Just a few short weeks ago, I had the privilege of speaking at the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) collegiate section at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly SLO). Having been an active SWE member for five years and the 2019-2020 Section President for the San Buenaventura professional section, I was beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to represent Semtech at an event for SWE. This was able to take place thanks to a company culture of community building and enthusiastic support from Semtech leadership. Semtech’s CEO has spoken previously, such as in a recent interview with Authority Magazine, on the importance of diversity, setting the tone for Semtech’s commitment to a diverse workforce. Diversity meets inclusion when each member of the team takes the Semtech Core Value of treating all with dignity and respect, and applies that to supporting a global team and a commitment to recruiting with diversity in mind.
This trip, along with the support for SWE within Semtech’s Protection Products Group, exemplifies this Core Value and the impact which putting people first can have.
From Intern to Engineer
I was thinking about the symbiotic network of corporate support that came together to make this trip possible as I was driving up the breathtaking California coast from Semtech headquarters in Camarillo. I had a few hours to reflect on what Semtech’s community outreach has meant to me personally. The subject for my talk at SWE was “Internships and Finding your First Engineering Job.” My own first “real” engineering job was at Semtech as an intern. I got that internship in 2012 through a scholarship sponsored by Semtech and the Ventura County Community Foundation, and two years ago, I joined Semtech full time as an Applications Engineer in the Protection Products Group. On my path from collegiate to career, community involvement was key to finding the right fit.
Being an early-career engineer, and until recently a collegiate myself, I was used to being on the other end of an event like this. To calm my sense of impostor syndrome at suddenly being the speaker and not the listener, I thought of another great piece of advice from a SWE mentor: Expertise is relative. So, I suppose I am an expert on navigating internships, which is another way of saying I am an expert at being a beginner.
An Inclusive Community
The meeting opened with the SWE Cal Poly SLO section president, giving updates on events and Cal Poly SWE’s outreach into the local community. One thing I love about SWE members is that no matter where they are in the world, they are always advancing SWE’s mission supporting diversity and inclusion in engineering. My message to the students at Cal Poly SLO was straightforward: Get involved in your community, communicate with your network and keep an open mind. We talked about strategies for applying for jobs, interviewing skills and the practicalities of hunting for internships. Being SWE members and Cal Poly engineering students, I was not at all surprised that these students were a wonderful audience. They were attentive, engaged and asked great questions.
Near the end of my talk, a key insight that we were able to share, is this: There is no such thing as a bad internship! Often on the path to discovering what work is inspiring to us, we are faced with difficult environments and challenging situations. To the impatient student, a “bad” internship can be loathsome to endure. In the end, three or four-months of a student’s time is worth it to determine what work they enjoy, what work they hate and what kind of engineering they want to do. Perseverance is not a terrible thing to learn early as well. Trying internships or rotational programs is a great way for an engineering student to learn what the right fit is for them and to find a balance between personal goals and company culture. It can also help strengthen organizations that offer internships by introducing a diverse set of new perspectives to their teams.
When I was giving this talk at the beginning of March, I could not have fully imagined how the rapid spread of COVID-19 could cause such drastic change to our daily lives. Now more than ever I am grateful to be a part of organizations like Semtech and SWE that put community first. While our organizations are all going virtual for now, we can still work together to adapt and support each other.
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