SWE Students Connect with Industry Leaders at National Conference

SWE at conference

Earlier this fall, eight members of the Drexel University chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) attended the organization’s WE23 conference in Los Angeles. The three-day flagship event took place October 26-28 and convened over 17,000 women engineers under the theme “Live Without Limits.” The Drexel students — including section president Cailey Ruderman, a fifth-year materials science and engineering major — returned home inspired by the career-building workshops, networking events, and speeches from top industry leaders.

“This year, WE23 invited over 17,000 women in science and engineering to ‘Live Without Limits,’” said Ruderman. “The SWE community is my support system and a huge source of my motivation. Therefore, this theme, exemplified by the conference programming, reinvigorated my desire to challenge myself, push boundaries, and reach my full potential."

Through sponsorships and donations, the chapter raised more than $10,000 to fund the trip. For Ruderman and her peers, interacting with successful engineers who share an identity as women in a male-dominated field provided inspiration and camaraderie. Mentorship emerged as a major theme. The Drexel students left galvanized, with renewed passion for breaking barriers in engineering.

Equally valuable were the hands-on professional development sessions. “I gained insights into retirement investment, budgeting fundamentals, and negotiation strategies to engineer my financial future,” said Feben Wolde-Semayat, a fifth-year BS/MS student studying both chemical engineering and materials science and engineering and SWE vice president of outreach. “My experience at the career fair was exceptionally fruitful.” Wolde-Semayat engaged with leading engineering firms, securing interview invitations from Honeywell and Merck and an on-site interview with ExxonMobil.

For Lia DiMitri, a fourth-year materials science and engineering student, witnessing women reflect on milestones in their careers humanized the field. DiMitri explained, “Hearing the engineers working on NASA’s Artemis mission relay their experience of the exact moment the rocket launched reminded me of why I chose to purse engineering — passion."

Fourth-year electrical engineering student Mariane Takizala echoed DiMitri’s sentiments on finding inspiration. "The conference left a profound impact on me, delivering a crucial message: in the world of STEM: There is a place for every aspiring individual, regardless of the unique challenges they may face in their career exploration."

The Drexel students returned home with ignited purpose, insider knowledge, and professional connections — everything needed to make their marks as the next generation of women engineers. They credit the university’s SWE chapter and sponsors for making the enriching opportunity possible. As Takizala enthusiastically concluded, “This has been a pivotal step in my academic and personal journey.”