the activities your local SWE affiliate provides in addition to the global membership offer?
We started off with a virtual networking session during the virtual WE Local conference in 2021 and established a core group interested in moving forward. That enabled us to have formal support of 6 different companies for the launch, which was exceptional. One of those companies was Caterpillar who hosted the first meeting at their Demonstration and Learning Centre in Malaga. That was an amazing experience and generated a great energy and desire to keep it going. I wrote a blog about the event in All Together with more details.
One key discussion was around a new Spanish equality plan so companies could share best practices and it led to very concrete outcomes by participating companies that were developing the plan.
We followed that up with a virtual session on how to attract STEM talent to universities and companies and our next face-to-face event in December 2022 will will aim to expand the community and attract students to join.
What we found interesting was that although Spain was not at the top of the list according to market potential, the desire locally to meet is so strong and that is really energising the growth. Last year, Spain had a little over a dozen members and now we have nearly 100.
What would you say to an experienced STEM professional wondering if SWE would be valuable to them?
First and foremost, from a personal perspective, SWE provides you with a support network – you may feel alone or isolated with a certain challenge, but there is always someone within SWE sharing that challenge who can help. And if you feel you want to contribute, if you want to do something positive for the Society, there are many opportunities to do valuable things within SWE to help others.
From an employer’s point of view, SWE is a great facilitator of mentoring and personal development and that is proven to be valuable in improving employee engagement and retention.