One Step Closer to your First Job in the US

Written by Keke Chen, International Graduate Team Leader


As an international student myself, I know how hard it can be to land your first job after graduation. As there are many good articles talking about the tips of what we shall do, here I want to share one article from a career advisor at Cornell University. The article gives practical ways to identify the right companies for you in the very first step.

In addition to this, I would like to share some of my own experiences, in particular about what an international student should do when attending career fair or a professional conference.

  1. Always be ready for a conversation. Everyone goes to a professional event to socialize, so you do not want to hide yourself in a corner. Have an approachable attitude instead of a “push-away” face. You can prepare yourself by practicing the questions like “What’s new?” and “How are you?”. If you are attending a career fair, do your homework at least one day ahead by studying the background and technology of the companies. If you are attending a professional conference, you can start by looking into some of your interested speakers and topics. In this way, you will feel more comfortable talking to people.
  2. Do not be afraid to initiate a conversation. If no one comes to talk to you, do not feel isolated. Go to talk to the person you would like to talk to. Nothing can beat an in-person conversation, and you don’t want to waste the opportunity. You do not know when you will next encounter him or her.
  3. Prepare a 1-minute elevator pitch about yourself. This is simply to answer the question of “what do you do?”, and we all know the importance of introducing ourselves. This may be your first and last chance to leave a good impression. Be short and concise about what you want to say, and do not use complicated jargon that only the people in your field would know. Prepare a tailored pitch that is tailored to your audience.
  4. Last but not least, do not ever feel bad about yourself if you didn’t get a passionate feedback during the conversation. Be prepared, but take it easy -practice makes perfect!

After multiple experiences of exposing yourself at a professional event, you will get a hang of what to do and will be more comfortable talking to people. At that time, I am sure you will also be more confident of getting one step closer to land your job after graduation.


Questions about this article, or about the International Graduate Team, can be directed to Keke at


Graduate Member Spotlight: Allie Greaney

Allison Greaney

PhD Candidate

Biomedical Engineering

Yale University


            Allie is a very involved graduate member in SWE, and currently holds the positions of President and GradSWE Committee Co-Chair for Yale SWE. In her time in these leadership positions, the Yale section has been awarded the Outstanding Collegiate Section – Gold Award, Best Practices in Mentoring, SWE Resource Promotion, and the Region F Membership Programs Award. Allie was part of the Collegiate Leadership Institute in 2017 and 2018 and was named an FY18 SWE Future Leader.

Thesis: Developing a functional tracheal replacement graft

Allie’s research focuses on pulmonary tissue engineering. For her thesis project, she is working to address three of the biggest challenges to clinical adoption of engineered tracheal replacement grafts: (1) mechanical sufficiency (2) re-epithelialization and (3) host response. The overarching goal of this work is to develop a functional replacement graft for patients with long-segment tracheal damage, which can be caused by cancer, trauma, infection, or prolonged intubation. Additionally, she works on a team within her lab conducting research on whole lung tissue engineering, with the broader goal of developing bioengineered lung transplants. It takes a village to make a lung, so her focus within the group is specifically on airway epithelial cell sourcing and culture.

After completing her PhD, Allie plans to follow the research she loves, likely remaining in academia to someday run her own lab in lung or some other type of tissue engineering. She aspires to inspire the next generation of biomedical engineers, particularly those who have historically struggled to find their place in the field, through excellent research and strong mentorship.

Outside of lab, Allie enjoys hanging out with friends, doing yoga, biking, baking, and doing crossword puzzles.

Fun Fact from Allie: I am a member of the 2019 Cohort of Homeward Bound, an international program for women leaders in STEM to develop their skills around leadership development and strategic programming, culminating in an all-women expedition to Antarctica at the end of the year! (Applications for the next cohort just opened:


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Breaking through the Glass Ceiling


In a recent women’s forum I attended, several women mentioned how they encountered the glass ceiling and how they didn’t realize it until it was too late.  This glass ceiling commonly reflects a metaphor representing an invisible barrier that keeps women from rising beyond a certain level or hierarchy.  Perhaps, some of you may have experienced this while advancing in your careers and/or education pursuits.

