Hello, SWE World! We are Gina Trivellini and Sreyoshi Bhaduri. We have been members of SWE New York for over four years now. This past year (FY 20-21) we had the distinct pleasure of serving on the Board as Vice President (Sreyoshi) and Treasurer (Gina) for the section.
This year, Gina has taken on the role as President, and SWE-NY has been the proud recipient of Mission Awards for Professional Development and Outreach. We are thrilled to elaborate on SWE-NY’s mission and the tremendous work the entire team has put in to continue to engage and bring value to members during a very tough few months.
Who We Are and A Sneak Peek at Our Mission
SWE-NY embodies SWE’s core values of Integrity and Trust through the relationships we have strived to build with our members and the community. We serve professional engineers in the New York region, as well as partner with collegiate sections in the area to focus on providing comprehensive and accessible resources while continually seeking out ways to improve, gathering feedback and implementing change. We aim to create an inclusive environment that is welcoming for people of all different ages, genders, and ethnicities through the types of events we host, the voices that we amplify and the topics we highlight.
Decisions At the Start of The Pandemic
Our Board quickly realized at the very start of the pandemic that to be useful for our members, we needed to not only respond by adapting quickly to the increasing virtual interactions but also reimagine our collective future as a section by strategically thinking ahead. We were passionate about making our SWE section, in one of the most diverse and exciting cities in the world, one that can act as a Mutual Support system through the challenges offered by the ongoing pandemic. Through listening to our members, we realized that Professional Development and Social Interactions were two main ways to increase engagement.
Strategy One: Bringing in a Host of Speakers for a Professional Development Series
Our Speaker Series, which in FY21 only comprised two events, was expanded to nine events in FY22 with speakers in a variety of areas from different backgrounds and as a result of the virtual setting, from different geographic locations. The first speaker part of our expanded Speaker Series, Dr. Roshni Rupani, Director Leadership and Development at McGraw-Hill, provided her insights on learning agility and identifying personal strengths. The talk focused on redefining learning, with an overview of how to create your personal learning plan to develop skills and stay marketable. Dr. Rosh Rupani emphasized the need to embrace a growth mindset and walked through the process of developing a personal mission statement. The session was interactive, with participants having the opportunity to discuss their passions, values, and goals. After the event, the presentation materials were provided along with a strengths assessment and TedTalk about maintaining a growth mindset.
Our Speakers spanned several technical backgrounds, and spoke about a variety of topics. Among several others, speakers included:
- Siddha Ganju, an engineer and AI researcher who currently works at NVIDIA on their self-driving initiative. Siddha, a Forbes 30 under 30 honoree, shared her strategies for networking as well as identifying the roles your relationships and connections play in your personal success.
- Dr. Alaksh Choudhury, Post Doctoral Researcher at INSERM France, who shared his scientific approach to conquering imposter syndrome at work and at school.
- Dr. Krishna Pakala, Assistant Professor at Boise State University, who detailed how to build a digital presence that is true to one’s authentic self.
Strategy Two: Partnering with our tech friends from industry to organize technical talks around topics of current interest
At the height of the pandemic, SWE New York partnered with Syska Hennessy Group to host a virtual technical talk focused on the challenges posed by COVID-19. As an engineering consulting firm, Syska Hennessy is responsible for implementing HVAC systems that fit the needs of different buildings and environments. Coronavirus introduced new considerations regarding the safety of building inhabitants. This presentation, given by Rob Ioanna, PE, Senior Managing Director/Senior Principal and Melonee Jenkins, PE, Senior Engineer/Senior Associate, focused on the science behind viruses, building ventilation and air circulation, and the design considerations related to those factors.
As vaccines got introduced, we hosted speakers Christopher Bourne, PhD candidate from Weill Cornell Medical College, and CCNY student Sameah Algharazi to explain the development of and benefits in getting vaccinated. We also had an author and science communication expert, Dr. Anirban Mahapatra, join us for a talk on the impact of COVID-19 on work and life.
