Inside USD

Women Engineers Thrive at USD, in the Workplace

Friday, March 4, 2011

Ashlee Enriquez and Hannah Meyer returned to the University of San Diego campus on Thursday afternoon and frankly, it felt a little strange.

“It’s weird to be the one on this side of the table,” said Meyer of her role as a representative for L3 Communications at the annual Society of Women Engineers’ (SWE) Evening With Industry event. Both young women, 2009 industrial and systems engineering (ISYE) graduates, were here to interact with current USD and San Diego State University engineering students and promote the company they work for now.

Their presence, though, was a positive sign, not strange, as several female engineer representatives from Hewlett Packard, General Atomics, MWH Americas, Zimmer Dental and Hamilton Sundstrand were also on hand. The event included dinner with representatives of these companies and SDSU electrical engineering graduate Wendy Martinez, now a principal engineer for Raytheon, was the keynote speaker.

Enriquez (pictured, right), a manufacturing engineer, said her initial opportunity with L3 Communications arose from attending a USD engineering career fair. She earned an internship through the event, opening the door. Once it was open, her persistence, passion for learning and the company’s faith in her abilities as she eagerly tackled new projects that landed her a full-time position.

“I was hired full-time a week before I graduated,” Enriquez said. “It’s been very rewarding for me. I love my job. It’s been an amazing experience all around.”

Meyer helped organize the 2008 SWE Evening With Industry event, one of many great student experiences she recalled at USD. But when the time came to think about the future, it was her senior project for L3 Communications — examining its receiving inspection area and coming up with several suggestions for improvement — and a recommendation from Enriquez that helped her get hired in the role of quality engineer.

“Quality is in everything and having that background in industrial and systems engineering is perfect for what we do,” Meyer said.

For Chayne Johnson, a senior ISYE major and president of USD’s SWE chapter, seeing fellow engineering students transition from the classroom to full-time employment was one of many reasons to smile on Thursday.

“I’m really proud of our engineering department. We get a lot of support from our advisors, faculty and the women and men who help us in our fields,” she said. “This event is a great opportunity because people do get callbacks, they do get interviews and they do get positions. Most of these companies come every year so we have a lot of ties with these companies. We have alumni in different places, too, so to see them at the career fair here and looking to hire our students it’s great for it to come full circle.”

Johnson will complete her own studies in December, finishing USD’s unique dual BA/BS degree that could give her an edge when it comes time to find a job. Her involvement with SWE, which started her sophomore year, has enhanced her desire to have a career in engineering and she’s seen it help other young women who have the same interest.

“SWE is a great opportunity for women to get involved. We have monthly meetings during the year and we’re seeing more of the underclassmen coming to them. It’s great, it’s a safe place because it can be intimidating for women in this field to have a place where they feel comfortable to say their part, that they’re interested in this major, they’re really intelligent and they want to progress into a career.”

Johnson’s SWE work, along with other student members, has pleased second-year SWE advisor and ISYE Assistant Professor Truc Ngo. “They’re very capable, enthusiastic and responsible young women,” she said.

Johnson, whose group attended the national SWE conference in Orlando in November and assists with local outreach events such as this weekend’s Expand Your Horizons conference for girls in grades 6-10 and Girls’ Day Out on April 2, has also spent her time on a “green” senior project.

“We’re designing a plan to make the campus more bike friendly,” she said. “We want to reduce USD’s footprint. We’ve been working with (USD’s Director of Sustainability) Michael Catanzaro, who purchased electric bikes for us to start testing on campus. We want to do our part for USD’s ‘Be Blue, Go Green’ campaign.”

The future of engineering sure seems to be in capable hands, and there’s nothing strange about that at all.

— Ryan T. Blystone

Ashlee Enriquez’s story is profiled in a two-minute segment of a USD Engineering Programs’ promotional video (see screen capture above). Her story starts at the 4-minute, 13-second mark.

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