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WE Local India, 2018 Pune Highlights

SWE Members Shankar Gowda and Rinky Prasad reflect on their experiences from last year’s conference at WE Local Pune in India.

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By: Shankar Gowda and Rinky Prasad from Collins Aerospace, Bangalore

It was that time of the year again – WE Local season – and WE Local is headed to Bengaluru, India 11-13, April, 2019. Hundreds of Women Engineers and a handful of supportive men will come together for an enlightening and enthralling experience.

Registration is now open for WE Local India, Bengaluru. To gear up, SWE members Shankar Gowda and Rinky Prasad share their reflections on last year’s conference and career fair, WE Local India, Pune held 21-23 March, 2018.

This time around, the conference was held for 3 days in Hyatt Regency, Pune from March 21-23, 2018. The venue saw a whopping crowd of over 750 enthusiastic women engineers beaming with energy. While there were young bright minds from college eager to explore the industrial trends on one hand, there were professionals with years of rich experience on the other hand. How could the gathering be complete without the presence of a bunch of eminent male leaders who act as our backbone and help us in establishing and promoting diversity and inclusion in our work environments?

WE Local India, Pune in 2018 saw a great start in the majestic ballroom of the venue filled with hundreds of elegant and passionate women engineers. It indeed felt like the Society of Women Engineers. The event began with inspiring talks by the heads of the Platinum sponsors of the conference, Eaton and Honeywell. It was a matter of pride to see United Technologies being listed as one of the Silver sponsors of the event.

WE Local India, 2018 Pune Highlights

The Opening Keynote was by Ms. Monali Bhalerao, Manager – Engineering, Eaton India Innovation Centre, Pune and Ms. Neelu Khatri, President, Honeywell Aerospace India. It gave the audience goosebumps when Ms. Neelu narrated the story of the young girl from Jabalpur who grew up to become a part of the Indian Air Force, in spite of facing a lot of criticism, bias and discrimination from the male dominated society. That was the inspiring story of none other than Neelu Khatri.

This was followed by the plenary session on Men as diversity partners. The session was led by the FY2018 SWE President, Jonna Gerken, Manager, Manufacturing Engineering, Pratt & Whitney. Among the distinguished male personalities who shared their insights during this session were Mr. Ravishankar Mysore, Vice President, Global Engineering Centre, UTAS. Accompanying him were the Leaders from Boeing, India; Cadence, Pune; General Motors, India; Honeywell, India and Eaton, India.

When asked about how their respective companies supported the culture of diversity, Mr. Ravishankar Mysore proudly spoke about Feminen ERG of UTAS India and its empowering activities. It was a very interesting moment when one of the audiences wanted to know if couples were welcome in their organizations, to which Mr. Ravishankar Mysore gave a witty reply saying that “UTAS doesn’t have a history of recruiting couples, although a lot of employees have become couples after joining the company.” He expressed that this helped in retention of employees. Ravi’s response was received with loud applause.

WE Local India, 2018 Pune HighlightsAnother highlight of the event was a range of stalls put up for exhibition throughout the day by the event sponsors, including United Technologies. Our stall saw a mad rush of college students fascinated by the world of aerospace, most of them looking for internship and job opportunities. The visitors were so excited to know about the kind of diverse work done in UTC. UTAS HR present in the stall shared the details of openings exclusively for women employees with the visitors.

Later the participants distributed themselves among different ballrooms to attend sessions of their choice.

Every session was led by eminent women (and some men) personalities who had gained vast knowledge from their personal and professional experiences.

Few of these sessions and learnings from them can never be forgotten such as the one called Secret Ingredient, delivered by Farina Kidwai from Emerson, who mentioned about the “Trouble tree.” She said that one must always hang their daily troubles/worries onto the trouble tree while switching from office to home or vice versa and not mix up things. The trouble tree could be listening to music for someone, whereas it could be cooking or gymming for someone else. One needs to find out their ideal way of getting rid of daily stress and not letting professional troubles to overshadow their personal lives or the other way.

Another powerful speaker was Ms. Madhujit Singh, CEO and Founder of Ananya – Women@Work. Look at the name of the organization she comes from! We’ve all heard of Men@Work. But Women@Work?? This phrase stands as a symbolic of overcoming unconscious gender bias. That was exactly the topic dealt in the session – Unconscious bias and its impact on women in the workforce. She stressed on the kinds of explicit and implicit biases one comes across in everyday life and how to deal with them, if not solve them. In her session, we heard rebellious voices echoing “I’m a woman and I like travelling alone”, “I’m a woman and I hate cooking.” Bias is definitely going to be dealt in an unbiased way going forward!

How can the SWE President Ms. Jonna Gerken’s roundtable for working moms go unnoticed? The session name suggested that it was for working moms, but it was surprising to find quite a few daddies and unmarried women in the crowd curious to learn from their counterparts. Jonna’s session was definitely the most interactive one with Jonna acting like a spark, facilitating the crowd to voluntarily share their learnings and experiences related to successful parenting. Towards the end of the session, the moms and dads were split into groups based on their little one’s ages. So, there we had a group of parents of teenagers on one side and a group of parents of infants on the other. Each group had their individual knowledge sharing sessions. Very important points came out during this such as setting priorities right, how to converse with a kid, why not to scare the kids with false stories, being role models for the kids, being a friend to the kids, etc. Probably that was a little too much information to digest for the unmarried!

Apart from these, there were several other sessions which taught more about the art of delegation, nonlinear career strategies, emerging technologies and an ending plenary discussion on human intelligence vs artificial intelligence, its impacts etc.

All in all, the days spent at WE Local India, Pune were indeed rewarding with the immense knowledge and experience gained from the interactions with superwomen and supermen from the engineering sector.

To register for WE Local India, Bengaluru, visit the WE Local website.

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