How To Network As An International Student

Happy Monday!

This post is meant to give you some tips on how to network with industry professionals and other students either at a conference, career fair or a social event. I was not very accustomed to doing this when I first moved to the US and I am most certainly not an expert at it now, but I’ve learned a few things over the past couple years:

  • Have a few brief lines about yourself prepared in advance so that you’re not fumbling when you first introduce yourself to someone. Being international already sets you up to be perceived as someone who may not be very fluent in *American* English, so do what you can to sound as prepared as possible.
  • If you’re a graduate researcher or have a significant student body position, it might be a good idea to get business cards printed to hand out at events. Leaving someone with a business card gives them the chance to look at your information in writing instead of second guessing your possibly very international name!
  • Speaking of names, if yours is extremely hard to pronounce outside of your native country, it might be a better option to come up with a clever acronym, or even an American version of your name (if you’re comfortable with it) so that recruiters spend less time trying to say your name and more focussing on your achievements. This also helps making new international friends easier.
  • Ask for clarification on a topic of discussion if what the other person said to you wasn’t clear (particularly because of their different accent). It is always better to reiterate than to pretend you understood them and not be able to respond appropriately.
  • Pay attention to what you say to someone from a culture that’s very different from your own. You might offend them without meaning to by simply not knowing what is considered offensive in their culture.
  • Try to steer away from controversial political matters unless it was the other person that brought it up. A lot of countries are less fortunate to have an unstable government and that could spark unwarranted conversations while networking.
  • Add the person you met on LinkedIn, Facebook or any other appropriate form of social network depending on the circumstances you met in. There is not point in networking if they aren’t eventually a part of your online network.
  • Smile! It is an internationally accepted symbol of friendship 🙂

Negotiating Your Offer Letter

We know the gender pay gap exists. In 2016, women made 76 cents for every dollar men made. There are a lot of factors that cause this gap. This blog post focuses on what you can negotiate in your next offer letter.

Do Your Research
You just interviewed for a job that fits you perfectly. What now? Do you homework, research which items you may be able to negotiate.
Here are a list of suggested steps in your research.
  • Average salary for that job title in your area.
  • Salary range is comparing large cities to more rural locations.
  • Sites to checkout payscale, glassdoor and indeed.
  • Talk to mentors, colleagues or others in your field about how best to negotiate.
Plan Your Discussion
  • Review the job description and requirements:
    • What skills will you need to develop?
    • What additional skills do you bring?
  • What is your range?
    • Do you have a lower limit, know it and stick to it!
  • Is there an option for a bonus?
    • If you prove yourself in a year, can you get a 2% bonus?

Other Things To Be Negotiated
Usually the conversation about negotiation is focused only on salary, however there are other parts of the job offer to be discussed.

  • Vacation days, personal days, sick days
  • Health insurance – if you have it through someone else or another program, you dont need to pay into to it.
  • 401k matching, how much do they match?
  • Career development support – will they pay for you to go to conference or take a class

Tips For Negotiation

  • Be reasonable, ask for what fits the job responsibilities and you.
  • Anything can be negotiated. The worst outcome is they say no.
  • Know your worth, dont settle for less than you deserve.
  • Do you have a lower salary limit, know it and stick to it!
  • Keep your salary amount to yourself. You can deal in percentages, “I asked for 5% more.”
  • Practice the conversation with a friend or family member to get comfortable. Talking about money can be uncomfortable, work past that feeling.
  • Some companies do not negotiate salary. They calculate based on degrees, years of experience and title.


A SWEet Start to the New Year!

Happy 2018 to All!

It is a new year which can indicate new beginnings or a fresh start on resolutions and/or goals.  There is no time like the present to get started on all the things you may have considered or thought about last year or even in the last few weeks.

In this regard, it is a new year to consider graduate school and/or maximize your graduate school experience.  SWE expands further on these graduate school resources including strategies throughout your graduate school journey, steps in applying and funding sources to consider in graduate school.

Speaking of funding sources, its a new year to apply for SWE scholarships .  The SWE scholarship application system for the 2018-2019 academic year is officially open and scholarships are available for freshmen through graduate student levels.  Scholarship applications, particularly for graduate students, are due February 15th.  So make sure you submit an application today!

