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Women at SWE are Out of this World!

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Note from the editor: Remember Lisa from a few weeks ago? She's guest blogging for us again today on her SWE experience!

I can’t believe I first wrote to you a few weeks ago about SWE and here I am, post-SWE, still buzzing from all of the energy from the conference! I said it once, and I’ll say it again, SWE is THE conference to go to if you’re looking for career development, networking with really cool and smart people and for the latest and greatest in technology. I’m jazzed about next year in Baltimore, and you should be too! What’s getting me so excited? Well, let me share my SWE experience with you…

SWE Day 1 – Insights from the SWE Conference

What a tremendous day the first day was. The conference kicked off with an awesome keynote presentation from Dr. Ellen Ochoa, a physicist and astronaut at NASA. And I really do mean AWE-some. She shared photos and videos of her time on space shuttles and at the international space station. To witness science in action like that was truly amazing. Seeing collaboration on such a national—and international—scale; testing biology, physiology, and technology in space to understand how properties may work back on Earth; seeing images of our planet as the backdrop of photos of the space station—breathtaking. And where else but at an engineering conference do you hear someone talk about a sunrise, saying “it happens pretty quickly when you’re traveling at 5 miles per second”?!?!? (BTW, if you just had an instinct to see how fast that was in miles per hour…you might be an engineer.)  

After the inspiring keynote, we broke off into workshop sessions. I had the opportunity to present, with my infectious colleague Renee Defeo, about Intel’s amazing Intel Education Service Corp program and the impact we had teaching computer literacy in remote parts of the world, exposing children to technology. We spoke about Intel’s commitment to education and how others can (re-)ignite their passion for community outreach in a corporate environment. We also heard other great “Lightening Sessions” from women at MWV, on process efficiency, and an instructor from Louisiana State University who highlighted her school’s innovative and progressive international engineering program where students spend 5 weeks exploring how engineering is done in a foreign country (Germany).


At lunch, some of us Intel-ers sat with Roz, from Dow. A phenomenal woman with a Masters in ChemE and a PhD in Biomedical Engineering, she is the mother of 8 year old triplets. And she started graduate school AFTER she had her babies! Talk about an inspiration. We had a fabulous discussion about how moms and dads make family and work work. Whatever your solution—day care, part-time, stay-at-home parent, nanny, in-law help—we all agree it takes a village to get it done. Key takeaway: it’s okay to ask for and accept help. Do what it takes to make it work and still feel passionately inspired to remain a woman in technology!

My afternoon was just as busy and engaging. I chose to attend the session about how (and when and why) to say “No!”—something so many of us working professionals could use a lesson in. Fascinating to see data from both employees and managers saying it’s okay—in fact preferred—to say no when appropriate. Focus on what’s most important and succeed at that (rather than do a mediocre job at everything, and not bring your best to any of it). I also loved the idea of a “To Do” List…and a “Stop Doing” List. Focus on what brings the most value, and let other “opportunities” go.

After lunch, I moved into teacher mode again, presenting to 150+ women (and men) about Communicating Effectively in a Data-Driven Workplace. It was an amazing opportunity—I could just feel I was channeling my mentor Marne at one point. In fact, it was very empowering, sharing 15 years of Intel stories, bringing the best of what I’d learned from the influencers and experiences in my life, to help others learn and grow. One thing I love so much about this conference and engaging with others in the industry is seeing just how much we have in common. How various experiences transcend age, gender, degree, and corporate job focus. How people can relate to the concept, if not the specific circumstance.

Whether an electrical engineer designing chips in the semiconductor industry, a chemical engineer improving products at Kimberly-Clark, a mechanical engineer designing tires for Goodyear, or a physicist reaching new heights (literally!) at NASA, the concepts of integrity, hard work, effective communication, focused feedback, and re-igniting your passion impact us all. And thanks to Day 1, we’re all better equipped to go out and make a substantial difference at our companies and our communities.

Favorite Quotes from Day 1:

“We were traveling 17,500 miles per hour.” – Dr. Ellen Ochoa

“Yeah, she’s pretty much a bad ass.” – Senior Intel Engineering Manager, referring to astronaut Dr. Ellen Ochoa

“Oh, great! She’s texting me in Japanese! I wonder if there’s a translator on this thing.” – Speaker, Engineering and Commodity Manager at Intel

“I was like ‘Daaaaad! Just help me find the answer. I want to go outside and play!” – Akron, OH Mechanical Engineering student, lovingly sharing a story about her dad helping her with her homework as a kid

“Saying ‘No’ is a bit like getting your legs waxed. It feels very uncomfortable for a short period of time, but the long-term is really worth it.” – (Referenced in a presentation) Heather McGregor, Author

“Who says you can’t be five feet and model? I do it all day long…in Excel!” – Industrial Engineering Graduate

Key Takeaways / Things to Remember on Day 1:

[On Stress] Differentiate between beneficial challenges and unnecessary stress. Make a “Stop Doing” List.

[On Giving and Receiving Feedback] Listen! Listen! Listen! / Seek first to understand. / Assume positive intent.

