Taila Moore McKelvy
The Society of Women Engineers is the main reason I became inspired to pursue a career as an engineer. I remember being surrounded by women telling me that I can achieve success and now, as a college student, I see those dreams becoming a reality. I am honored to be in SWE’s 2020-21 Collegiate Leadership Institute (CLI). This year-round program will give me the opportunity to advance my skills and grow my leadership abilities, enabling me to one day become a future leader in engineering.
I was ecstatic to receive my acceptance email and be given the chance to grow my professional development and skills in multiple workshops. While the program is virtual this year, I have used the CLI workbook to compile my notes, activities, and reflections. My goals were to gain insight with women in engineering, increase my resilience, and learn to communicate my value to others as I prepare for internships and continue my academic career. After completing the first half of the program, I can say I am on track to exceeding those goals.
These workshops and networking opportunities have given me a sense of community, even virtually, to be surrounded by other female engineers at various moments in their collegiate careers. I was able to determine my personal leadership style and recognize how my strongest attributes can benefit me, but also become detrimental to my goals if I allow stress to take over. Now, I am better equipped to manage my stressors and distance myself from irrational thoughts that feed into my fears. This has led me to feel confident in communicating the skills I have to offer and defining my personal brand.
Between balancing courses in a worldwide pandemic, moving back in with family, and dealing with my existence as a black woman when systemic racism is being recognized on a higher scale than ever before, this year has been nothing short of challenging. Through CLI, I have grown tremendously by realizing my worth as an engineer and challenging the lies of the Imposter Complex, the feeling of not being enough, that so many women in engineering struggle with.
As a woman in engineering, it’s easy to feel as if you do not belong, but as a black woman, those feelings are intensified. In CLI, I was able to pinpoint how my Imposter Complex affects my life, while also recognizing how it’s perpetuated. As I’ve grown into becoming an engineer, my passion and determination is met with obstacles that other students don’t experience as heavily or fully understand. While I push past these obstacles, I know I must stay resilient and recognize the milestones of my success. I have learned to fully accept opportunities that I have earned and not let them pass me by. Instead of allowing myself to be stuck in self-doubt, I celebrate my successes and watch my goals become a reality.
I am excited to attend more sessions to advance my skills and grow with other engineers, for our current and future success. While my SWE journey is just beginning to take off with amazing opportunities, such as this, I am excited to stay inspired and see what’s next.
2020 has been a very different year for all of us, with all the efforts and adjustments we have been doing to mitigate a global pandemic. However a silver lining in this context is that, by moving events and meetings to a virtual platform, there is more opportunity for participation. In the first two weeks of November, I had the opportunity to participate in the SWE Collegiate Leadership Institute (CLI) program activities during the WE20 conference, together with over 150 fellow SWE collegiates members, from all academic levels.
This was my first time attending both the national conference and the CLI program – and I couldn’t be more amazed with the whole experience! Every single detail was planned and coordinated by Camryn Wagner: from creating a workbook and sending it to our homes to managing time for the workshops and posting discussion topics in the Google Classroom platform. The CLI activities went beyond the academic experience from the kick-off, and helped us recognize and develop leadership traits and competencies that are applicable both now, while in college, and for the next steps in our professional careers.
The program started with a speed networking session with SWE mentors, followed by three outstanding workshops, about our personal leadership styles, the imposter complex and the power of personal branding, facilitated by the renowned guest speakers Anne Collier, Tanya Geisler and KL Moore, respectively. We heard testimonies from mentors that showed the importance of the support from their SWEsters throughout their careers and that “SWE for life” is a reality. In fact, there is a sense of community and real sisterhood within SWE that created a great connection between the guests and the participants and made the time fly during all the sessions. We were triggered by insightful presentations and discussion topics, that helped us all get to know more about ourselves, about our peers, and improve our leadership skills from within.
In the wrap-up session, “self-reflection” was the word that resonated the most to describe our CLI experience thus far. It was an exciting kick-off for this year-round professional development program, and I am looking forward to the next activities planned for the remaining of the 2020-2021 year! Until then, happy holidays to our SWE family!
About the Authors
Taila Moore McKelvy is an Industrial Engineering sophomore at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. She is a part of her Society of Women Engineers collegiate section and the 2020-21 Collegiate Leadership Institute with goals to grow in SWE throughout her academic and professional career. Her passion lies in growing as an engineer and outreach to inspire other young girls interested in engineering, just as she was inspired.
Suzane Carniero is a chemical engineer from Brazil, with a master’s degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology (Chicago-IL), and she is currently pursuing her PhD at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). In between graduations, she has over eight years of combined work experience with multinational chemical companies and coordinating environmental and sustainability projects. Suzane became an official SWE member earlier this year, after attending events promoted by the UIC SWE and GradSWE chapters during the first year of her PhD program.
This project is based upon work partially supported by the generosity of Keysight Technologies and General Motors