FY20 SWE Global Ambassador Rishika Shekhawat speaks to Rupali Patil, President of SWE Affiliate Pune, about her experience attending and presenting at WE19 in Anaheim, California. Hear Rupali’s thoughts about the benefits of attending a SWE Annual Conference.
Rishika: How was the experience of participating/presenting in the WE19 conference this year?
Rupali: SWE Conferences offer professional development and networking opportunities dedicated to women engineers. This year’s theme was “WE Live. WE Learn. WE Lead.” and offered 250+ professional development sessions in the form of keynote speakers, mega and plenary panel sessions, lightning talks and events with mix of leadership development and emerging technologies topics. Keynote speakers from Medtronic, 3M and Disney talked about their career journeys and how to leverage SWE to a build support system to help you aspire and advance in your career. Key messages from keynote speakers on asking powerful questions with grace in order to navigate difficult discussions and “build your squad” at work resonated with attendees. Keynote speaker Carol Malnati also spoke about the role of women in innovation. This set tone for my lightening talk on “Demystifying Innovation: A Designer’s Perspective.” My session discussed key barriers for innovation journey based on a research survey of 100+ R&D engineers and shared actionable learning through the “IDEA innovation framework.”
The session was well received and generated more discussion about idea books, patenting and design thinking. It was an experience of stretching my own limits and moving out of my comfort zone. I have learned a lot as an attendee and as a speaker.
Rishika: How important is participating/presenting in SWE conferences for you?
Rupali: Along with a job offer at John Deere, I received a John Deere newsletter nine years ago. It had a cover page article on innovation and last page article about WomenREACH – John Deere’s women employees resource group. In my first role at Larsen and Toubro, I was introduced to the concept of innovation and filed multiple patents as part of technology team. Being the daughter of a farmer in India, I valued the role of education and technology in women’s empowerment. When I read those articles in the John Deere newsletter, I saw a myriad of possibilities for my dreams and aspirations. Fast forward to today, presenting about innovation at the world’s largest conference and career fair for women in engineering and technology, WE19 is amalgamation of those possibilities and no less than dreams coming true for me personally. It gives me confidence to believe in my strengths and contribute my best for my mission in this life.
Rishika: Which session(s) did you like most? What were the key learnings?
- Asking powerful questions with grace: “Can you help me understand?”
- Needing more women in innovation — to bring strength of collaboration and connectedness, fuel diverse perspectives, and disrupt the majority
- How not to misjudge your boss: see things from their perspective, get all the facts, give them the benefit of the doubt
- Not being afraid to ask for help: build your squad (people who support you and “have your back”)
- Not envying someone else’s gifts: don’t let our differences become a point of disconnection
- Assuming bias against women: look at data points, don’t immediately resort to bias, look for the tailwinds (it’s never about what is said, it’s about intent; assume good intent and choose to be optimistic) – if you focus on headwinds, your energy will be drained. If you focus on tailwinds, SWE is the one!
Rishika: What has been the key takeaway in your journey in SWE? How would you describe your journey so far?
Rupali: I have been involved with the SWE since 2012, currently serving as the President of SWE Pune Affiliate and honored with a SWE Distinguished New Engineer Award in 2018. Things that drive me to continue with SWE are inspiration, development and giving back to the Society. Through SWE, I have met many role models from different parts of the world, learned many invaluable lessons to advance my career goals, and gotten the opportunity to expand the positive image of engineering to young girls and society in general.
My key takeaway from my SWE journey is to know what you are looking for when you take any role, position, or initiative. You appreciate the value of that experience more if you are intentional about it.
Rishika: Anything you would like to share to our budding talent out there, who might wish to participate in upcoming SWE conferences?
Rupali: Pre-work! Allow enough time in advance to prepare for the conference. Think about your reason for participation, prepare your schedule of sessions you want to attend, check the LinkedIn profiles of keynote speakers and connect with them. Find out areas of technology you want learn about and connect with the speakers of those technologies.
About the interviewer:
Rishika Shekhawat is a Lead Engineer in Compact Utility Tractors in John Deere Technology Center, India. She has completed her undergraduate studies at VNIT, Nagpur in India and Master of Technology in Design Engineering at BITS Pilani, India. She is also a certified by the International Fluid Power Society (IFPS) as a Hydraulics Specialist. Rishika joined and participated in SWE activities for the first time as an employee at John Deere India. Inspired by SWE’s vision and mission, she has successfully participated with increasing responsibilities in SWE events at JDTCI, Pune and then JDCP, Augusta. She is now a Global Ambassador for FY20.
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