Emily Sanders, a second-year software engineering major at the Arizona State University Polytechnic campus, had no interest in robotics until her father dragged her to a LEGO club meeting when she was in fifth grade.
“I was dead set against going until I realized that robotics was incredibly interesting. By the end of the year, I had decided that I wanted to go into computer programming as my career,” said Sanders
She maintained her interest in technology throughout middle school and into high school, where she became active in the FIRST Robotics Competition, a program in which, under strict rules, and with limited time and resources, teams of high school students raise funds, design a team "brand," hone their teamwork skills, and build and program industrial-size robots to play a field game against competitors.
Competition robots must be able to move autonomously and with driver input, navigate obstacles and the game environment, and manipulate game pieces in competitive matches.
Sanders is currently active in Rossum Rumblers, an ASU robotics club dedicated to creating multiple different robotics projects. She is on the software team for the group’s VexU competition project.
She is among four female ASU engineering majors in Barrett, The Honors College at the Polytechnic campus who, with support from the honors college, attended the annual Society of Women Engineers conference in Los Angeles in October.
The event, billed as “the world’s largest conference for women in engineering and technology,” included a career fair, professional networking opportunities, professional development workshops, and keynote speeches by top people in the fields of engineering and technology.
“I learned a great deal at the conference, from how to negotiate a salary to how to crush the feeling of being an imposter. I also visited the career fair and found several companies that I want to look into working for in the future,” she said.
Sanders said she appreciated talks given by female engineers who have “a great deal of wisdom to pass down” and meeting professional recruiters.
“I do not currently have a lot of experience, and attending conferences is a great way to get my feet wet without falling in the proverbial pool headfirst,” said Sanders, whose goal is to work as a software engineer on robotics projects.
Amanda Pizarro, a sophomore engineering (robotics) major with a minor in fashion, got a lead on an internship and landed an interview through the conference career fair.
She also attended sessions on managing professional conflict and determining trust in artificial intelligence, and received a resume review and interview preparation and tips.
“Attending this sort of professional gathering was beneficial to me because it provided clarity and direction for my career. In being surrounded by a large number of intelligent and successful women in all different stages of their careers, I felt it important to just listen and learn. It helped me become more aware of where I am in my career and what next steps I should take,” she said.
“My short-term goals are to get an internship and to finish my degree. After attending, I now have an opportunity for an engineering internship position and I am more driven to graduate. My long-term goal is to pursue quantum physics at a graduate level and work in space exploration. This conference solidified these goals and my confidence in them,” she added.
Palak Jain, a sophomore human systems engineering major and president of the student chapter of the Software Developer’s Association at ASU, said she attended the career fair, made industry connections and met like-minded people at the conference.
“It is very crucial to attend these conferences as they help boost one's confidence and teach about the professional setup. These conferences not only enable us to make industry connections, but they can also be a good source to find an internship, full-time or any kind of career opportunity one is looking for,” said Jain, an international student from India.
Claire Rogers, a senior engineering (robotics) major, said professional conferences like this one are particularly important for students like her who are looking for employment.
“It is beneficial to attend these professional gatherings to network with other women in the field, learn new things, and gain opportunities. Right now, I am looking for a job, so by attending this conference I was able to go to the career fair, which was huge and gave me a chance to talk with future employers. I even secured an interview with a company,” she said.
“My advice to women engineering majors would be to attend this conference if you can because it is a great opportunity for networking and finding a potential job. Also, we need more women in engineering, so I would encourage other women to get involved.”
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