This new year also brings new opportunities to network at WE Locals.  WE Local conferences brings together participants in all stages of their collegiate and/or professional journeys with a host of professional development workshops, inspirational speakers, networking opportunities and outreach activities.  With WE Local Tulsa just wrapping up, the next couple ones approaching are WE Local Phoenix and WE Local Milwaukee.  Check out the upcoming WE Local schedule to identify the next one, near you!

And 2018 is also a new year to be recognized for your efforts and a chance to acknowledge the works of others with SWE Individual Awards.  Nominations are currently open to advance and honor the contributions of SWE members and individuals enhancing the engineering profession through contributions to industry, education and the community. Be sure to check out the latest information on the SWE Individual Awards and make your nominations by the March 31st deadline.

Go ahead and take those steps into new opportunities, maximizing experiences and reaching resolutions this year.  Make it a SWEet start in the New Year!


Safe Space Calls: A forum to discuss bias and harassment

Have you ever felt the effects of gender bias in your STEM discipline? Or worse, have you ever experienced sexual harassment? These are difficult issues to tackle on your own, as a victim or a bystander. If you are looking to discuss these issues with your colleagues, but are unsure if you want to open up to your immediate co-workers, the GradSWE safe space calls are the perfect option for you. Callers can easily remain anonymous while also revealing personal details about these trials. The purpose of these calls is to give callers a platform to discuss these issues. Groups of 5-10 GradSWE participants will be formed based on the survey results, and the calls will be scheduled accordingly.


In order to help ease into some of these topics, we will also be collecting stories about microaggressions, biases, or harassments you may have experienced. The calls will begin by discussing these scenarios, and conversation will spin off from here. These calls are an incredibly useful way to step back from your experiences and truly evaluate what was wrong, and how you can help to address it efficiently should it occur again. Other callers may have had similar experiences and found clever ways to deal with these microaggressions that could help you too!  To participate in this supportive, community event, please fill out the survey below. Feel free to contact Carolyn Chlebek (call organizer) with any questions or concerns at


Present a We18: Join our planning call

Present at WE18! Call for Proposal is Open!

Save the date for our WE18 grad programming kickoff meeting, February 8, 9 pm ET.

If you enjoyed participating in the Graduate Community sessions at WE17 or have ideas on how to improve the grad sessions for WE18, we invite you to dial into our community-wide teleconference! This call is to brainstorm and plan ideas for grad-focused sessions at WE18. You could be part of leading a session! The call will be hosted by Megan Beck (Graduate Programming Coordinator) and Mujan Seif (Graduate Programming Coordinator-Elect).

Who: You, yes

Date: Thursday, February 8

Time: 9:00 pm Eastern (8:00 Central, 7:00 Mountain, 6:00 Pacific)

Phone Number: 605-472-5492
Access Code: 689159


Session Idea Form: (please submit prior to the meeting on Feb 8)

Submit your final session proposal for WE18, SWE’s Annual Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 18-20, 2018 here! The deadline for proposals is Friday, March 9.

If you have any questions, contact our new Graduate Programming email address at

How to Interview

You are interviewing for your dream job, how do you prepare? Every email, phone call or interview conversation you have with the recruiter or company is important.

The basic list of topics are found below:

  • Review your resume
  • Review the job description
  • Research the company
  • Practice the STAR interviewing method

Everyone prepares for interview differently.  I spend a lot of time researching the people and the company. Personally, I have found the following to be critical:

  • Research the interviewers through Linkedin
  • Prepare specific questions for each interviewer
  • Try to determine the following through the interview:
    • The leadership style of your manager.
    • The work environment.
    • The overall atmosphere of the company.

If possible finish all your prep for the interview in the afternoon before. This will allow you to relax the night before the interview. Day of the interview

  • Leave an extra half an hour early
  • Find a local coffee place where you can go if you are early
  • Stay positive and focused the entire interview – turn off or completely silence your phone
  • Take notes while each person is talking
  • Give business cards to each person
  • Follow-up within 24 hours with a thank you email to all interviewers whose contact information you have. Your notes will help to make each email individualized.

