The SWE Leadership Competency Model, What’s Next for Leaders in SWE, and FY19 Call for Society Nominations

The SWE Leadership Competency Model, What’s Next for Leaders in SWE, and FY19 Call for Society Nominations

Hi SWE Grads!

I wanted to make my post this week something fruitful for future society leaders, as well as a bit of a personal story about SWE from me to you.    This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the SWE Region F Leadership Summit in Essex Junction, VT at Globalfoundries.

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We discussed many of the governance changes and bylaws amendments that are coming up (See our Facebook   for links, SWE Governance Website or an All Together Article about the Bylaws Proposals for more info).  But, one of the things that was a really informative, and stuck with me was a talk given by SWE President Jonna Gerken, called “What’s Next in SWE for Me?”

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Jonna did a great job of discussing how SWE as a whole is starting to embrace the idea of non-traditional paths to leadership, and how leaders from these paths have a lot of diverse perspective to offer the society.  This resonates with me in particular, because I (like many of you, SWE Grads) have never been a section president.  Up until the point where I became a Region Grad Rep in Region F, I had never held an official SWE position!  I did champion and lead grass roots efforts to increase membership in SWE, but I never did it in an official capacity.  Now, I have been an RGR, Graduate Member Coordinator, Region Collegiate Senator, and am part of several society and region based committees!   An unconventional path, but a lot of knowledge and insight can be gained sometimes, especially when you go down The Road Not Taken.

So – why am I bringing this up now?  I get to talk to a lot of SWE members that are looking to improve themselves, and want to become more involved with leadership opportunities in the society.   Jonna’s talk highlighted something called SWE’s Leadership Competency Model which is a model used by the society to help members develop leadership skills.  The model highlights 5 core competencies, including:

  • Communication
  • Self-Management
  • Business Acumen
  • Leadership Abilities
  • Mentoring, Coaching, and Sponsorship

SWE believes in this model, and uses it as a way to assess present, or future leaders in the society!   It is also a way to present positive feedback, and give others a way to work on their skills where they may need some help.  Two of the resources that SWE provides are things that could even be used to help you with your career/ personal path.

I’ll start by highlighting the Leadership Development Plan and Vision Statement Template.  This is a document that provides an instructive way to help you see what your leadership goals are, and how you can achieve them!    You can use this template to answer questions like, “Where do I want to take my Career?”  for professional development or “What is my ultimate objective and leadership goal within SWE?”  I have also used this resource for things like “What is the highest mountain I will climb next year?” or “What fitness level do I want to achieve?”  Each of these gives the template a little bit of a spin, but it does help you create a strategic plan to answer all of these questions!   The guide then takes you through a series of questions, and gets you to list the actions you will take, the obstacles you may face, what strengths and resources you can leverage to achieve your goal, and how to hold yourself accountable to reach it.  Overall, a great way to help you look at your goals in a new light.  For me – it also helped me realize that if I couldn’t answer some of these items, I wasn’t sure how invested in the goal I truly was.

Now that you have a goal, though, what do we actually use to assess ourselves on, and how can we do it?  SWE provides this handy Leadership Competency Model Evaluation Spreadsheet to help you with just that!  I know that many of you sit there and take quizzes to see if places like Buzzfeed can tell you, “What Type of Pizza Are You?” Although this isn’t nearly as delicious, 10 minutes out of your day may give you some perspective on which of these five categories you are a rockstar in, and which you may want some more resources to help you learn more about.


The best part is that it’s simple to use – and gives you a list of all competencies on the tab labeled “Dashboard.”  Once you self assess, and determine if you feel the need to improve in an area, you can take a look at the “PD” tab, for the Professional Development Content SWE provides to help move forward in those categories.  Remember though:  Watching a webinar from SWE’s awesome Advanced Learning Center on something like Being a Thought Leader may be a great start to your leadership development in some areas – it isn’t going to happen overnight.  You need to internalize the changes you want to make, and be proactive in utilizing the tools in every day life to truly improve.


