Leveraging Membership in Professional Organizations
Amanda Weissman '09
Electrical Engineering BS & Materials Science and Engineering MS
When you’re a student, it’s easy to continue learning and developing your skills. Classes and extracurriculars are abundant, in addition to speakers and many other opportunities. After graduation, these opportunities are a little harder to find (and after 18 years of school, you may not be driven to search them out). Even if you work for a company that has technical knowledge sharing presentations, you still need to make the time to attend them, they may not be just down the hallway, and they may not be offering free pizza to entice you (though it still happens sometimes). Professional organizations provide an abundance of opportunities for you to continue your education. I have been a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) throughout my collegiate career and continued for the past six years as a professional member. As a general member, I love the opportunities to learn about new technology and hear from inspiring, successful women. This occurs at a local section level and at conferences.
Professional organizations also help you grow your network. If you move to a new city for your first job out of college, it’s common that most of your network and group of friends are from work. Being involved with a professional organization helps to grow your a network outside of work. You can learn about other company cultures and other career paths. By being involved with an organization, you have an immediate connection with other people in your network. This can help you when you are looking for a mentor or your next career opportunity. In my roles in SWE, I often interact with executive leadership at corporations including my own company leadership, especially when companies are partnering with SWE. This is not something I would have had the opportunity to do if I wasn’t involved with a professional organization.
Another advantage to professional organizations is the opportunity to try new skills and learn in an encouraging environment. It is easier to try something new such as managing a budget or leading a team when surrounded by mentors and not at work. These experience allow you to stretch your skills without risking anything at work. They also make for excellent interview question responses. I had the opportunity to manage projects, budgets, teams, and schedules within SWE years before I would have had the opportunity at work. This prepared me to lead technical teams and hit the ground running in my career. It’s amazing to have the opportunity to lead such diverse teams. Not only do these teams span multiple engineering disciplines but they often span generations, which reflects the teams you will be working on in your career. I think leading these volunteer teams is more challenging than leading coworkers. If you can convince people to give up their time with their families or doing their hobbies to volunteer, than you can inspire any team members.
I encourage you to get involved with a professional organization, whether it aligns with your technical discipline or is a diversity organization, and take a risk. Try something you are interested in but have never done before. You will be amazed at how much you learn and the positive impact it will have on your career.
Amanda is a SWE Life Member and was the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Section Vice President. Amanda is currently the Philadelphia Section President, Society Scholarship Coordinator, on the Region E Conference Planning Committee, and the University of Pennsylvania Professional Counselor. She graduated from RIT in 2009 with her Bachelors in Electrical Engineering and Masters in Materials Science and Engineering and in 2015 from the University of Pennsylvania with her Masters in Systems Engineering. Amanda is a Technical Program Manager at SevOne. She has been recognized as the 2012 Society of Women Engineers top nominee for New Faces of Engineering. Amanda is a hobbyist genealogist and aspiring astrophotographer. She has a 1 year old daughter, Amelia, with her husband, Adam.