In its description, the glass ceiling, is referred as something so transparent yet constraintive in passing through, particularly for women. As a result from this forum and other sources, I have highlighted several general strategies for women to combat this effect throughout their careers.

*Gain and maintain a supportive network

It is imperative for women to gain support from peers and other women who have perhaps tapped on the glass ceiling.  If you are able to become a part of managerial network, that would also be recommend.  Both women and men can be great allies and a part of your support network.

*Support and/or initiate workplace zero tolerance policies

Ensure awareness of bias or discrimination occurrences in the workplace and support zero tolerance for your companies whether it includes trainings and/or disciplinary actions.  In this regard, you can also be apart of recruitment policies as well as fair/equal salary negotiations whether on your own behalf or your peers.

*Do not be afraid to start your own companies

You can effectively promote fair environments and diversity driven initiatives by creating your own business and companies.  Also, women owned business could be another option when considering employers to work for and with for innovative collaborations.

Fellow GradSWEsters know change may be happening whether it may feel at a glacial pace, but it is happening. Be fierce in reaching your career goals and know you too can bring about real change in the workplace.  Efforts further advocating this shattering ceilings and other boundaries spirit can be continued with your attendance at we18.   This year’s conference in Minneapolis, MN USA carries the theme of Let’s Break Boundaries and you can be sure more topics similar to breaking the glass ceiling will be highlighted for women engineers breaking boundaries in their careers and beyond.



Graduate Member Spotlight: Molly Baker

Graduate Member Spotlight

Molly Baker

PhD Candidate

Biomedical Engineering

Yale University


            Molly is an active graduate member in our Society, and currently holds the position of Treasurer and GradSWE Committee Co-Chair for Yale SWE. During her tenure in these leadership positions, the Yale section has been awarded the Outstanding Collegiate Section – Gold Award, Best Practices in Mentoring, and SWE Resource Promotion.

In addition to leading her SWE section to success, Molly is pushing boundaries in genital herpes research. Her PhD work focuses on a polymer nanoparticle drug delivery system for the treatment of genital herpes, which is an incredibly common sexually transmitted infection. Herpes affects 17% of U.S. adults and 417 million people worldwide—yet there is currently no effective vaccine or treatment. Genital herpes is incidentally the top reason why potential contenders are turned away from The Bachelor. Molly’s research project focuses on developing polymer nanoparticles that will provide improved delivery and extended retention of herpes prophylaxis drugs. Her favorite part about nanoparticle research is how cross-disciplinary the field is; she works with lab members from a variety of STEM backgrounds, including inorganic chemistry, polymer chemistry, physics, biology, pharmaceutical sciences, medicine, and more.

After completing her PhD, Molly would like to work in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry. Her dream is to work for an organization like the Population Council, which is a non-profit that conducts research in biomedicine and public health.

Outside of lab, Molly’s current obsession is growing plants and baking bread. She has been perfecting a Bavarian sourdough rye bread that her brother taught her (she brought his sourdough culture all the way from Portland, OR to New Haven, CT on the plane!). She is also working on whole wheat sandwich bread. You can usually find her reading, baking cookies, or cooking extravagant vegetarian meals.

Fun Fact from Molly: My favorite color is purple because my alma mater is Northwestern University. I will always believe that purple is the best school color—go ‘Cats!

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WE Locals at Providence and Prague: Why should you attend?

