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Engineers Week: Stephanie Loete

Electrical engineer Stephanie Loete talks about how SWE jump started her career.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

SWE Leadership Summit Update

Name and SWE BOD Title: Stephanie Loete, Society Secretary

Current Engineering Discipline: Electrical Engineering

Current Title and Company: F-35 EO/IR Lead Test Engineer at the Air Force Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base (EO/IR = Electro Optics/Infrared). Air Force STEM is a SWE CPC member.

Society of Women Engineers, Stephanie Loete, Engineers Week

HQ: How long have you been a SWE member?

SL: This fall will officially make it 20 years.

HQ: What prompted you to join SWE?

SL: When I was graduating from high school I was awarded a scholarship from the SWE Sierra Foothills section. It also included a summer internship at Intel (SWE CPC Member). I spent the summer in Folsom, CA working for Intel and had a great experience that included working with some wonderful women. As a result, I showed up on campus at the University of Southern California excited to find the local SWE section and become a member for that sense of camaraderie and support.

HQ: What is your favorite SWE resource? Networking, conferences, etc. – and why?

SL: That’s tough to choose, but I think my favorites are the annual and region conferences since both are great opportunities to catch up with SWE friends and have numerous intriguing, formal and informal conversations.

HQ: How has SWE helped to shape your career?

SL: SWE has helped jump-start my career development and provided endless opportunities. Through SWE I have developed leadership and communication skills as well as gained experience managing people and projects. All of this experience has been invaluable and given me a tool-set that I already had available as I approached related challenges in my career.

HQ: What first got you interested in engineering?

SL: My father is a civil engineer and that helped make engineering seem like something that was a real possibility as I was growing up. As for engineering itself, I was drawn to the real world problem solving and opportunities to continuously learn and be challenged.

HQ: What prompted you to go into the field of engineering that you did?

SL: I started out undeclared engineering and thought bio-medical was interesting because it seemed to involve elements from a number of engineering disciplines. An attempt to conduct a behavioral research experiment with some unexpectedly dead frogs helped me realize I was better suited to work with things that were not alive. I enjoyed computers but did not want to focus on coding and quickly realized electrical engineering was a much better fit for me.

HQ: What are the challenges and triumphs you’ve experienced, faced and overcome as female engineer?

SL: As many women engineers can relate to, I’ve often been the only woman in the room or had to deal with sexist jokes or assumptions from co-workers and professors. Personally, I’ve always focused on doing the best job I could in any situation and used SWE as a network and a way to work on changing the experience and culture for all engineers.

One of my most recent challenges was when I was asked to step up at work and take on the role leading a team of five engineers. However, the team was short staffed at the time, so it was really me and one other employee doing the work of a team of six for a few months. Then we started to add three new team members and begin rebuilding the team while still completing the mission. Navigating that whole process meant a lot of hard work, constant prioritizing and re-prioritizing, and staying calm regardless of the circumstances.

HQ: How do you personally advocate for women engineers?

SL: Advocacy means a number of things. For me, being vocal about my SWE involvement has helped raise awareness of SWE at my site. On the K-12 outreach front, I have spoken to high school classes, presented a hands-on demonstration of Bernouli’s principle to hundreds of children as part of multiple expos, and helped Girl Scouts build Rube Goldberg machines. This year I’m looking forward to learning more about public policy by participating in SWE’s Annual Capitol Hill event.

HQ: What is your current and/or previous roles and responsibilities with SWE?

SL: I’m currently serving as the Society Secretary on SWE’s Board of Directors. Previously, I’ve been Deputy Director of Regions, Region B Governor, and a few local section roles including Section President and Section Representative. As a collegiate member I held a number of roles including Section President, Speaker and Tours Chair for the Region Conference, and Region B Student Representative.

HQ: What was your favorite role and why?

SL: Hmm, I’m not good at choosing favorites, and there are so many! I have found all of my SWE roles have been engaging, helped me meet people, and contribute to the organization and SWE’s mission. Often they have been challenging in some unexpected ways and have helped me develop new skill sets.

HQ: Do you have any future roles and responsibilities plans with SWE?

SL: I’m focused on the Board of Directors right now, which is keeping me pretty busy. I do look forward to continuing my involvement with SWE in some form in the future, perhaps someday I can serve on the Senate or the Society Nominating Committee.

HQ: What are you most excited about for 2016 as an engineer?

SL: As an engineer, what I usually find most exciting is hearing about all the new developments in science, technology, and engineering. I can’t keep up with it all, but there’s so much amazing work and research being done in so many areas. I’m eager to see what 2016 will bring.

HQ: What are you most looking forward to at WE16?

SL: I can never get to as many conference sessions as I would like, but I always learn something for each one I do attend. So I look forward to a whole host of new speakers and new knowledge.

HQ: If you could give yourself one piece of advice to yourself when you first started your career, what would it be?

SL: There is no one “right path” so make sure to take the time to figure out what you want your path to be and re-evaluate along the way.

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Did you know? You can follow Stephanie Loete, SWE BOD Secretary on Twitter!

Tweet her to say hello!

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