Seena Drapala

Fellow Grade

Seena Drapala, Fellow Grade, Headshot

Seena Drapala

GE (Retired)

For generously sharing her experience and success as a woman engineer; for tireless advocacy of women in STEM; and for invaluable contributions to the global reach of SWE.

Over her 32 years with GE, Seena Drapala became a trailblazer in technical support of sales worldwide. The first person in her family to graduate from college, she began as a draftsperson and advanced to many different technical and management roles after receiving her B.S. in mechanical engineering from Union College in 1984.

Drapala’s power plant design work covers five continents, most frequently, Asia. Her career included roles as power plant design engineer, gas turbine applications engineer, combined cycle applications engineer, combined cycle system engineer, performance risk leader for GE Energy, new product manager for Bently Nevada Sensors, and strategic sourcing manager for optimization and control. Drapala advocated for the GE Women’s Network and was the leader of the Schenectady Hub in 2002, prior to relocating to Minden, Nevada. She continued her GE Women’s Network involvement on the steering committee for the Sierra Nevada Hub. She retired in 2009 as the strategic sourcing manager for the billion-dollar Optimization and Control business for GE.

She was charter president of SWE’s New York Capital District Section during fiscal year 2002, where she initiated a program for high school juniors and seniors to earn recognition with SWE Certificates of Merit. In 2003, she made a career move to GE’s Bently Nevada in Minden and took on roles with the recently formed Sierra Nevada Section, leading it to implement the same recognition program. Since 2014, the program has impacted more than 165 young women in the Northern Nevada and Lake Tahoe areas.

Drapala served on the Society’s conference programming board committee (CPB) — predecessor to today’s conference advisory board — from 2004-2011. She served as chair from 2009-10, a pivotal time when conference responsibilities were transitioning from volunteer-led to a SWE headquarters responsibility. The CPB was tasked with growing conference attendance, and under Drapala’s leadership conducted survey analysis and suggested segmentation analysis to grow programming from a collegiate focus to all levels of membership. Conference attendance doubled to 6,000 in less than four years and by WE19, the Society’s most recent in-person conference, attendance was more than 16,000, a testament to the groundwork laid by the CPB.

Drapala was also part of the international participation committee task force in 2007-2008, which enabled the Society to study how to organize for global reach, leading to the addition of globalization as a SWE Strategic Pillar.

She has served on the industrial advisory board of the mechanical engineering departments of Union College in Schenectady, New York, and the University of Nevada, Reno. She is a certified ABET program evaluator and a Six Sigma black belt. Drapala has also served as a judge advisor for the FIRST® Tech Challenge, and has volunteered for MATHCOUNTS and various other organizations for more than 30 years. She has received numerous awards for her STEM volunteerism.

A SWE life member since 2004, Drapala is currently the treasurer for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Comstock Section, a Distinguished Toastmaster with Toastmasters International, and Motorcycle Safety Foundation-certified RiderCoach. A lifetime learner, Drapala earned an Associate of Fine Arts from Western Nevada College in 2014. She hopes to travel to see her grandchildren soon, and loves hiking in the beautiful Sierra Mountains.

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