OnQ Blog

Inspiring college women engaged in engineering degrees

Feb 19, 2016

Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.

What is the technical industry really like?  What’s it like to be a female engineer at Qualcomm? How do you ace a technical interview both in person and on the phone? How will the concepts learned in class enable me to have an impact on the world?

Sixty top female freshman and sophomore college students majoring in computer science and computer engineering at schools across the U.S. discovered answers to these and other questions when they attended the third annual Qualcomm Women’s Collegiate Conference (QWCC) at our San Diego campus last month.

Qualcomm is committed to helping women and girls enter and succeed in technology careers. The purpose of QWCC is to keep college women engaged in their engineering degrees and solidify their choice in major by helping them strengthen their technical and professional skills and connecting them with valuable resources early in their career. QWCC provides exciting opportunities for the students to learn from mentors, experience what it’s like to work at Qualcomm and apply what they’re learning in the classroom in a real world setting. Hosted by our college recruitment and Global Inclusion & Diversity teams, the conference also exposes the students to the wireless industry and the Qualcomm technologies that are improving people’s lives globally. 

For me, these were some conference highlights:

  • Our CEO Steve Mollenkopf stopped by to welcome the women, answer their questions—and left them star-struck. The students were excited and appreciative that the CEO of a big company would spend time chatting with them.
  • Dr. Christine Alvarado, a Computer Science and Engineering faculty member at UC San Diego, delivered an inspiring keynote address. She shared some of her research on the barriers facing women in computer science and her success developing a more gender-inclusive curriculum.
  • The blinking LED shirts that the students wore? The students made those shirts using knowledge and skills we taught them in a “wearables” workshop, allowing them to gain experience in creating electronic circuits.
  • The Hack for Impact Challenge. Hackathons are a unique opportunity to get hands-on project experience that you can add to your resume while you’re still early on in school. Unfortunately, these aren’t always the most inviting or inclusive environments. So, we organized a hackathon for our visitors, with a fun twist. We invited middle school girls to participate and teamed them with the college students. The girls were Qcampers and Vista Innovation and Design Academy students who had learned engineering skills in our Thinkabit Lab. The teams had three hours to come up with an idea for a mobile solution that can change the world, code it, pitch it to a panel of judges and then they were evaluated. The beauty of this event was that it gave the younger girls an opportunity to see role models closer to their own age while also putting them in a position, at times, of teaching the college women. 
  • I loved the beach bonfire, our closing event where we talked through the women’s “aha moments”. Discovering that they’re dealing with many of the same issues strengthened the bonds between them and helped them to see how participating in QWCC provided them with a support system that will serve them well as future colleagues and CEOs.

Did QWCC achieve what we hoped? A powerful thank-you email from a participant indicates we did. Going into the weekend, she wasn’t sure that she wanted to continue in Computer Engineering because it was becoming challenging.  After the event she wrote us, “I've learned so much more about what it's really like to be an engineer and make a difference. I've learned what improvements I need to make on myself and more of who I want to be in the future… I decided that Computer Engineering was for me.”