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WiSE 2021 Conference

The WiSE Conference is a celebration of women in engineering. The day of educational and professional enrichment brings university, college and pre-college students together with faculty, administrators, and professionals.

A group of students holding up letters that make up UWISE

Engaged. Empowered. Excellent.

30th Annual Conference

Saturday, February 27, 2021
9:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
The 2021 WiSE Conference will take place virtually

Welcome message from OMAD

Schedule at a Glance



Welcome and Opening Conference Keynote

Nancy Allbritton

Dr. Nancy Albritton
Frank & Julie Jungers Dean of UW Engineering

Nancy Allbritton joined the University of Washington as the Frank & Julie Jungers Dean of Engineering in November 2019, where she serves as the chief academic officer of the college and provides leadership to over 279 faculty, 500 staff and more than 8,000 students. The College of Engineering is a top-15 nationally ranked public university program with annual research expenditures exceeding $159 million. Prior to joining the UW, Nancy led the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University which spans two universities and three colleges.

Nancy is an international expert on multiplexed single-cell assays, microfabricated platforms for high-content cytometry combined with cell sorting, and microengineered stem-cell-based systems for recapitulating human organ-level function. Four companies have been formed based on her research discoveries: Protein Simple (acquired by Bio-Techne in 2014), Intellego, Cell Microsystems, and Altis Biosystems. Nancy holds an appointment in the UW’s Department of Bioengineering. She has been nationally recognized for her research and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute for Medical & Biological Engineering and the National Academy of Inventors.


Workshop Session 1

Educational Goals and Outreach

Speakers: Katrina Jones (Boeing), Jerusalem Kifelew (Accenture), Uloma Okoro (AT&T), Erica Sanchez (Boeing)

The places you can go and the things you can do! A panel diverse in engineering backgrounds will share how they are using their degrees in the workplace. Panelists will describe what it means to be an engineer and how you can become one. They will share experiences, practices, and lessons that have helped them build a rewarding and innovative career as a professional engineer.

Speakers: Megan Barlow (Wilbur-Ellis), Heidi Gough (UW School of Environmental and Forest Sciences), Brynn Olden (Bristol Myers Squibb), Shelley Lankford (WA Department of Health Public Health Laboratories), Reitha Weeks (Shoreline Community College)

Rewarding careers in academia, government and companies await those with degrees in science! The term “science” covers many disciplines but at this session you will hear from a bioengineer working in a drug development company, a microbiologist supervising a government chemistry lab, a geologist using soil science to improve orchards, and an environmental engineer who is a UW faculty member with a lab studying contaminants in the environment. The panelists will share their education and career paths, the skills, and activities important for success and future directions in their fields.

Speakers: Sarah Alamdari (UW Chemical Engineering), Niveditha Kalavakonda (UW Electrical & Computer Engineering), Julie Kientz (UW Human Centered Design & Engineering), Karen Wetterhahn (UW Material Science & Engineering)

Have you ever wondered whether getting an MS or a PhD is right for you? Learn about the difference between the Master of Science (MS) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programs and about the application processes, timelines, and funding options. This talk is for both undergraduates wanting to go straight to graduate school (right after graduation or later) and professionals currently working in industry considering going back to school. We will hear from UW graduate advisors, current graduate students, or those who have completed graduate school.

Speakers: SWE Outreach (Society of Women Engineers at UW)

Welcoming all high school students! You won't want to miss this College 101 talk covering topics like how to choose a STEM major, how to decide what college is best for you, how to pay for college, and more!

Career Management and Development

Speaker: Nefretiti Nassar (NexHer)

Do you struggle with understanding how to advance in the workplace? Are you disappointed that your performance alone isn’t enough to gain the recognition you deserve? Do you feel overwhelmed by the idea that you must spearhead your own career without knowing the rules of the game? In Play It to Win, Nefretiti Nassar, engineer, entrepreneur, and author equips young professionals with proven strategies to excel in Corporate America. Whether you’re a student or a recent college graduate, Play It to Win provides you with guidance, practical examples, and strategic advice to help increase your probability of successfully navigating the many unwritten rules within the workplace.