FY19 Nominations for Society Leadership

Now that we’ve discussed some of these awesome tools, I want to highlight one way that you could use them in the future.  Recently, a call for FY19 Society Nominations may have crossed your inbox if you are a Professional Member, or a Collegiate Senator.  This does apply to some of GradSWE’s membership, as half of grad students choose to identify as professional members in the society!  Although you may not be part of that group, I’m still choosing highlighting this information as your Grad Member Coordinator because there are a few collegiates that this post may still pertain to, as they may have the leadership experience/ the passion to nominate themselves, or others, to a position in the society.  Also – this is something that you could use, if your Vision Statement and Goals point you toward future society leadership in SWE.

What is on the slate for FY19 Nomination?  

Slated positions available for nomination are:

  • President-Elect
  • Treasurer
  • Director (3 positions available)
  • Trustee (3 positions available)
  • Deputy Speaker of the Senate
  • Senate Secretary

How does this involve me now (if I am a collegiate), and in the future?:

Remember how I told you before that we are proposing Bylaws Changes?  One of these changes will allow all collegiates voting rights in SWE.   According to The Eligibility Requirements in the SWE Bylaws for Elected Positions, voting members of the society have the eligibility to run for these positions!   Although some region leadership opportunities may go away if these bylaws changes go into effect, you may one day be able to nominate for these society positions, or positions as committee chairs/ chair-elects, too!

Regardless, your vote could change the outcomes as early as this FY19 slate, which is an exciting thing for SWE if the Bylaws Changes are accepted!  The eligibility requirements do ask for specific experience for different positions, though, so you need to be aware of what leadership requirements may be before you nominate.

What do they use to evaluate leadership?

Ah, here’s the tie in – SWE uses the leadership competencies that they resourcefully teach us about to help pick the slate for nomination!  Beyond meeting eligibility requirements, candidates are vetted by the Society Nominating Committee to understand where they stand with each of the competencies and pick the best group of nominees that they can.  It’s important to understand though, that SWE doesn’t want leaders that are necessarily strong in all competencies.   The power of diversity is important, and having a diverse body can happen when you have different strengths and weaknesses.


I want to nominate myself, another leader, or be nominated in the future.  What do I do?

If you are ready to nominate now, you need to fill out the Candidate Consent Form and Nomination Form.  Do it soon!  It’s due September 28th.

For those of you that are striving for leadership in SWE in the future – reach out to people who are currently serving.  Reach out to GradSWE and let us know that you are interested in understanding the SWE Career Paths available to you!  Reach out to the Senate and Committee leaders and ask them what it’s like to be involved, and how you can be involved in the future.  We exist and thrive because many SWE leaders take time to build relationships with future leaders and help preserve the leadership pipeline by educating them in SWE, and in professional pursuits.

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I leave you with this photo – RPI Alumni at all different stages of their personal, professional and SWE lives!  I became more involved in SWE because some of the women in this photo invested their time and attention in helping me develop as a SWE leader.  “What’s Next in SWE for Me?”  I don’t know yet, Jonna – but I know now that I have the tools, the resources, and the mentorship to figure it out!







Ten Tips to Prep for Your First Career Fair in America

Hello international students (and others!). If you moved to the US for Fall 2017, I hope your transition was easy and you’ve settled into the American university lifestyle well. Feel free to reach out to the international team with any questions by emailing

Today’s post is going to cover a topic that might be a bit too late for some of you but could still help you for the Spring career fair. So here are the top ten tips to help you prepare for your first career fair in America:

