On May 22-23, the IEEE Women in Engineering International Leadership Conference (WIE ILC) was held in San Jose, California. Women across disciplines of engineering gather at this annual conference to learn about recent strides in female leadership in engineering, as well as business skills and methods to rise up and build an impressive career in a male-dominated field. This conference also features a dedicated entrepreneurship track, including sessions from powerful woman founders and funders.
CEOs and VCs alike shared their experiences and advice at various sessions over the two-day conference. Some of the speakers also had both titles! One such individual was Trish Costello, a venture capitalist as well as founder and CEO of Portfolia, an investing platform built for entrepreneurial women. Trish spoke as a part of a panel discussion on entrepreneurial funding, one of many sessions at the event which focused on how women can raise capital for their early-stage startup companies. Though it can be difficult to fund a startup, especially as a woman, due to the highly competitive environment of the entrepreneurial world as well as the low amount of money available for founders, Trish encouraged women to pursue entrepreneurship if it is something they are truly passionate about. “A lot of women currently in corporate environments want to be in the startup world, and they should,” Trish said, “because that’s where you control your destiny.”
The conference also featured speakers who were experts in other areas of business development, such as Hillary Barnhart, Sr. Director of Business Operations at Applied Materials. Hillary led a session called “The Business Model of You,” in which she discussed how to properly develop a business model and apply it to your own life, even outside of your career. Her talk, along with many others on the WIE ILC program, was focused on teaching engineers how to understand the business world and encouraging them to take the first step into entrepreneurship. She also emphasized the importance of knowing what kind of value you can bring to a company, outside of your technical skills. “It is not about a task you do…It’s the problem you solve for your customers,” she explained.
Both women agreed that it was refreshing to see a professional organization take an active interest in encouraging women to lead their own businesses. A lot of women, particularly those involved in engineering, “don’t know where to start when it comes to building a business,” said Trish, “and professional organizations [like IEEE] should be guiding the way.”
To learn more about the IEEE WIE ILC, click here.