Six students attend CRA-Women Graduate Cohort Workshop

7/15/2015 Daniel Dexter, ECE ILLINOIS

With financial support from the ECE Trust Fund, students Anku Adhikari, Safa Messaoud, Lili Su, Jiangmeng Zhang, Linjia Chang, and Archana Manjunath attended the workshop in San Francisco.

Written by Daniel Dexter, ECE ILLINOIS

ECE ILLINOIS was well-represented this spring at the annual Computing Research Association (CRA)-Women Graduate Cohort Workshop.

With financial support from the ECE Trust Fund, students Anku Adhikari, Safa Messaoud, Lili Su, Jiangmeng Zhang, Linjia Chang, and Archana Manjunath attended the workshop this spring in San Francisco.

In addition, Krystal Cooper, a graduate student in the Department of Computer Science, joined them. The Illinois students were among a group of 300 graduate students selected to attend the event, from a total of 671 applications.

The workshop was developed to help female graduate students to improve networking skills and learn about the various ways that they can leverage their degrees.

Jiangmeng Zhang
Jiangmeng Zhang

For Zhang, attending the workshop was a worthwhile experience and helped her gain some direction in terms of her post-graduation plans.

“I’m the senior PhD already, and I’m anxious about the future and what I can do after I graduate,” Zhang said. “(The presenters) all shared their own stories.”

She found hearing their stories - as well as the presenters achievements - gave her some perspective on dealing with challenges she faces.

The two-day event featured presentations from accomplished engineers in various different career paths, including industry and academia. The speakers lectured about their own personal experiences and advice they would offer to the attendees.

Manjunath said she particularly enjoyed a Microsoft representative’s lecture on standing out through resume-building and communication of career goals. The opportunity to network with the speakers one-on-one helped her consider her own future plans, she found.

“I learned about networking and how important it is for your professional life,” Manjunath said.  “I intend to build a startup one day, and the advice I received was incredibly beneficial in terms of learning from people who have been there before.”

Zhang believes that workshops like these are important for the engineering field because women are generally underrepresented in STEM fields, so it is empowering to hear from women that were able to overcome gender biases in the workplace.

Archana Shivaram Manjunath
Archana Shivaram Manjunath

“There is a difference in how women are perceived in engineering, and the CRA is doing its part to attract more women in this engineering field,” Zhang said. “Because this was a workshop for women, I got a chance to meet so many female professionals in ECE or CS, which helps with my career goals.”

Despite the overall under-representation of female engineers, Zhang and Manjunath agreed that they feel their research areas at ECE ILLINOIS are inclusive of both genders. Manjunath went on to say that women engineering clubs and societies on campus are important in terms of eliminating gender biases in the workplace.

“When I see my own research group, I think the percentage of women here is pretty amazing, and I think it is good to have this kind of ratio,” Manjunath said. “I think that ECE ILLINOIS does an excellent job of making it possible for women to get a graduate engineering degree.”

ECE ILLNOIS donors supported the students' travel to the conference through the ECE Trust Fund. The trust fund is comprised of unrestricted gifts to ECE ILLINOIS. For more information or to contribute, visit our Give section.


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This story was published July 15, 2015.