2024 Starts Strong

Focus on what is going well and all you have accomplished, as opposed to what didn’t go well or didn’t get done. Celebrate those wins!

The WE Local panel in Wichita, Kansas, included (left to right): Alexis McKittrick, Gozde Ustuner, Colleen Scholl, Cindy Hoover, and Inaas Darrat. CREDIT: Courtesy of Alexis McKittrick
The WE Local Baltimore panel included (left to right): Alexis McKittrick, Margarita Mann, Sreyoshi Bhaduri, Malika Grayson, and Nancy Chabot. CREDIT: Courtesy of Alexis McKittrick

Wow! SWE has had an amazing first few months of 2024. Our membership hit more than 47,000 before we even kicked off our renewal period for next year, and we held five WE Local conferences across the globe — three in the United States, one in India, and one in Europe — all of which had great attendance and phenomenal content. WE Local conferences continue to grow and provide meaningful opportunities for making connections and building your SWE network.

New to WE Local programs this year was the Living Without Limits keynote panel, which featured dynamic panelists discussing how they live without limits in their careers and lives. I had the honor of moderating these panels at each conference, and it was interesting to see that while each panel had different perspectives and experiences, common themes emerged. For example, many of the audience questions included requests for tips on how to succeed in the face of barriers. Attendees had a high level of interest in learning what living without limits looks like in day-to-day life, hearing practical insights for success, and understanding how to overcome the challenges faced by those early in their careers. Here are a few common concepts discussed:

  • Don’t let others define you. Panelists said they received advice to stay out of engineering or to take different routes in their careers. Having the courage to resist others who are trying to define you is a tough but important skill. Panelists acknowledged that standing up for your identity is difficult at times, but ultimately these moments can lead to a stronger sense of self.
  • Build your support system. Several panelists stressed the importance of having both mentors and allies in your network. Speakers discussed defining moments in which allies showed up for them and the need for us all to show up and speak up for others. Panelists encouraged leveraging your SWE network to build your support team.
  • Focus on what fuels you. Prioritize activities that give you energy and purpose. Several panelists discussed key career moves that were influenced by discovering what inspired them in engineering and following that thread.
  • Beware of burnout. Self-care was a consistent theme. Speakers reinforced that no one could live without limits without taking care of their own well-being. And there were great examples of the fact that self-care looks different for everyone. Many panelists spoke about the times they felt overwhelmed and how they had to adjust. Recognizing that need for change was the crucial step that helped them overcome burnout.
  • Embrace your wins. Several panels pointed to the dangers of perfectionism or the impulse to be everything to everyone. Instead, focus on what is going well and all you have accomplished, as opposed to what didn’t go well or didn’t get done. Celebrate those wins! Many panelists told moving stories of how a failure improved their lives and gave them the insight necessary to succeed.

I want to express my sincere thanks to all the WE Local panelists. May you be motivated by these concepts to live without limits in your own lives!

Alexis McKittrick, Ph.D.
FY24 SWE President
(she, her)