Hot Topic: Preparing Future Leaders

As we develop as leaders in the Society of Women Engineers, we sometimes forget about the importance of developing a leadership pipeline.  It is important to mentor and encourage younger members to get involved early in their college careers so that they are confident to pursue roles with greater responsibility.

When I started school, I had attended a SWE outreach event so I knew what the organization was.  It was a huge step out of my comfort zone, but I met upperclassmen in my major who offered great advice on classes, emphasis areas, and professors.  Although intimidating, it was incredibly worthwhile!

Then, as a sophomore, I applied to be a Scholarship/Internship Director.  I had enough flexibility to hold events, one of which evolved into a special event to recruit new members.  I also reinstate our section’s scholarship program, and that year we awarded 8 scholarships.  Having the freedom to use my director role to fulfill needs where I saw fit not only helped me gain confidence within the student group but it also provided great talking points when I interviewed for my first internship on campus.  As a junior, I was the secretary for our section and I was elected to be the co-president of our section this year.  I also held the Regional Collegiate Communications Editor position on the Region H Collegiate Team.

When I talk to students who are interested in joining SWE, I emphasize the leadership opportunities SWE has to offer.  Many students want to do more volunteering and outreach activities, and SWE-organized activities are great ways for them to meet new people, learn about the Society, and satisfy the desire to serve the community.  By encouraging freshmen and sophomores to pursue leadership roles, not only are you giving them a personal confidence boost, you are strengthening your section for years to come.

Some ideas to keep in mind when transitioning new leaders:

  • Make sure job requirements and opportunities are available to all members and expectations are easy to understand.
  • Be responsive to questions about leadership roles.  If you can’t answer their questions about time commitments, etc., connect them to someone who can.
  • Previous officer contact information should be made readily available so that new officers feel that they have resources they can refer back to as needed.
  • Survey officers at the end of the year to see what worked and what did not.  Ask them to provide suggestions for new leaders and have that information documented.
  • Revise the leadership team as needed.  Are there areas that need work?  Do you need more outreach directors and fewer on your corporate relations teams?  What are your objectives for the team this upcoming year?
  • Design a transition process.  When does the new leadership team meet?  Will they have a face-to-face transition with the former leadership team?  Will the former team be required to send a report or document of some form in order to inform the new leaders what to do?
  • Nominate active members to be SWE Future Leaders, otherwise known as SWEFLs.  The applications for these come out in late spring, and it is a great way to recognize young active members and keep them excited about SWE through the summer.
  • Provide opportunities for young members to attend Regional and Annual conferences.  This allows them to see SWE outside of the collegiate realm and expose them to the opportunities that are available in the professional world, as well.

Most of all, the most valuable thing you can do is to personally encourage someone to do something he or she wouldn’t do on his or her own.  If you’ve ever been told by someone, “Hey, I think you’d be good at this” you know that it helps to have that extra push to pursue a seemingly out-of-reach goal.  If you’ve ever had this experience, feel free to share it below!


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