Strategy Three: Ensuring that we emphasized mental and physical well being
The pandemic had been incredibly tough on all of us. So it was critical that as a section we emphasized mental health and taking the time to care for oneself. Speakers at our Fall wellness event, Dr. Jennifer Turner and Jasmine McLaughlin, LCSW, provided their tips for prioritizing one’s self-care and investing in one’s mental and physical wellness. This event was held just before the holiday season, a time when many were worried about their own health and the health of their loved ones, to provide support for members who may be having a difficult time. The wellness event initiated an open discussion on mental health and acknowledged the added challenges faced by people of color in America during a time of difficult discussions surrounding racism and inequality.
In addition to the speaker event, we also hosted several interactive sessions, like game nights or yoga mornings, as well as introduced a series on Cook-Along Night highlighting food from different parts of the world.
Strategy Four: Developing Deeper Connections with our Friends in Collegiate Sections
We realized that just as much as the professional community was reeling from the pandemic, so was the collegiate one. We felt it would be helpful to establish deeper and more meaningful connections with our friends in the collegiate sections, and host joint events with them.
As conversations on Return to Office resurfaced the workplaces, SWE-NY collaborated with CCNY SWE for SWEDay to understand what constitutes inclusive workplace practices. The talk had 4 experts, including two invited speakers trained in Engineering Education – Crystal Pee and Tahsin Chowdhury, who helped the attendees explore barriers faced by women (with an emphasis on intersectionality of gender with race and cultural identities) in the workplace. The talk began by helping define belonging and elaborated on research on low sense of belonging and high attrition among women in STEM, before delving into the topics of wage disparity and lifelong learning. Attendees left with strategies to help their teams be more inclusive, resources to help better skills needed to negotiate better pay or difficult conversations at the workplace, as well as recognize red flags at organizations they may be interviewing at.
Strategy Five : Expanding our network and reach in and beyond New York city
SWE-NY hosted a virtual event targeting high school girls consisting of an overview of different types of engineering and a panel of seasoned SWE engineers to discuss various engineering experiences. The goal was to 1) introduce the umbrella engineering majors to high school girls to raise awareness of university STEM majors, and 2) connect with high school girls from a mentoring perspective through the panel and answer questions about engineering as a career option and studying engineering in university. Forty high school girls from various schools in Westchester County (NY) attended this event, along with 4 SWE panelists. This was a new event, advertised with the help of a Westchester high school women’s engineering club.
Throughout the pandemic we expanded outreach and communication with around 10 posts through SWE’s All Together blog (i.e. strategies for applying to business & grad school, inclusion & diversity, rallying for equal pay). We added “Instagram takeovers” to the SWE-NY Instagram account. SWE-NY Board members logged into the account for 24 hours to share about their experience in engineering, SWE, and their daily work-life. The SWE-NY Instagram account is also used to share virtual event announcements, fundraiser events, photos from events, and informational posts about professional development and equity in engineering. Our highest reach was 754 users for a fundraising post, with the second highest reach being 508 users for a SWE member takeover. Our median reach is 260 users.
Our fundraiser with Soulcycle allowed SWE New York members and friends to join us outdoors for an opportunity to get active, network and socialize while supporting our scholarship fund. We had about 30 attendees and were able to fundraise towards our annual scholarship to recognize and award young girls pursuing careers in STEM. This annual SWE New York scholarship was renamed in honor of our late president Einah Reza Manalo Pelaez in 2020. Last year, we were able to award $16,000 to 9 deserving female students in the greater NY area. This year, our regular fundraising efforts needed to be adapted to a virtual setting and focused more on individual donations than corporate contributions. We successfully raised $3,000 for the 2021 scholarship fund, to be awarded to 3 students in $1,000 individual awards.
The Final Word – Together, We Can and We Will!
SWE-NY, just like SWE global, continues to provide opportunities for creation of communities – communities of learning, of support, and that of wellbeing. As part of leadership at SWE-NY we were able to strategize intentional communities to help each other through the pandemic. The community that we built, and friendships we developed will stay lifelong. Which is why we encourage everyone – not only women, to join SWE! As part of SWE, no matter where you are in the world, you will have access to professional development and mentorship, ability to share your expertise through volunteering and outreach, and be part of a community that cares.