SWE Blog: Beyond R&D

Kate Kimbell, a member of the WashU chapter of SWE, discusses how attending the SWE annual conference helped her to learn more about careers outside of research and development.

Careers outside of R&D discussed at the conference include planner, product manager, business development, technical marketing and sales engineer. Photo courtesy WashU SWE

Earlier this semester, the Washington University in St. Louis chapter of the Society of Women Engineers attended the organization's annual conference in Minneapolis. As part of this series, select members share lessons they learned that they feel could benefit the entire engineering community.

As a senior, I am constantly thinking about what I want my life to look like next year. Over the past few months I have realized that despite a passion for engineering, I don’t picture my dream job as being highly technical. So, when I saw the talk titled “See the World Outside of the Design Lab” at this year’s Society of Women Engineers conference, I was intrigued. I attended the presentation by Gabby Bailado and Erin East from Keysight Technologies and left feeling re-energized with the exciting opportunities they presented.

They began by explaining various jobs that exist for engineers outside of research and development including planner, product manager, business development, technical marketing and sales engineer. For each job, they showed us where it fit into a product development timeline, what their daily tasks look like, what types of skills are required and how much travel is involved. After hearing about this, I had identified a few job titles that were particularly interesting to me, and I was excited to hear more.

Next, they gave us six traits and skills – leadership, organization, creativity, competition, strategic, negotiation – and asked us to pick the three that best represented us. Bailado and East then showed us a pie chart for each job type that categorized how much each trait was used in that job. After seeing this, I was able to identify between the jobs that interested me and the ones that I was suited for, which opportunities would be worthwhile for me to pursue.

Lastly, they discussed how to find these jobs within different companies. Job titles can be confusing when you’re starting out. They also left us with a pamphlet that gave us the key takeaways, and tips on what to ask during interviews and how to promote our qualifications.

It’s easy to keep a narrow view of what it means to work as an engineer in industry. I used to picture lots of hard hats, computers and working in solitude. However, this session has helped me to understand that there are so many more opportunities out there for engineers that involve strong communication skills, leadership and creativity. I am grateful to have been able to attend the 2018 Society of Women Engineers conference, and I know that this session, among many others, has helped me to develop for my next opportunity, be it in R&D or otherwise.