  • Refresh your resume to include the most relevant information to the job you’re applying for
  • Know your resume inside out, down to the details such as names of managers on previous jobs
  • Print multiple copies of your resume on good quality paper and have it ready to hand out when you’re at a stall
  • Prepare a short 1-2 minute introduction that tells the employer who you are, what skills you have, and why you’re interested in the position
  • Scout for employers that sponsor international students if you’re on an F1 visa looking to apply for an H1B. Do not waste time standing in long lines of employers that are not interested in hiring internationals
  • If you have work experience, refer to it as international project experience if you see fit as that could be a point that sets you apart from others
  • Have a notepad to make notes of the order in which you speak to employers and if there are any follow-up items specific to them
  • Take a business card from everyone you speak to and write a thank you email to them the same day
  • Make sure the folder you’re carrying around at the career fair looks clean and presentable
  • Dress in comfortable formal clothes and wear shoes that let you hustle in and out of stalls fast


Tidy up your Resume NOW!

Hi All!!

WE17 is quickly approaching and if you’re anything like me, you have a ton of things going on. Despite the craziness, I would advise you to start straightening out your resume now….a little each week leading up to conference would be best.

So here are a few helpful tips as you prepare:

  1. Start by creating a list of your most recent activities and accomplishments; add these to your resume.
  2. Visit the WE17 website ( to get more details on the companies attending the Career Fair and make a list of the ones you’re interested in.
  3. Visit the Career Services Center on your campus for some assistance.
  4. Be sure to use buzzwords…words specific to the position(s) you’re interested in; be prepared to have more than one version of your resume.
  5. Update all components to your resume: Contact Information, Objective, Education, Work Experience, Projects, Technical Skills, Organizations, Awards, and References.
  6. Try to be concise and keep your resume down to 1-2 pages.
  7. Don’t forget to bring several copies to the career fair; you will have the opportunity to make copies at conference.

Also, be able to talk about yourself…the first statement you will typically hear at a Career Fair is “Hi, Tell me about yourself.”

Lastly, be professional and confident! See you all at WE17!!

Make Use of Your GradSWE Support and Your SWE Voice

For more than six decades, SWE has given women engineers a unique place and voice within the engineering industry -this is true for those collegiate and professionals at the graduate level as well.

I read several articles recently highlighting the harsh reality indicating women often leave the male dominated field of engineering.  A commonality among women who left the field revealed concerns in the culture with negative group dynamics and often feeling marginalized throughout their educational and workforce experiences.  Suggestions to combat this environment were not only advancing engineering education standards, but also addressing gendered expectations in engineering programs and ultimately in the workforce.

This aligns greatly to the support GradSWE and our SWE network offers in this initiative.  For starters, SWE serves as a voice and outlet for women throughout different stages in their career and education.   SWE partners and collaborates with corporations to continue vouching for diversity initiatives in different types of organizations.

To experience this support and voice empowerment for yourself, check out the reputable annual  we17  conference.  Many conference workshops and sessions are geared directly in this initiative in supporting women to navigate through the reality of challenging work environments whether at internships, co-ops, and in your academic departments. Not only can the struggles as women in the field be discussed, but also women of different races, ethnic backgrounds and cultural differences can be shared and collaborated on in order to empower one another going forward.

A few examples of these sessions at we17 in Austin, Texas, USA include:

A Woman Among Men: Thriving in a Male-Dominated Workforce [Inclusion and Cultural Awareness Session]

  • Held on Thursday, October 26th @ 3:15pm-4:15pm

Advocates for Women Engineers in the Global Marketplace: Partnering with SWE for Success [Advocating for Change Session]

  • Held on Friday, October 27th @ 10:00am-11:15am

Empowering Women of Color in Academia – The Missing Conversation on Unspoken Challenges [Women in Academia Session]

  • Held on Saturday, October 28th @ 2:45pm-3:45pm

More details on locations/changes will be provided in conference agenda -be sure to check for these sessions and many, many more.