WE local conferences are happening right now. Have a look on what WE Locals at Providence and Prague offer to you! WE Locals are designed with many session tracks and events that are geared to the Graduate Students. Here are some of the session highlights you can expect:

Session highlights of WE Local at Providence:

  • What is an academic career?
  • Finance Savvy: You and Your SWE Section
  • She’s on FIRE: A Woman’s Perspective on Financial Independence
  • Career Fair Readiness: How do you prepare?
  • Bridging the gap: Understanding the Multigenerational Workforce
  • Finding a Research Position as a Student
  • Finding and Creating Leadership Opportunities to Get Ahead in Your Career
  • Opportunities for Engineers to Help Solve the Government’s Toughest Challenges
  • HeForSWE: Advocating with Our Male Allies
  • Salary Negotiations: Because You’re Worth It!
  • Introduction to Adulting: Financial Tips
  • Think Out of the Box: Careers Your Engineering Degree Can Take You
  • Government vs. Industry – Engineering the Right Career
  • Does this company make my butt look big?
  • WE Local Symposium (at no additional cost) for the graduate students. More info can be found online:

Session highlights of WE Local at Prague:

  • My SWE Journey from a College Student to a Scholar in Academia: How I Implemented My SWE Experience into My Life as an Academic
  • Thriving in an Emerging Industry
  • Everyone can be a STEM Ambassador
  • Presenting Technical Content with Confidence
  • Working towards Inclusive STEM: Solving the Engineering Talent Dilemma
  • Bridging the Culture Gap

Last, but not the least, you will get the opportunity to meet with potential employers and connect with peers while building your skills through professional development workshops.

Registrations are open now. Don’t miss out — register for the WE Local today!

WE Local Providence
April 20-22, 2018, Register Before Friday, April 13

WE Local Prague
May 16-18, 2018, Registration: First Come, First Served.

Introducing SWE’s Affinity Groups

In my first blog post, I mentioned SWE’s Affinity Groups (AGs); over the past semester, I have been in contact with the lead for each AG to learn more about each and to learn some ways that grad students can get involved. It is my pleasure to share this information with the gradSWE community through this post.

What is an affinity group?

Claudia Galván, the SWE Affinity groups lead, says:

“The SWE Affinity Groups (AGs) are communities of individuals who share the same interests and goals… The focus of these groups is to build community, provide professional development and recognition opportunities.”

The affinity groups are currently being reorganized and have been grouped under two umbrellas:

  • Diversity and Inclusion Networks: Latinos, African-American, Native American, LGBTQ
  • Business Networks:  Women in Government, Entrepreneurs, Small Business and Global Engineers.

More information about this reorganization and the affinity groups themselves will be in an upcoming SWE All Together article.

How can I get more involved?

If after reading the descriptions of the AGs below, you would like to get more involved with one, then Facebook is a great way to see what specific events and activities a given AG is up to. If you have more questions, then email Claudia Galván ( and she would be happy to answer them.

A current priority of the AGs is building their leadership pipeline; they are looking for leads for Building Community, Professional Development and Awards.  If getting involved with a given AG or the program as a whole sounds interesting to you, then email Claudia Galván, SWE AG Lead (

Meet the AGs:

African-American AG

The African-American AG is led by Rose Margaret Itua, Associate Professor of Engineering, Ohlone College. The group is focusing on developing the partnership with NSBE (SWE and NSBE have a joint membership!) and bringing a voice and representation of the African-American Community into the industry.

Follow them on Twitter #SWEAfricanAmericanAG and  #SWExNSBE or like them on Facebook: :


The Entrepreneurs AG is led by  Courtney Sanders, Entrepreneur at ExecuVentures and Katherine Culbert Co-Founder at K and K Process. The Entrepreneurs AG is focused on creating a community to share resources and help support startups in various stages of development. Their current priority is to build the entrepreneurs community to show that entrepreneurship is a viable career path for female engineers.

Follow them on Twitter: #SWEEntrepreneursAG or Join their FB Page:

Global Engineers

The Global Engineers, led by Davida Gondohusodo located in Jakarta, Indonesia, is a global community which consists of SWE international members including expats and Friends of SWE to develop a network and provide professional development and empowerment opportunities. During their first year, the priorities of the Global Engineers are to:

  • Build the leadership team,
  • Understand the needs of the global (non US) community,
  • Work with the ambassadors and senators to come up with an overall international strategy aligned with the SWE Membership Committee Goals.

