The Value of Professional Society Membership

Posted Monday, September 19, 2016 at 12:37 PM

Technology Senior Consultant, Deloitte Consulting LLP

"Sonya Kori explores the value of membership in one of the many engineering professional societies."

The Value of Professional Society Membership

PostedMonday, September 19, 2016 at 1:01 PM

The Value of Professional Society Membership

Author: Sonya Kori

If you are still in middle or high school, the benefits of professional society membership may not yet be open to you, but some organizations do have junior memberships that will allow you to associate with the organization and take advantage of their many resources. (Check out SWENext as one example.)  If you are currently an undergraduate or graduate student pursuing engineering or already a working professional in the field of engineering, it is important to consider and explore joining an engineering professional society due to the numerous advantages these organizations offer. 

One of the benefits of pursuing engineering is the wealth of professional societies that exist for engineers. Upon entering North Carolina State University as a freshman engineering student in 2007, I began researching and exploring local chapters of these engineering professional societies at my university. I noticed that regardless of what discipline of engineering one is pursuing, there is a professional society that exists for every type. For instance, for Chemical Engineers there is the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), Mechanical Engineering has its own organization called the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is the world’s largest technical professional organization for Electrical Engineers. These professional societies and the countless others that exist provide many unique benefits such as professional development, mentorship, networking, scholarships, and career and learning opportunities. Furthermore, there are many professional societies geared towards helping members overcome specific challenges such as the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP), and Society of Women Engineers (SWE).

The professional society that I chose to join at N.C. State University was SWE. Given the low percentage of women in engineering, SWE’s mission is to help encourage and support women in achieving a degree and career in engineering. At N.C. State the organization had many facets to it. They fostered a social and collaborative environment to meet other women in engineering, but they also held countless workshops to provide invaluable career advice and guidance. Through SWE, I was able to learn how to properly craft a resume, the best ways to secure an internship and full-time job, how to perform well on job interviews, and much more. The club even had companies that would exclusively speak with us about job opportunities, and the companies often ended up filling their open job positions with women from SWE. Many of the other professional societies offer these same unique benefits to their members as well.

Being a member of SWE was something that I enjoyed so much that I ended up holding several officer positions within the chapter and served as Secretary, Web Master, Vice President, and eventually Co-President. There are many advantages to serving as an officer within a professional society. The first benefit I immediately noticed was the ability to have a larger impact on others. It was truly gratifying to have the opportunity to connect with many girls, recruit them to join SWE, and help them through the challenges they were facing. Secondly, serving in these positions allowed me to grow and develop my leadership and communication abilities which are important skills valued by employers when recruiting for engineering jobs. Furthermore, SWE and other professional societies frequently partner with each other as well as with other groups and faculty across the university to host networking events, create professional development opportunities, etc. This enabled me to expand my network and develop an even stronger support system to lean on.

The takeaways I gained from being a member of a professional engineering society during my time in college were substantial.  It not only helped me to succeed by achieving a degree in engineering, it enabled me to launch the career that I have today. It also allowed me to make a significant impact at the university level through helping to grow the membership of the society and supporting and mentoring other girls in achieving their engineering goals. Whether you’ve considered joining a professional society or not, I highly encourage you to do so. These professional organizations have countless benefits and resources that are specifically designed to help you succeed as an engineering undergraduate or graduate student and to support you throughout the rest of your professional career no matter where it may take you.