Evening with Industry Hosted by SWE - Not Your Average Career Fair

The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) is a nonprofit educational service organization dedicated to empowering women by recognizing their achievements, providing opportunities for leadership and professional development, and encouraging them to consider an education in engineering.

At the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering (SMSE), our student chapter of SWE echoes these principles through the coordination of professional development events and community outreach activities. But their involvement is not only limited to supporting the careers and education of women engineers, they foster programs that support the engineering community as a whole.

One such program is the Evening with Industry – a unique type of career fair featuring a keynote speaker and formal dinner. Evening with Industry is an annual event that gives students the opportunity to learn more about their field of study and network amongst professionals within industry.

“SMSE has been able to attract and retain women in our engineering programs at a higher percentage than the national average. Given that the national average is so low, we are actively seeking to further encourage and support more women to pursue degrees and careers in engineering,“ explains Dr. Odesma Dalrymple, assistant professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering and SWE faculty advisor. “Our SWE student chapter is certainly one of the initiatives that supports that endeavor. One thing that this event (EWI) should highlight is that the mechanisms that support the success of women in engineering and help increase their representation are not only good for women, they are good for all in the profession.“

Since 1992, the student section of Society of Women Engineers has hosted this event. This year, Evening with Industry was held on Tuesday, March 1, 2016 from 4-8:30 p.m. in the Hahn University Center. Twelve company sponsors, representing an array of industry segments, set up booths to connect with participating students. The companies, ranging from science and technology to manufacturing and renewable energy, were looking for candidates for full-time and internship opportunities. The students seized the opportunity to meet with company representatives at the career fair, and then later chose their seats at the dinner tables based on their companies of interest.

“Evening with Industry is unusual in that it combines the more typical career fair with an opportunity for students to select a company they want to get to know better by talking over dinner in a professional setting,” explains Dr. Kathleen Kramer, professor of Electrical Engineering at USD. “Over the years, this has been a source of contacts and opportunities for USD students both for jobs and internships.“

Platinum sponsors include: Clarity Design, Thermo Fisher Scientific and Sempra Energy; Gold sponsors include: Cymer, General Atomics and Greenlee; and Silver sponsors include: Aerotek, Forward Slope, Inc., Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, L-3 Communications, UTC Aerospace Systems and NuVasive.

It was an impressive turnout with 135 total in attendance including students, faculty, company sponsors and keynote speaker.

“When I had a moment to look at the engineering and STEM field student participants, about one-quarter of them female, they were excited about all the companies and the sheer excitement of networking,” explains Gezelle Keller, senior Mechanical Engineering student and President of SWE. “ Everyone was having a great time while making great connections.”

Following the career fair was the formal dinner with featured keynote speaker, Courtney Lach, Staff Specialist from Qualcomm. Lach delivered a motivational talk about the Ten Secrets on How to Successfully Launch your Career.

"Know that sometimes if you're feeling uncomfortable, it often means you're growing," advises Lach.

The event is a major project for the board to coordinate and requires an orchestrated group effort. “The students of SWE are very grateful for the support they received from Elisa Lurkis, SMSE director of development, and to their faculty advisor, Odesma Dalrymple, who helped them to succeed in the industry interactions necessary to support this event.” Dr. Kramer continues, “There was also a great deal of support from the SWE San Diego Section who work to support the students. Some of our recent graduates have now moved on to be officers in SWE San Diego.”

Additionally, Dr. Kramer’s affiliation with IEEE Women in Engineering also helped the board secure Qualcomm as the keynote speaker.

For Gezelle Keller, the most memorable takeaways from the event were the camaraderie of the SWE board and the reactions of the student participants.

“The realization of just how well all of the executive board came together at the event made me feel really proud,” states Keller. “Everyone was happy at the success of the evening. A lot of students were thanking the board for putting on the program. I feel this event was a small stepping stone to help the students find their dream job.”