Speakers: Jennyfer Crist (3M), Angela Giese (3M), Kelly Hentges (3M), Becky Jetto (3M)

Why are women always apologizing? Whether asking a question, sending an email, or voicing an opinion, women tend to include apologetic phrasing. This is especially true in the workplace, where verbal and non-verbal actions can undermine our position and convey a lack of confidence. By understanding the root of these behaviors, we can proactively overcome our social tendencies. This session will teach you to be more confident and assertive at work by providing tactics to improve your communication skills. We are all intelligent, capable, amazing engineers – no apology necessary. Leave ready to own your voice and advance your career.

Inclusion & Cultural Awareness

Speakers: Olayinka Adekola (Stanford University), Jacalyn Chapman (Salesforce), Nicole Johnson (Salesforce), Vivien Rico (Salesforce), Tia Williams (Salesforce)

We all have unique backgrounds and experiences that have helped shape who we are today and who we aspire to be. In the workplace however, Black, Hispanic, Asian, and multicultural women experience feeling a lack of acceptance and respect, often feeling like the “other” in a room. How can we use our uniqueness to thrive in environments that reward sameness? How do we market and capitalize on the value that our diversity can bring into settings that are resistant to a different point of view? Hear the stories and journeys of 5 unique women of color who have charted their own course towards careers in science and engineering. Learn what it's like to work in this industry, how to navigate corporate culture, and how to flourish in the workplace without giving up your identity and what makes you, you.

Leadership and Self-Management

Speaker: Aneesa Muthana (Pioneer Service Inc.)

It can be tempting for leaders to "go it alone" when facing the daily challenges and decisions attached to running our company. Superheroes do it, so why can't we? That answer, sadly, is that we're only human, and no leader is immune to burnout and diminished effectiveness. The solution is having a small, unofficial "personal board of directors," a shortlist of trustworthy people you admire who can act as your sounding board. Pick the right people, ask the right questions, and the new point of view can refresh our perspective as well as our energy level. This session highlights the various roles within such a board, where to find your people, and how to approach them about it.

Speaker: Ali Brooks (Oracle), Megha Kaul (Oracle), Jayashree Narayanan (Oracle), Raven Robertson (Oracle), Domenica Mata Rodriguez (Oracle)

This session will explore the origins of “imposter syndrome” and how it impacts people in the classroom, lab, workplace, and in life in general. We will discuss the power dynamics in STEM and how they contribute to imposter syndrome. Participants will have the opportunity to reframe imposter syndrome and discuss how they can use their skills to challenge and improve workplace culture.


Coffee Break and Tech Talks

Educational Goals and Outreach

Speakers: SWE Outreach (Society of Women Engineers at UW)

Perfect for the high school student or anyone unfamiliar with SWE! We'll show a short video about how SWE sections in college can support you, and then we'll launch into fun Q&A to answer all your burning questions about SWE, getting involved and college.

Career Management and Development

Speaker: Laura Irons (Glumac)

A leader in sustainable design for the built environment. Our mission is to engineer and commission “green buildings that work”.

Speaker: Kymberly Flaigg (Oracle)

A Computer Software Company specializing in Integrated Cloud Applications and Platform.

Speakers: Alison DeVore (Raytheon Technologies), Catherine G. Wick (Raytheon Technologies)

Raytheon –An Introduction to Raytheon and our business units, with an overview of engineering hiring opportunities.

Speaker: Tia William (Salesforce)

We bring companies and customers together. The world’s #1 cloud-based Software and Customer Relations Management service.

Speakers: Apoorva Dornadula (Viralspace), Nikita Tiwari (Intel Corporation)

Artificial intelligence is heavily trending today - it’s the beginning of a new era. From autonomous driving to immersive shopping, technology is bringing it all to your fingertips. This session is an attempt to dive deeper into what all of this really means, how it happens and what is in it for you as a technologist as well as an end user. However, there are many dangers of using AI, from amplifying historical biases to making decisions that we cannot interpret. With the rise of AI-based solutions, the need for us to understand the motivation behind these black-box models is imperative. We explore real scenarios that show the perils of using AI in the wild. Learn how these risks can be addressed using various techniques throughout the model development and deployment process.

