It was billed as “An Evening with Industry,” but the ramifications of what the University of San Diego’s Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering and the USD student Society of Women Engineers (SWE) chapter provided students Thursday has the potential to last a lifetime.
The four-hour program, held in the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, consisted of a career fair with nine top companies — Illumina, NuVasive, Pratt & Whitney AeroPower, SPAWAR, Trane, General Atomics, L-3 Communications, ThermoFisher Scientific and Zimmer Dental — extended networking opportunities at dinner and a career-focused pep-talk presentation by keynote speaker, Delores Dos Santos, who is the senior director of engineering for Edwards Lifesciences.
The SWE student leaders, including President Harmonie Edelson (pictured top, foreground with Dos Santos) and faculty advisor, Assistant Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering Truc Ngo, PhD, organized an event that, for approximately 80 male and female current students in attendance, had a definite purpose.
“This is a really good opportunity for myself and for other students because you never know if something’s going to take off for you,” said Joshua Williams, a junior mechanical engineering student who, after attending a career fair last year, interned with Alpha Mechanical, Inc. Williams was back this time and his self-confidence to speak with prospective companies about their opportunities was noticeable.
Rachel Michel, a junior industrial and systems engineering major, said the career fair was a chance to continue her search as well as to keep working on her networking skills. Thursday’s event came after she’d been to a pair of conferences via the SWE. “Those networking opportunities were good practice for me,” she said between talks with companies with industrial engineering opportunities.
One way to ease any nervousness at all for the USD student engineers was to be sure to meet with those quite familiar to USD. Three engineering alumni — Ashlee Enriquez ’09 (L-3), Chad Loftis ‘05 (NuVasive) and Colleen Sevier ’13, pictured at far right, (General Atomics) — were on hand to represent their companies at the fair and at dinner to continue the conversation and provide advice to current engineering students.
All three alumni were pleased to represent their companies at the event and happy to see that the current group of Torero engineering students, including many nearing graduation or looking for summer opportunities, were poised, informed and eager for what was available.
After the dinner, Dos Santos, who has more than 30 years of experience in the textile, medical device and pharmaceutical industries, delivered a three-point plan for accelerating one’s career: Having passion for what you do; Continuously practice leadership and; Believing in yourself.
When she spoke about passion and sought a volunteer to explain it, Chell Roberts, PhD, the founding dean of USD’s newly christened Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, stood up and likened it to what he’s currently experiencing in his new role.
“They think about (passion), they dream about it, they wake up in the night with it on their mind. They’re excited about it, it’s what keeps them going and they want to do it, which is like building a school of engineering,” he said.
Dos Santos then showed a Ted Talk by Ivan Joseph, a champion soccer coach and athletic director at Ryerson University, who spoke on “The Skill of Self-Confidence.”
Given that all USD engineering students earn a unique dual BS/BA degree, essentially providing both the engineering science and the liberal arts education to become a “complete engineer,” the night really delivered on both accounts. It combined an atmosphere with companies present and students having a chance to communicate what projects they’ve worked on and to match their skill set to company needs. Dos Santos’ talk then spoke to the importance of developing and mastering soft skills to complement technical expertise.
In all, it was a great evening with industry, but the potential is definitely there to mean even more as USD engineering students continue their academic path to graduation, into the workforce and the future.
— Ryan T. Blystone