Furthermore, GradSWE support these efforts with structured leadership roles advocating in diversity and inclusion as well as international engagement information for members. SWE also acknowledges further commitment with embracing diversity in order to work collaboratively and support each one another with various Affinity groups.  And by no means, does the efforts stop there –you too can be a part of the discussion and GradSWE can help in developing your ideas further! We are a network of women with years of experience and knowledge eager to uplift women in aspiring, advancing and achieving their dreams.  Be fearless GradSWE!

Create an effective LinkedIn profile today!

LinkedIn is similar to a professional Facebook. It is a powerful networking and industry research tool. It is a great platform for professional networking and provides additional features (more than a resume).

Here are some tips to create a strong LinkedIn profile and utilize the available resources:

  • Important areas to highlight in the profile page:
    • Photo: It is strongly encouraged that you have a professional photo on LinkedIn because people feel more comfortable connecting with you when they can see a photo.
    • Headline: Create a keyword rich headline based on career interests that will attract the attention of recruiters.
    • Skills & Expertise: Highlight your skills and get endorsed by people within your network.
    • Recommendations: This is one of the reasons LinkedIn is better than just a resume because the recruiter/hiring manager is able to see recommendations from past supervisors, co-workers, etc.
    • Include Experience, Education, Projects, Publications (links to online publications), Courses, Honors and Awards, Location (where you want to get hired).
  • Use the LinkedIn platform to people/members who graduated with similar degrees to identify industries/career fields/employers.
  • You can find connections and get introduced through them to people in their network.
  • Important things to remember:
    • Get a customizable URL
    • Utilize your summary space
    • Post, like, share daily to reach a larger audience
    • Just like a resume—use numbers!
    • Remember to update your profile with a new job/skill
    • Don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations
    • Don’t connect with people you’ve never met without an introduction
  • Resources:


Grad Member Spotlight: April L. Keene

April Keene

April L. Keene

MS Electrical Engineering, Wright State University

April L. Keene is an enthusiastic technical analyst and team leader where she bridges the gap between details and impact through technical storytelling. Mrs. Keene’s interests have been primarily focused on waveform level modeling to include digital signal processing (DSP), antenna receiver capability and limitations, and radar analysis with a priority on increasing aircraft survivability through electronic countermeasures (ECM). Her work directly aids the Air Force by reducing live testing costs.

From undergraduate involvement to her current role as one of the SWE Professional Graduate Team Leads, Mrs. Keene has always made her community and SWE a priority in her life. From Section Representative for her professional section, South Ohio, to Region G Nominating Committee Chair, she has focused her efforts on supporting the organization locally and regionally.

In addition to her society roles, Mrs. Keene is the Booz Allen Firm-Wide SWE Deputy Program Manager (term 2016-2018). She works directly with the program manager and the Booz Allen SWE Partner Steering Committee—senior firm-wide leadership—in establishing plans and goals for Booz Allen’s Corporate Partnership Council (CPC) and internal funds. Ms. Keene is also working with the regional ambassadors at their respective geographic offices to help grow their SWE presence and leadership support.


What is your degree program (MS/PhD, department)? When do you expect to graduate?

I’m pursuing the continuation of my education and along the way I hope to gain my Masters in Electrical Engineering with a focus on signal processing. For me, graduate school allows me to deep dive into specific areas and expand my knowledge and support my full time work. I take courses as they fit my interest, and at this point in time, I think my expected graduation is 2020. However, my priority is on learning versus checking the boxes to get a diploma, so depending on what’s offered it may be sooner or later

Give a brief explanation of your research experience.

As a professional returning to school, I’m not looking to switch tracks or careers and am focused on complimenting the current work that I do. Therefore all of my research experience has been directly tied to my full time work the past 7 years. For school my focus has been on understanding the basics on signal processing beyond the toolkits provided by Mathworks, so that I can move towards developing my own innovative techniques. My research is on understanding the rules, so that I can break them appropriately.

What do you hope to do with your degree? What are your career goals?

I don’t think this degree will provide me with a groundbreaking new option, but it does provide me more tools with which to use in my career.

What are some of your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?