Inclusion & Cultural Awareness

Speaker: Michelle Cheng (Northrop Grumman)

Understanding the cause-and-effect relationship between cultural norms and workplace behavior is complex yet imperative in an age of globalization and intertwining cultures. Growing up as a first-generation Asian American, my parents displayed the typical “Model Minority” traits of hard work, humility, and high expectations where anything below A- was considered “Asian Fail”. Amongst status meetings and workplace chatter, I often catch myself doing the “humble brag”, downplaying my engineering capabilities and value to the team. Those cultural influences unintentionally encourage symptoms of Imposter Syndrome affecting not only Asian American women but also women of all backgrounds. Through sharing my journey of overcoming self-doubt, unrealistic expectations, and fear of challenging authority, more women will gain a new perspective on how their unique backgrounds, if leveraged positively, can contribute to their personal development and success.

Leadership and Self-Management

Speaker: Marilyn Watkins (Economic Opportunity Institute)

We are a long way from gender and racial equity in pay and access to career tracks in engineering and sciences. Cultural attitudes, systemic discrimination, sexual harassment, educational and employer policies, and public policies all play roles in both the problems and the solutions. Learn about recent progress and how you can make a difference.


Workshop Session 2

Educational Goals and Outreach

Speakers: Megan Barlow (Wilbur-Ellis), Heidi Gough (UW School of Environmental and Forest Sciences), Brynn Olden (Bristol Myers Squibb), Shelley Lankford (WA Department of Health Public Health Laboratories), Reitha Weeks (Shoreline Community College)

Rewarding careers in academia, government and companies await those with degrees in science! The term “science” covers many disciplines but at this session you will hear from a bioengineer working in a drug development company, a microbiologist supervising a government chemistry lab, a geologist using soil science to improve orchards, and an environmental engineer who is a UW faculty member with a lab studying contaminants in the environment. The panelists will share their education and career paths, the skills, and activities important for success and future directions in their fields.

Speaker: Emily Olszewski (UW Graduate Society of Women Engineers)

Have you wanted to get involved in research, but didn't know how to start? Or have you previously worked in a lab, but want advice on getting more out of your research? This workshop is for you! We will discuss the benefits of getting involved in research, how to find opportunities (including summer "internships" with paid stipends), and tips for making the most of your time.

Speakers: SWE Outreach (Society of Women Engineers at UW)

Come connect with other attendees and do a virtual escape room! Must come within 5 minutes of the start of Session 2 to be matched with a team. Practice your engineering problem-solving and teamwork skills to complete a bank heist and escape before the time runs out!

Career Management and Development

Speakers: Pratibha Bhatia (Oracle), Shivani Deshpande (Oracle), Uma Balasubramanian (Oracle), Kymberly Flaigg (Oracle), Megha Kaul (Oracle), Raven Robertson (Oracle)

This interactive panel discussion with female engineers working in all aspects of the cloud business -- from hardware to networking to user experience design – will broaden your understanding of cloud technology, of the businesses and customers that depend on the cloud, and of the ways the cloud touches your own life that you might not realize. What does the cloud mean for you and your career? Where do your skills and interests fit into the cloud landscape? This is the place to find out.

Speaker: Liz Bander (Microsoft)

Connecting Authentically: Have you ever been told that you should be networking with others to get internships and jobs after school? Does standing in a room full of strangers’ sound somewhere on the spectrum of unpleasant to terrifying? Do you feel like you have to be a certain way at work or to find work? Come learn how to build your network by expanding existing relationships and creating meaningful new ones, all while staying true to yourself.

Speakers: Jessica Kiefer (Cisco), Amber Iraeta (Bio-Rad Laboratories)

Technical Presentations can be dry and difficult for audiences to get the most out of them. People often lose focus and become bored with what is being presented. Generally, we view storytelling as the opposite to technical presentations, but stories are what humans enjoy hearing. Combining our technical presentations with storytelling is key to effectively delivering the message we want audiences to leave with. Learn how to structure your presentations and use storytelling to engage your audience, deliver a clear narrative that is easier for your audience to follow, and effectively use time management skills. We will practice different storytelling techniques through hands-on exercises so you will leave the session prepared to present successfully!

