by Tasha Kamegai-Karadi, P.E.
With WE16 coming to a close, I’m reflecting on how much SWE has been influential to me in my personal life and in my career. After graduating from UC Berkeley and moving to a state where I didn’t know anyone, SWE became my connection to a social network, gave me an outlet to stretch my leadership skills, and provided me the opportunity to give back as a mentor. Starting the Hawaiian Islands Section, where I was living, Pearl Yamaguchi taught me about team dynamics, thinking strategically, connecting with people, and that even though I had learned so much in school, I had so much more to learn to be successful in my career. With her help and support, I took on my next big challenge of applying to graduate school and was fortunate to be accepted to my top choice with an offer of a full fellowship. When I moved back to Northern California to attend graduate school at Stanford University, SWE was there for me, yet again, as a social network and avenue to give back to the community. And, when my mother passed away suddenly at the age of 47, my SWEesters supported me with words of love and empathy.
Just shy of two years with my current company, I moved to Orange County while my partner finished his degree, and my SWE network was there for me. The first thing I did when I started planning my move was contact to the Orange County SWE section to volunteer. The current President at that time, Paola Chavira, and Vice President Nadia Bess welcomed me quickly, embraced my ideas, and encouraged me to stretch my skills in new leadership roles. Paola gave me the opportunity to become the Section Representative, which led me to connecting with Stephanie Loete. Stephanie gave me the opportunity to be the Mentoring Programs Chair with Susan Young, which connected me to a number of senior and junior women that have influenced me. Nadia encouraged me to take more challenges than I can count. Because of those roles that I held, my network along with my leadership abilities have grown exponentially. With these leadership experiences in SWE, I found my voice, have been recognized for my accomplishments, and have been pushed outside of my comfort zone which has translated into confidence and rapid advancement in my career.
I felt the full force of the SWE network again this year at WE16 – from meeting Sandy Postel for the first time who in just minutes made me feel empowered and inspired to push myself as a leader – to meeting a woman whose subtle body language indicated that she had been having a difficult day and absolutely needed a hug and comfort which I offered eagerly. And, of course, I felt the force of my SWE network in catching up with my life long SWEesters and brainstorming how we are going to continue driving change in our companies and communities through SWE.
As I sit on my flight home and reflect on these valuable relationships, I’m deeply appreciative of how SWE has been such a positive force in my life. #SWEisMyConstant