When I came back from the International Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Conference in Chicago last year, I was deeply impressed at the huge opportunity this forum provides for women engineers from diverse fields, experience and backgrounds to come together! It was my dream to have a similar event back in India. That’s when it all started.
I connected with the SWE organizing committee to exchange thoughts and lo and behold, it coincided with their plans of conducting an India Symposium in 2012! Months of crazy planning and connecting the dots led to the SWE India Symposium: Women Engineers Leading Global Innovation in Bangalore from August 29 to August 31.
The agenda covered very relevant sessions on Professional Development, Sustainable Energy, Systems Engineering and Information Technology, in addition to keynote talks by eminent personalities and a panel discussion on technical opportunities.
Tessy Thomas, India’s “Agni” lady kicked off the day taking us through her thoughts on women as change agents. “Make the change in you” was her mantra of bringing in the biggest changes in this world!
Sitting in the audience, it was interesting to hear the different perspectives that the GE speakers shared in these sessions! Aarif Aziz, HR Head, GE India Technology Center illustrated the importance of experiential learning and understanding through his thought-provoking examples: “How does a train journey give you the strength of fighting a war of independence” when he referred to Mahatma Gandhi’s train journey through India to understand the problems of India before he started his non-violent war of independence.
Johanna Wellington, Leader, Sustainable Energy AT highlighted advances in the sustainable energy technologies through examples like GE’s wind turbine product, which has an improved capacity and an increased ability of extracting power from 33% of the time to 50%!
Umamaheswari Jayaraman, Engineering Excellence & Operations Leader for BEC, in her unique style of narration cited examples from Indian mythology to bring out the 3 important attributes towards systems thinking, which are to understand:
– The purpose
– The market
– The systems connections/infrastructure
Uma Parameswaran, IT Leader, Medical Diagonostics, GE Healthcare, highlighted the role of analysis of big data and its role in transforming healthcare to enable prediction, prevention and cure of diseases with specific examples around cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
One of the unique aspects of the symposium was a GE tour. We escorted the SWE delegates through a tour of JFWTC to showcase some of the technologies we develop here including the Lullaby Warmer and LED Phototherapy for Healthcare applications, locomotives for Transportation, and many others. We had great fun networking with them in our campus and felt really proud when they left really impressed not only with the cool technologies but also with our beautiful campus!
Talking about inspiration, the 115 participants were swept off their feet by the grace and spirit of the guest speaker, Lila Poonawalla, Founder, Lila Poonawalla foundation, as she took us through her journey. Her experiences as the first woman CEO in India’s business history as the MD of Alfa Laval and now, as she runs the Lila Poonawalla foundation were real stories that we could relate to and draw inspiration from, in our lives!
As Betty Shanahan, Executive Director and CEO, SWE & Karen Horting, Deputy Executive Director, SWE concluded, diversity being the key to innovation, a symposium like this provides the perfect meeting ground for exchange of ideas and progressing forward. All in all, realization of the 1st SWE Symposium in India was a dream-come-true for me, and a blockbuster hit for all in attendance.