By Angela Donaldson
My initial introduction to the Society of Women Engineers was more a chance of fate than a deliberate action on my part. Sure, I had heard of SWE, it’s hard not to when you’re attending an engineering focused college like the Missouri University of Science and Technology. However, I didn’t fall under the Engineering umbrella as my focus was a technology heavy – Business and Management Systems degree. I never felt like SWE was for me. As it turns out, I was wrong.
My second semester of senior year started out with accepting a Co-Op position at Emerson Electric. On my first day, my director invited me to an Emerson-SWE Lunch. Considering I had first day jitters, it’s rather understandable that I was a little intimidated. I worried for nothing, because the SWE ladies I met were incredibly welcoming! Over the course of my six-month Co-Op, I attended as many SWE meetings as I was able to, but never officially committed to anything. Trying to balance classes while simultaneously working was difficult when the two locations were separated by an hour-and-a-half drive.
As my senior year came to a close, I found myself feeling rather lost. I was graduating and I had been offered a full time position with my Co-Op team. An amazing new chapter of my life was starting to unfold but I had no idea where to start. Millions of questions raced through my head. I’m going into a male-dominated field; how do I gain respect for my abilities in the workplace? What do I do when I’m faced with confrontations? How do I make sure people understand me and know me, for me?
My answer came during a SWE meeting when I learned of the Advance Learning Center and the webinars that covered everything from early career financial planning, earning a graduate degree, and how to be your best. The fact that Emerson was willing to pay the membership fees didn’t hurt either, and so I found myself officially joining SWE.
Over the last year, SWE has helped me grow from an uncertain undergrad, to a confident woman. Through SWE, I have been given opportunities to educate young girls about STEM and what it means to be an engineer. I have gotten to speak with young women who are looking at college for the first time and reassure them it’s okay to be unsure of their future. SWE has given me a place to talk with other like-minded women and share experiences and stories. If I had to do it all over again, the only thing I would change would be joining SWE sooner.