The Value of Professional Organizations

Intro from Alana:

Earlier this year, I had the special opportunity to present my “Five Networking Tips for Women” lecture to the local chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).  It was a memorable evening attended by about 50 impressive, engaged women from a variety of companies.  I was thrilled to make connections with a number of the members who followed up with me to continue the discussion we started that night.  One of those women was Hope Piuck, a Life Member of SWE and Senior Design Engineer for Standard Motor Products where she has worked for more than 30 years.

Hope and I met one Sunday morning for breakfast where she spoke passionately about her involvement with SWE and how much it has meant to her both personally and professionally to be part of a professional organization.  I asked her to put it in writing for benefit of the whole CLC Community.  She did and I am honored to welcome her to CLC today.

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Guest post from Hope Piuck, SWE – Life Member, Standard Motor Products – Senior Design Engineer

Hope Piuck copyI heard Alana Muller speak about networking at the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Kansas City Section Fellow’s Reception in September.  After reading her book, I met her for coffee to discuss the “hole” in her book.  Alana barely mentioned the benefits of networking within professional and fraternal organizations.  I must have been very eloquent, because Alana asked me to write a guest post to her blog on the value of professional organizations.

Most professional societies are 501C3 not-for-profit educational organizations.  As such, their primary mission is continuing education.   I’ve been a member of engineering societies since my college days.  Over the course of my career, I’ve been a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the Society of Automotive and Aerospace Engineers (SAE International), and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).

In terms of networking, I’ve found attending professional organization meetings a natural and easy way to extend my contacts.  If you attend professional organization meetings, you meet people.  They give you their business card and you give them yours.  As you start going to regional and national conventions or conferences, you extend those contacts throughout your region and the nation.  In engineering societies you meet people from all different companies, industries, academia, and government.

As someone who moved half way across the country due to a job transfer, I found professional organizations invaluable in making connections in my new community.  In 1992 I moved from NYC to Overland Park.  I found new ASME and SAE sections to belong to.  I met like-minded people in the Greater Kansas City area.  That was when I joined the SWE Kansas City Section.  I found that SWE quickly became the professional organization closest to my heart.  I think that was because the SWE values of integrity, inclusive environment, mutual support, professional excellence, and trust align with my own values.  The SWE mission is to stimulate women to achieve full potential in careers as engineers and leaders.  To expand the image of the engineering profession as a positive force in improving the quality of life.  To demonstrate the value of diversity.  That’s a mission that aligns with my value system as well.

I believe the greatest benefit to me as an active professional organization participant is learning new skills.  A professional organization provides a safe environment to try and fail.  Hopefully one tries and succeeds, but a volunteer can’t be fired.  As an officer I’ve learned leadership skills, organizational skills, how to plan an event, how to plan a conference, how to research a workshop, how to present a workshop to the public, and the list goes on.  You don’t learn those skills and gain confidence by merely being a member.  You need to be an active participant.  As in so many other aspects of life, you get out of something what you put into it.

Hopefully, I’ve inspired you to join an organization with values that align to your own values, actively participate in that organization, improve your network, and learn new skills!  For those engineers who want to aspire, advance, and achieve, then I hope that I’ve inspired you to join SWE.  SWE demonstrates diversity by being open to men as well as women engineers.  So guys, this wish applies to you, too.

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