SWE Senate’s Leadership Pipeline Strategic Initiative Sub-Team Update

FY20 SWE Senator, Cassie Zook, provides updates on the work that the three phases the Leadership Pipeline Strategic Initiative Sub-Team is working on.
Get to Know SWE Senate’s Leadership Pipeline Sub-Team

“SWE Senate’s Leadership Pipeline Strategic Initiative Sub-Team Update” was written by Cassie Zook,  FY20 SWE Senator.


When this sub-team formed, I honestly thought we wouldn’t even need the whole year to generate actionable recommendations. I could not have been more wrong! SWE has so many resources and directions a member can take their SWE career, but it can be very overwhelming to figure out where to start or how to find your next step. If you recall from earlier this year, the Leadership Pipeline Sub-team set out to evaluate how we can increase and diversify the pool of current and future leaders that serve in SWE.

We reached out to members, Affinity Groups, and some SWE Groups for input. We researched existing resources within SWE and past recommendations through efforts like the Governance Implementation Plan to find out where we could connect existing dots and where we could draw new ones! Through all this research, the Leadership Pipeline Sub-team developed a phased approach for our recommendations comprised of Phase One – Short Term, Phase Two – Medium Term, and Phase Three – Long Term.

Phase One- Short Term

Recommendations falling under Phase One are recommendations that we felt could be implemented immediately with no or relatively low cost. Many of these incorporate existing resources and information that members simply may not be aware of or struggle to find.

Some of these recommendations include:
  • Creating a consolidated, easily accessible page of resources on the SWE website.
  • Changing the “Call for Nominations” to be more service-oriented and include a call to action asking members to encourage non-SWE leaders to apply, ensuring we get greater access to diverse viewpoints.
  • Special Q&A sessions for the Affinity Groups to go over the nominations and slating process, ensuring greater awareness and participation from those member groups.
  • More communication about the nomination and slating process including info-graphics, Leadership Competency blog posts, and SWE Leadership “A day in the life” blog posts or videos.
  • Creating a consistent set of position descriptions for all Society level leadership positions including ties to what the relevant Leadership Competencies are.
  • Encouraging special Nominations Themed LCC Virtual Office Hours.
  • Increasing conference communication so members know where they can meet SWE Leaders and where they can provide feedback to SWE Leadership.
  • Update the Leadership Competency Self Assessment to include volunteer positions in the Profession Development Recommendations.
  • Adding a Key Performance Indicator related to the diversity of our nomination candidates so we can measure if we are reaching the appropriate audience for participation in SWE Leadership.
  • Create a dedicated HQ liaison for the Affinity Groups to create a consistent year over year experience and ensure their needs are being addressed.

Phase Two- Medium Term

Recommendations in Phase Two consist of actions that require research or evaluation of alternatives. This work takes time and resources, so they may not be able to implement immediately and fall into the medium-term timeframe. There is only one recommendation for Phase Two and that involves researching software options for leadership tracking. Think of this as a SWE LinkedIn, a way that members can track their SWE participation that also serves as a way to identify the skills and experience needed to fill gaps when they arise. A resource like this will allow nominators to identify “quiet leaders” or even external leaders who have valuable skills and would serve if asked but may not volunteer themselves without knowing they are needed.

Phase Three- Long Term 

Phase Three consists of recommendations that require significant resources to implement or rely on research and evaluation completed in Phase Two. The first of these recommendations include implementing the preferred leadership tracking software identified during Phase Two. The second recommendation is to conduct an independent evaluation of the nomination and slating process. While there are many good reasons why the nomination and slating process has evolved into its current state, the Leadership Pipeline Sub-team recommends hiring an independent group to do an analysis of SWE’s process, as well as the nomination and slating process of similar organizations, to identify whether our process is successful in its current state, could use some modifications, or needs a wholesale revamping. SWE has previously used independent evaluations to benchmark its position in comparison to similar organizations, most notably with work related to the governance changes and branding. It is important that the group conducting the analysis be independent of SWE in order to prevent unconscious bias since most of the SWE members who would likely end up on such an evaluation team were likely put into their position through the existing process.

As I learned throughout this year, strengthening and diversifying SWE’s Leadership Pipeline is not a simple or quick task, but rather a series of thoughtful actions. Ensuring a robust leadership pipeline is a responsibility we all share and a goal I think we all want, so I want to challenge each of you with the following: Who can you lift up?

I also want to take this time to thank the FY20 SWE Senate Leadership Pipeline Sub-Team for all their hard work.  I have learned from these members, been inspired by them, and been challenged by them to grow as a person and as a SWE leader. I would also like to thank the many SWE groups and members who answered our questions, provided feedback, and were patient with us as we worked through our recommendations.

Cassie Zook (she/her) – Senator
Denise Soria (she/her) – Senator
Linda Thomas (she/her) – Senator
Julie Ellen Acosta (she/her) – Special Senator
Cindy Hoover (she/her) – SWE President
Alexis McKittrick (she/her) – Speaker of the Senate
Cherie Cain (she/her) – Senate Secretary
Kerrie Greenfelder(she/her)  – Director
Andrea Clewley (she/her) – Director


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Author(s) Information

  • SWE Senate’s Leadership Pipeline Strategic Initiative Sub-Team Update SWE Senate Cassie Zook, SWE FY20 Senator

    Cassie Zook is a SWE Senator serving the first of a three-year term in FY20. She has been a volunteer leader in SWE and other organizations for over 8 years. Cassie works for the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division in Pennsylvania supporting and innovating the steering and propulsion control systems on the Navy’s aircraft carriers.

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