[On Developing Yourself and Your Teams] Leveraging your strengths leads to higher engagement which leads to passion. And that leads to great results.

[On Communicating] Have confidence in yourself, your knowledge, and your data / Questions show a sign of interest, not disagreement.

[On Fueling Passion] To love what you do and know that it matters…. How could anything be more fun?


SWE Day 2 – More Insights from the SWE Conference

I started Day 2 attending the plenary (which I’ve discovered is a fancy word for “panel discussion”) titled “Women Leaders in Emerging Technologies.” There I heard from tremendous senior women leaders including McAfee’s Senior Vice President and General Manager of Endpoint Security, Candace Worley. Candace spoke about needing a corporate culture where taking risks is accepted, and how her aspiration is for her team to challenge her. Hearing direct, open, and honest engagement from senior leaders was very inspiring. Not only did it help from a career development perspective, gaining insight, it tore down that perception of senior leaders as untouchable and far removed from a new hire or mid-career person’s day-to-day experiences. The approachable and seasoned panelists made recommendations about navigating in the real world and determining when it was time for a change. They gave advice like “do pilots,” which tend to be non-threatening even to those most deeply entrenched in their ways; focus on the skills that transcend technical experience, like accountability, authenticity, innovation, and caring; and be resilient—remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Hearing first-hand, personal accounts (including shortcomings & mis-steps) from senior leaders who’ve been through the ranks in corporate America was simultaneously inspiring, humbling, and very empowering.

Later that day, I attended a class about white men as full diversity partners exploring one large engineering company’s efforts to build a culture of full inclusion that supports and retains talented women. I was impressed by how they started the dialogue from the male’s perspective. One leader spoke about how he initially thought women would come talk to him and tell him what he was doing wrong, then he realized he was the one who needed to change, seeing the environment through other people’s eyes. The men and women on the panel talked about the importance of seeing the unseen, recognizing blind spots, and taking advantage of moments when we DO see gaps, to do something about them. It reinforced for me that everyone is constantly growing and developing, we all have opportunities to learn and grow, and creating a culture of inclusion for all people is an on-going, iterative process. One panelist asserted: “We don’t have to get it right. We just have to make it better.”

SWE_IntelBlog-1024x768.jpgLunchtime took me to the career fair where I was fabulously inspired by Intel’s booth and the people there. Front center was the Intel booth showcasing our tremendous leadership in technology and the passion we have for innovation. Recruiters were talking to students and professionals alike, answering questions about our company, our products, and opportunities to be a technical professional at Intel Corporation. A 15 year veteran, I myself learned something new from the fabulous Intel staff. Katie from AZ informed me about the many Intel fabs at locations around the world and how you can determine the location by last digit of the number of the fab (ends in a 2—Arizona; ends in a 4—Ireland; ends in an 8—Israel (usually, anyway…), and Fab 11x is in New Mexico).

Whether you’re a robotics aficionado excited to share your knowledge about sync packets, a process engineer with in-depth experience on Intel fabs, an electrical-engineer-now-biz-ops-manager who loves to teach and inspire new generations to find their passion, or a senior VP leading the way on endpoint security, there are so many ways to be an engineer. And all of these opportunities are available and encouraged both in the industry and at our amazing company. I couldn’t be prouder to be a technical female at Intel.

Speaking of women at Intel, day 2 wrapped up with an awards banquet honoring four phenomenal Intel females—all recipients of SWE’s Emerging Leader Award. Sincerest congratulations go out to Deborah, Divya, Kimberly, and Suzi for your tremendous accomplishments. You inspire us all.


Day 2 Quotes

“At the point where you’re comfortable, you’re likely not growing.” – Candace Worley, Senior VP & GM of Endpoint Security, McAfee

“I don’t control the perceptions others have. But I do control what I do and what I say to influence getting them to the awareness I truly believe is reality.” – “Women Leaders in Emerging Technologies” panelist

“The day we’re not paying attention is the day we fail our customers.” – Candace Worley, Senior VP & GM of Endpoint Security, McAfee

“Often when I see a surprise, I’ve bumped into an assumption I didn’t know I had.” – Moderator, “White Males as Full Diversity Partners” session

Key Takeaways / Things to Remember on Day 2:

[On Professional Growth] Reach out beyond your functional team.  Leverage the skills of others. Take risks.

[On Engaging Students in Science] Leverage resources at www.familyengineering.org for parent-child activities for K-5 students.  / Older students gravitate toward college students because they connect the dots on how doing science activities applies to a job one day.

[On Progressing to Goals] We measure what we treasure.

For those who didn’t have the opportunity to experience these amazing courses, events, and ceremonies in person, check out SWE’s website for more information. Mark your calendars for WE’13 in Baltimore, Oct. 24-26, 2013. And, in the interim, get engaged with your local SWE chapter. Opportunities abound all around us to get engaged, ask questions, and support phenomenal career- and personal growth for women in technology.

In the words of Intel co-founder Robert Noyce: “Go off and do something wonderful.” SWE was that wonderful for me, and it could be for you too!