Inclusion & Cultural Awareness

Speakers: Linda Thomas (Retired Boeing & STEM Advocate & Mentor), Bralade Koroye-Emenanjo (Dow Inc.), Rose Margaret Ekeng-Itua (Ohlone College), Natasha Goode (Dow Inc.), Maisha Gray-Diggs (Twitter)

Women of color, particularly black women, have inevitably faced bias at some point in their careers according to a number of studies. Some of these take the form of “I-can’t-put-my-finger-on-it” or “Did-That-Just-Happen?” subtle discriminations in the workplace also known as microaggressions. Microaggressions give a “Death-By-a-Thousand-Cuts” effect that ultimately chips away at self-esteem and results in an additional Emotional Tax according to a Catalyst Report. In addition to managing these situations on the job, black women are navigating the myths of the superwoman complex. This session will delve into these myths and microaggressions. Hear from accomplished black female engineers on how they have surmounted the odds to not only succeed but are working to make the workplace more inclusive for all people.

Leadership and Self-Management

Speakers: Dung “Dian” Nguyen (Society of Women Engineers Qorvo), Claudia Galvan (Oracle), Jessica Tran, PhD (Microsoft), Nicole Woon (Microsoft), Theresa Krack

Across your collegiate and professional career, you may be faced with the daunting decision of whether to move to a new area. And, if or when you move from your established community area to a brand-new area, you can find yourself feeling very alone. You may even find yourself wondering what you can do to establish a new personal community… and there are so many options to build those connections that it may feel overwhelming! Our panel of speakers are all transplants - in some cases, from coast to coast or even country to country. They will share what worked for them, what didn’t, and what they wished they would have done differently.

Speaker: Tarryn Anderson (Boeing)

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s a common question frequently asked but leads to a fundamentally flawed way of thinking. Society traditionally frames career success as a metaphorical peak that can be reached, a point when you have finally “made it.” But what happens after? And what happens if you change your mind about what you want to “be”? As a Business major turned Astrophysics major turned Systems Engineer, I will explore the unexpected twists and turns of my own career path, and how I have learned to redefine success.



Closing and Final Keynote

Ershela Sims

Dr. Ershela Sims
Women in Engineering ProActive Network, Inc. (WEPAN) Executive Director

Dr. Sims is the Executive Director of the Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN). Prior to joining WEPAN she was the Interim President and Senior Vice President for Virtual and Outreach Programs at the SC Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics (SCGSSM). She began her career at GSSM as Vice President for the Accelerate Virtual Engineering Program in 2017. Prior to GSSM, Dr. Sims was the Dean of Engineering and Technology at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM) which housed the Engineering and Computer Science programs, as well as the Peter T. Haughton Fabrication and Innovation Lab. During her tenure at NCSSM, Dr. Sims developed and taught courses in Statics, Biomedical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Engineering Research, and Biomedical Instrumentation.

Ershela has also been involved in outreach activities through national organizations as well as NCSSM. She was the Director for Step Up to STEM, a 2-week residential STEM program for rising ninth grade students. In addition, she was the lead developer of the Biomedical Engineering (Health and Life Science) strand for on an NCSSM curriculum development project for the NC Dept. of Public Instruction.

Dr. Sims completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Biomechanics in the Department of Surgery at Duke University, where she worked on an NIH funded longitudinal study investigating gait mechanics associated with osteoarthritis of the knee. Following her postdoctoral fellowship, she taught anatomy courses in the medical school at Duke University for two years. Prior to working in academia, she worked as a software design engineer and later a technical architect at Nortel Networks for five years developing telecommunications software. Following her work in industry, she worked as the Assistant Director of the Duke-UNC Brain Imaging and Analysis Center for two years, where she performed functional MRI research and managed a number of ongoing research projects.

Ershela is a member of several professional associations including the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), and Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES). Dr. Sims is a recipient of the NSBE Dr. Janice A. Lumpkin Educator of the Year Golden Torch Award and co-recipient of the National Science Teachers Association Vernier Technology Award. She also serves on multiple boards including the Clemson General Engineering Advisory Board, the Florence-Darlington Technical College Board of Trustees, and NSBE Healthcare Innovation Special Interest Group.


2021 WiSE Conference Ends


Post Conference Reception

2021 WiSE Sponsors

Thank you to the following 2021 WiSE Conference sponsor, along with UW Engineering Student Academic Services and Diversity & Access.

Boeing logo