The most overlooked step is making sure to interview the employees of the company. Do not be afraid to ask the tough questions. When you are talking to other employees, try to determine the work environment. What is my ideal manager? How will I grow under the leadership?

Overall, if you want to have a good interview, you must prepare.

International Student – Interview

Hello everyone! For today’s post I decided to interview my friend and classmate, Sara Alkayali Alalam. Sara was an international student who grew up in Saudi Arabia and now works in technology consulting. I hope her perspective provides information as well as inspiration to any of you that are either looking to pursue your Master’s degree in the US or are looking for job opportunities as an international student!

1. When did you move to the US and from where?

I moved to the United States in August 2014 after completing a Bachelors in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the American University of Beirut in Lebanon.

2. Why did you pick UT and your specific Master’s degree?

I decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering, specifically Construction Engineering and Project Management, in the University of Texas at Austin (UT) primarily because I believed that graduating from a top school would open up opportunities for me and will be essential for my future plans, and I was right. When I was in the program, I applied for the Impact KAEC Challenge in Saudi Arabia, and had the opportunity to visit KAEC (the King Abdullah Economic City) and present at CityQuest’14 (where Dirk Ahlborn, Hyperloop Technologies CEO, presented as well!). After graduating from UT, I started working for a great company (more on that later). The UT Civil Engineering Master’s program also allowed a level of flexibility in course choices, so I was able to tailor my classes to fit my interests. For example, I was able to take a few operations research classes as well.

3. What challenges did you face while settling into the American lifestyle when you first moved here?

Everything closes so early here! In the Middle East, it is perfectly fine to start dinner at 10pm. However, to my surprise, the first week I came to the United States, I found out most restaurants close around 10pm. I had to sleep on empty stomach several times. With time, I adjusted my eating schedule (I now have dinner at 7pm), and I found out what restaurants are open late. Time in general was a difficulty, there is a 7 to 9 hour difference between Austin, Texas and where my family and friends live in the Middle East, which was hard to navigate at first. After a few weeks, I figured out the best times to call home (early in the morning or late at night).

4. What made you want to live in the US after graduation?

The United States offers many opportunities, professionally and academically, for people who work hard, and that is the type of culture I wanted to grow my career in. Unfortunately, in the Middle East, it is still difficult (though not impossible) for women to pursue high-powered careers.

5. Where do you work and do you enjoy it? Does it relate to your Master’s degree?

I currently work as a Business Technology Analyst for Deloitte Consulting LLP in Austin, Texas. I love my job! Although my day to day activities do not relate directly to my Master’s degree, my Master’s degree provided me with the analytical, problem solving, and organizational skills I need for my consulting position. In addition, since I work in technology consulting, rather than consulting in general, being an engineer has helped me navigate the technical aspects of my job.

6. What advice do you have for women across the world that are hoping to pursue their Master’s degree in the US?

a. Look into whether the program you are applying to is course work intensive or research intensive, or if there are several options (examples: MS vs. ME) before applying, and pick the program that fits you and your goals.
b. Contact students who are currently in the program before accepting the offer. You would be surprised at the amount of insight they will give you. As an added bonus, you can make a friend before you move to the new city and ask about other things like housing.
c. If you already know what company or industry you want to work in, try to attend a university close to or in an area where that company or industry is thriving. It is often easier to find jobs when you are in the same area.

7. What advice do you have for international students that want to find jobs in the US?

a. If you plan on approaching a company in a career fair, do your research – sometimes, it is better not to go to the booth at all than to go unprepared.
b. If there is an info session for a company you are interested in, arrive early and chat with the presenters. They are more likely to remember you that way than if you join the endless line of people with questions at the end of the info session.
c. Connections are a great way to find opportunities. That’s why it is a good idea to do your masters in a place where you have access to industry. If you meet someone from a company you are interested in working for, invite them for coffee!
d. Start applying for jobs one semester before you graduate. i.e. if you graduate in May, start your job search in September. Many careers, consulting for example, have early recruiting cycles, and you may miss out on opportunities if you start your job search the semester you are graduating.

8. What are your future plans?

I will (hopefully) start pursuing a PhD in Civil Engineering next Fall. I had just finished completing my applications before the New Year, and I am waiting for answers. I hope to eventually become a professor at a top tier university!