I enjoy woodworking and have built an outdoor table, a kitchen bench, and a bunk bed for my daughters. I’m currently developing plans for our garage and shopping for table saws to continue to learn and build new furniture which includes cabinets for our kitchen renovation.

What’s a fun fact about you?

I absolutely love reading, and I love listening to podcasts.

Increasing Inclusion: Allies for Gender Equality

Allies are an answer to the question: “how can I support (or be supported by) another group of people?” We are increasingly realizing that diversity issues are not only the concern of minority groups. Sexism doesn’t only affect women; racism, people of color; homophobia, LGBTQ individuals; and so on. The idea of allies brings everyone to the table.

As a woman in engineering, I know firsthand how engaging men can change the conversation to realize truly inclusive practices. This blog post is to help female graduate students find allies, as well as for male graduate students who want to support the women engineers around them.

Although this post was written for the gradSWE community with gender bias in mind, the resources I have included are for anyone who seeks to be a better advocate for another group. Numerous excellent guides exist on becoming a more effective ally or finding an ally for yourself. If you would like to read more, the links that I have provided at the end of this post are a great starting place.

What is an ally and why are they important?

At its most basic level, “An ally is any person who supports, empowers, or stands up for another person or a group of people” ( Robin Hauser Reynolds, whose documentary Code: Debugging the Gender Gap explores the problems facing women in tech, as well as solutions, gives a more practical definition: “A male ally is a man who will advocate for women even when there are no women in the room” (

This definition gets to the heart of why allies matter. Allies have power in the setting that the group they are helping doesn’t have. They are often able to speak up on behalf of another group in a way that is more likely to be heard. This gives allies a special ability to affect change.

I’m seeking allies, where do I start?

If you are seeking allies, then I highly recommend these resources for more information:, I found a lot of good tips for seeking male allies in them. To summarize some takeaways from those articles:

  1. look for individuals who have empathy
  2. meet new people and try to engage people who are different from you
  3. seek out mentors who are not of your group
  4. assume positive intent

Finally, only cultivate a relationship with someone willing to listen and learn from you. An effective ally won’t always be a perfect advocate; however, it is critical that they listen to and support you. If this is not the case, then seek elsewhere for a new ally, as it is most important to find someone who can empower you.

How can I become an effective ally?

To me, being an effective ally means recognizing, and then acting, when we have power in a situation to advocate for a marginalized group. However, stating that an ally should act in this way is the easy part. How can we actually do this?

Over and over again, as I was reading about being an ally, the importance of listening was emphasized. It is impossible to be an effective ally if we assume we know what the group we are supporting wants without taking the time to listen to them and being willing to learn from those who are different from us. Furthermore, this isn’t something that an ally can do once. We must be willing to continually learn, so that we can truly advocate on the behalf of others who have different and complex needs.

Before being able to act as an ally, we also have to examine our motivation. If we are acting from a place of guilt or, alternatively, from a place of superiority, it is impossible to be an effective ally. We have to see ourselves as equals as those we seeking to empower and be willing to learn from them.

Along the way, we will make mistakes. Therefore, being an ally also requires being adaptable and recognizing when our well-intentioned actions are not helpful. When this happens, we can’t give up, but have to apologize and learn from our mistakes.

Concluding Thoughts

The value of allies is becoming increasingly recognized as more of us realize that diversity issues are not only the concern of minority groups and that developing truly inclusive academic and work environments is all of our responsibility. In this post, I focused on those who already recognize that gender bias both exists and is a problem. In later posts, I will explore more fully how we can start to engage those who don’t already believe that diversity issues affect them.

As always, reach out to if you have any comments or questions.


General information about being an ally. These two guides aren’t targeted towards any one group, but the explore the topic quite extensively.

Here are some guides for women seeking to engage male allies:

And here are some resources for men seeking to become effective allies for women:

This is an in-depth report of the growth and development of male allies in the workplace: