Embry-Riddle Women Engineers Land Dozens of Interviews, Jobs at Industry Conference

Thirty-seven female students from Embry-Riddle attended the 2023 Society of Women Engineers conference.
Thirty-seven female students from Embry-Riddle attended the 2023 Society of Women Engineers conference. (Photo: Claudia Ehringer Lucas)

When Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University sophomore Ashley Cathon arrived at the 2023 Society of Women Engineers (SWE) conference this fall in Los Angeles, she was overwhelmed by the event’s 20,000 attendees and had “no hope” that she would make any professional connections.

Ashley Cathon at a job fair.
Ashley Cathon was offered five different jobs at the conference. (Photo: Ashley Cathon)

“I had never been a on a flight longer than two hours [and] was across the country without my family,” said Cathon, who grew up in Cocoa, Florida. “I did not think I was going to have any chance of even an interview.”

She called her parents for reassurance then started walking around the convention hall. That’s where she spotted a display for L3Harris, an aerospace and defense company that she had already sent multiple job applications to in the past without any luck.

Her experience with the company at the SWE conference was totally different. 

“Right away, they wanted to schedule an interview,” said Cathon, who majoring in Mechanical Engineering with a double minor in Project Management and Computer Science.

Then, in no time at all, they offered her a job.

By the end of the conference, Cathon had interviewed with Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Collins Aerospace, as well. All three companies offered her jobs, with Collins offering her a choice of two different positions. Ultimately, she accepted a 12-week job with L3Harris, to begin in May.

Cathon traveled to the conference with 36 fellow members of the Embry-Riddle chapter of SWE and Claudia Ehringer Lucas, assistant professor of Engineering Fundamentals, who has been the group’s faculty advisor since 2018.

Ehringer Lucas reports great results for the students who attend this annual conference.

Thirty-seven Embry-Riddle students attended this year’s Society of Women Engineers conference, scoring a total of 90 interviews and 22 job offers on the spot. Last year, 31 students attended the conference, sat for 55 interviews and received 31 offers. In 2021, there were 11 interviews and three offers.

This year, 37 students scored a total of 90 interviews and were offered a total of 22 jobs on the spot, with some still awaiting to hear back from their interviews. Last year, 31 students traveled to the conference, sat for 55 interviews and received 31 offers. In 2021, there were 11 interviews and three offers.

To Ehringer Lucas, attending the conference, while not obligatory, is a winning strategy for students. When students take her Introduction to Engineering course, she guides them in setting goals. Getting their first internship experience is often one of those goals.

Although her students often think they need to wait until they’re juniors to apply for internships, each year, at least one of her freshmen “takes the leap of faith and attends either the campus career fair or goes with me to the SWE conference,” Ehringer Lucas said. “To their surprise, they are offered an amazing opportunity.”

This year, freshman Katrina Pfeiffer, a major in Aerospace Engineering and a licensed pilot, traveled to the conference. And, like Cathon, initially she was petrified.

“I felt way in over my head,” she said. “The most I expected to receive from this was resume review and practice talking to recruiters.”

As she walked past the Delta Air Lines booth, she was pulled in and put in line to talk to their recruiter.

People stand by a plane.
Katrina Pfeiffer was offered a paid co-op that will begin this spring. (Photo: Katrina Pfeiffer)

“I chatted for a while, going over my resume and nerding out about airplanes. Much to my surprise, at the end of our conversation, she asked if I wanted an interview,” Pfeiffer said. “I was shocked and agreed, so I scheduled it for thirty minutes later and was their last interview of the day. Apparently, it went well because I got the job offer.”

Pfeiffer will be working at Delta headquarters in Atlanta during three rotating semesters starting this spring as part of a co-op arrangement. The co-op is paid, and she will receive a housing stipend. She and her family will be able to fly on Delta for free, and she will receive 401K benefits.

Pfeiffer and Cathon are both delighted with being a part of SWE, and not only because of the amazing career-building opportunities it has afforded them.

“SWE is such a positive community with other women in STEM,” said Pfeiffer. “I’m still in my first semester and have so much to learn, but this has been such a good experience for me.”

“Through SWE, I have made so many new and amazing friendships,” said Cathon. “I absolutely love what they do and how they bring women together. It allowed me to go outside of my comfort zone and taught me how to speak up.”

Posted In: Engineering