Hello GradSWE! My name is Prerna Jain and I am serving as the GradSWE Graduate Transition Lead (GTL) for this year. As GTL, I will be working with many different facets of SWE in order to implement and move transition forward for the GradSWE. My primary aim is to ensure GradSWE continues to grow and thrive. To achieve this, I will be working closely with the Region Grad Representatives and the GradSWE committee. I hope to address various challenges faced by the GradSWE community at the regional levels and facilitate the exchange of information and best practices between the Regions. Additionally, I would support and mentor budding GradSWE leaders and help them in facilitating new GradSWE groups. So, if you have any questions or need information on resources, please send an email to email@example.com.
Also, I am working on my Ph.D. at Texas A&M University, College Station in Chemical Engineering. I have been in the program for around 4 years and would like to share my learnings in form of the right ‘SPICE’ you need to be successful in grad school. SPICE stands for S: Stay strong, P: Plan, I: Invigorate, C: Communicate, E: Empower. So, here are the details of this SPICE:
Stay strong (S): In grad school, we all face difficult situations. I would like you all to remember to stay strong and positive during your difficulties. Whenever there is a phase of low energy, take a moment to look at your ‘Kudos list’, remind yourself of your accomplishments and feel great about those moments. I can assure you that the bad phase we go through teaches us and brings the BEST in us. Therefore, we all need to remember to stay strong and focused to be able to enjoy the success. As someone said “Sunny days wouldn’t be special if it wasn’t for rain. Joy wouldn’t feel so good if it wasn’t for pain”.
Plan (P): I have often heard from my mentors that if you devote time in planning, it can add hours back to your day, each and every day. As a graduate student, both short-term and long-term planning is important. For short-term, we all have multiple jobs to complete every day and we also depend on others for their completion. So, planning ahead of time would help us stay organized, prepared for any expected or unexpected situations, and give time to others to help us with what we need. In the long-term perspective, planning would benefit us by being proactive with items such as degree plan, critical milestones for graduation, conference attendance, publications, and finding job opportunities. In my experience, planning has helped me with all of the above perspectives and also in keeping my mind free. I feel I have dumped everything on the calendar or a sheet of paper and can focus and be most productive with the work at hand without having a thousand thoughts running in my mind.
Invigorate (I): Everyone needs the time to relax, de-stress or calm themselves. This is essential because if one is healthy, they are likely more efficient and productive in their work. So, remember to take the time to rejuvenate yourself by indulging yourself in activities you like outside work and research. These could range from exercising, meditation, other fun activities like painting or any other hobbies you may have. This will help you in refreshing yourself, exploring yourself, and meeting new friends.
Communicate (C): This is another vital component of the SPICE. As great researchers and engineers, we all succeed in advancing the science and technology with our contributions. However, it is critical to have our ‘Grandma story’ that we can sell to other people both from the business side and for common understanding. This skill can be practiced by talking about your research with friends who are not from the same background as yours. And this brings me to another aspect of communication, which is ‘Networking’. The three most important things to do in grad school and even after that are – network, network, network. Once you start working on this, you will realize how far you have come from when you first started and the great network you have built around yourself. Needless to say, SWE is a great platform, to begin with.
Empower (E): This deals with giving back to the community in some way. When you empower someone else, it gives a strong feeling of satisfaction. Most of you will agree that in your journey, there was at least one person who empowered you and supported you to move forward. All of us have those unique qualities and experiences that we can share with someone to assist them in their success journey. These could include simple things like – giving compliments, doing short conversations with people in your research group, volunteering with student organizations (SWE is again a great example), mentoring some new grad student or an undergraduate student and many other innovative ways. I have mentored few students and also learned in this process when I am challenged to respond to some difficult questions they ask. I believe, when we practice these little things, they come together to create a huge positive impact on our women engineering community. So, let us not hesitate to share and empower.
I will conclude by saying that GradSWE has given me opportunities to practice all of the above and this has helped me to become a confident and inspiring leader. So, DREAM big, LIVE your dreams and ACHIEVE them! ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius’ (Latin for Faster, Higher and Stronger). I hope you all found this useful.
I would love to hear from you all at firstname.lastname@example.org.