You can join their facebook page here:


Ivelisse Del Valle Figueroa is the Co-chair of the Latinos AG Affinity Group. Their group comprises of people from Latino backgrounds and diversity allies. Their goals is to build a community of SWE Latino members, and provide professional opportunities and empowerment. This year they are providing visibility to their members by spotlighting them on their Facebook group and encouraging their members to engage in speaking opportunities and award nominations. They are also highlighting SWE’s partnership with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). Graduate students may find a lot of opportunities through their AG, including: learning about speaking opportunities to talk about their research and getting recognized for their work. They are eager to engage more graduate students and would love to hear from gradSWE members on how to do this better.

Here is the link to their Facebook page:

LGBTQ and Allies

LGBTQ & Allies AG is led by Marcie, an Electrical Engineer at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning (LGBTQ) students and employees face unique challenges in college and in the workplace, and this group is focusing on helping members navigate those challenges, as well as being a resource to SWE leadership. The privacy and safety of our LGBTQ members is key. The group is growing the partnership with the National Organization of LGBTQ Scientists and Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP), and bringing a better understanding, voice and representation of LGBTQ engineers in the industry and within SWE.

Follow them on Twitter: #SWELGBTQAG and join their FB group:

Also, since privacy is important, anyone can have their name added to the LGBTQ and Allies email list by contacting Claudia.  Emails are sent with the list blind copied.

Native American

The Native American AG is led by Laura Smith-Velazquez, Sr. Systems Engineer/Cognitive Scientist at Rockwell Collins. Native Americans represent a very small percentage of engineering graduates and face unique challenges including lack of critical mass. The group is focusing on developing the partnership with AESIS and bringing a voice and representation to the Native American Community in the industry.

Follow us on Twitter #SWENativeAG and join the SWE Native American FB page,, 1004915171/

Small Business

The Small Business Affinity Group is led by Stephanie DeCotiis, Senior Project Engineer at H2M architects + engineers, and Heather Bernardin, Senior IT Consultant at KSM Technology Partners. Employees of small businesses have their own dynamics and challenges. This group is focusing on building a network and sharing resources to support SWE members who are employees of small business.  This group also seeks to be a resource for information and feedback of the small business perspective to other SWE committees and groups.  This AG is new to SWE and is in its first year.  If you’re interested in participating, please follow along on social media, or reach out to the group leads.

Follow along on Twitter: #SWESmallBusinessAG and join their FB page: 

Women in Government

The Women in Government AG is led by Dr. Ruth Jones, Mishap Investigation Specialist at the NASA Safety Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Women in Government in Engineering are a strong contingency focusing on supporting and developing women in the engineering profession within the government framework. Join Women in Government AG-




Voting Opportunities in the Society!

Calling all graduate students! This year has been especially exciting, as we have gained significant rights as collegiate members. A change in the bylaws now allows you to vote for the FY19 Board of Directors, Trustees, and Senate Leadership. FY19 will be the first year that collegiate members can participate in this vote, so exercise your right!

Positions up for vote include:

  • Board of Directors Positions: President-Elect, Treasurer, and three Directors. These leaders help guide the direction of our society: they are very involved in creating the strategic plan of the Society.
  • Trustees: The trustees are responsible for managing the assets in the SWE Endowment Fund and in the SWE Reserve Fund.
  • Senate Leadership & your last Region Senator: You will each get the chance to elect a senator to represent your region, and therefore to represent you and your interests. The Senate leadership will help facilitate the issues discussed in the senate. This is the last year we will ever elect region senators! As we move away from regions, all senate members will be key to our transition.

Be sure to check out the election site to get more info on the candidates so you can make an informed decision!



How to Vote

To vote, log-on to and enter the control code you received in a recent e-mail. Note: only SWE members are eligible to vote. If you have questions about voting, feel free to e-mail Carolyn at and I can help you figure things out!