Global member living in the U.S Surve

SWE is seeking input from our SWE members who were born outside of the U.S. but currently live in the U.S to improve the experience for SWE global members. If you fit into this category, please fill out this quick survey so we can better understand this membership segment. You will also be asked if you are willing to participate in an in-person or remote focus group.

During the first quarter of 2019, SWE will conduct at least one in-person and/or remote focus group to hear from our members born outside of the U.S. but currently live in the U.S. This data will be gathered and used to inform SWE leadership on how to best leverage existing resources and develop new offerings to ensure we are meeting the diverse needs of our membership.


Please access the survey here and give input by 12/20/2018.



5 Things to Know Before Your Summer Internship

Hello everyone! I hope you guys had a great Spring break and are back feeling refreshed to tackle classes and research. A lot of grad students take a break from school during the summer months to get some experience in the industry through summer internships, and for international students, this could be your first time working in America. So today I decided to discuss everything that I learned from my summer internship to help you achieve your professional goals!

  1. Confidence is Everything: Speak with confidence, whether it is to your peers or to upper management. I learned the hard way that being shy and not as vocal about issues (work related or otherwise) is only a hindrance to your voice being heard within the company.
  2. Say Yes: There are possibly quite a few opportunities at work to get involved with the company in ways other than your core technical tasks, like developing company policies, assisting with marketing or operations, etc. My advice is to say yes to all of these opportunities, regardless of whether or not they are personally your top priority. Having a positive can-do attitude goes a long way in turning your internship into a full-time offer.
  3. Network: I struggled with this a lot during my initial days working in America, but I realized that networking, within and outside your office helps a ton in the long run. Getting your tasks done is only a part of your professional success. Talking to other people that work within your industry also plays a crucial role.
  4. Show Eagerness: There are times when your work load wouldn’t be as much as you’d expect. Instead of whiling time away, I highly recommend reaching out to managers and offering assistance in other tasks. I did this a lot during my internship simply because I loved my job, but later realized that it created a positive image in the minds of my managers and helped strengthen my relationship within the firm.
  5. Asking For a Full-Time Offer: Towards the end of your internship, you will have probably figured out if this company is a good fit for you in terms of skill set and culture. If you’re hoping to work for them full-time, bring it up to the right person (HR Manager, Operations Manager, etc.) around two weeks before the end of your internship. That gives them enough notice to make the decision, send you an offer letter, work out any further salary negotiations, etc.

Keep in mind that an internship is basically an extended interview, so the chance of getting a full-time offer depends on your performance during the internship. Best of luck and I hope these tips help!


International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day! International women’s day commemorates the movement for women’s rights.

American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) released an interview of Jonna Gerken, current SWE president. In the interview Jonna discusses the challenges and opporutnies that women engineers are facing today. She notes that company culture is one of the biggest challenges.

Jonna also discusses her priorities for her term as SWE president. The three main priorities are professional excellence, advocacy and globalization.

Reading her interview, its clear that company culture needs to change and finding advocates and allies might be the way.  To read the interview in full or learn more about International Women’s Day, please see the links below!


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 🙂

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!

Plan Ahead for the Spring Semester

Hi everyone! Happy holidays!

If you’re an international student, this is probably the month that you travel back home for some much needed R&R. While I encourage you to spend this time with family and friends, here are a few things to think about before the start of the Spring semester to help you be more productive once you’re back:

  • Plan Your Classes: This is a no-brainer, but be as proactive as you can about planning what classes you want to take during the Spring and ask former students for advice on whether those classes are appropriate for your career path
  • Establish Your Minor: If you’re a new international student and you’ve successfully completed one semester at grad school, you probably have a much better idea about your interests now as opposed to when you first signed up for classes in the Fall. Use this experience to branch out and take classes outside your major area of study if possible. For eg: I was in the construction & project management program but I took a couple classes from the MBA & BBA programs that added value to my areas of interest
  • It’s Never Too Late to Find Funding: If you weren’t lucky finding a teaching / research assistantship during your first semester, stay proactive, positive and alert – email the network you build during your first semester and show them your interest in seeking funding opportunities for the Spring
  • Get Involved: The first semester as an international student can be tricky in terms of finding your bearings, managing classes and cultural differences. But now that you’ve had some time to straighten things out on that front, get involved with organizations within your University – be it sports, cultural, educational, GradSWE, etc. Not only does it add bonus points to your resume, but in my experience, building leadership skills in a new country will also build self-confidence and help you perform better during interviews
  • Lessons Learned Checklist: This is something I wish I’d kept track of, but make a note of all the things you wish you’d done differently during your first semester (if you’d known better – which you do now!) – and actively CHANGE once Spring rolls around!

Have a wonderful holiday season and a successful Spring semester! Feel free to email the GradSWE international team at with any questions you might have 🙂

– Akshaya