The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) made magic happen at its 2006 National Technical and Career Conference in January at Walt Disney World Resorts.
The theme of the conference was "engineering magic," and magic was everywhere as the 3,200 attendees caught up with old friends, made new connections and renewed commitments to their profession and their organization for another year.
Diana Gomez, who started her second two-year term as SHPE national president in June 2005, was enthusiastic about both conference attendance and the growth of SHPE's national membership, now more than 8,000. She is also encouraged by several new initiatives that are gaining momentum. "That's really why I ran for a second term," she confides. "We started these projects and I wanted to see them through."
One new project is the Executive LeaderSHPE Institute, to train and coach mid-level managers for executive positions. The program builds on the professional development workshop series launched at NTCC 2005 and continued this year. It is championed by Manny Hernandez, a Raytheon engineer, lifetime SHPE member and holder of many national and regional SHPE offices.
Twenty-two participants from eighteen companies took part in the first training sessions in September 2005, Gomez reports. Another session is scheduled for this June. The program is free to SHPE members, thanks to the sponsorship of HP.
Participants who have been in the workforce five to ten years and are responsible for a significant number of people are eligible with a recommendation from their employers. Applications, and additional corporate sponsorship, will be solicited this winter for the June session, Gomez reports.
The source of talent
Refocusing SHPE's message is another emphasis for Gomez and her leadership team. "We've found a more effective way of telling our story," Gomez explains. "We want the world to know that we are the number one source of quality Hispanic technical talent."
Hispanic Americans will be 17 percent of the U.S. population by 2020, Gomez points out. "We have the population growth necessary to support a sustained flow of technically trained engineers and scientists."
SHPE's role, Gomez believes, is to attract more members of the growing Hispanic workforce to technical careers, and to nurture the careers of those already there.
Workshops and more
College students were invited to participate in several NTCC competitions, including an Academic Olympiad to test their technical knowledge. A website competition asked students to create an interactive blog for a SHPE chapter. Graduate and undergrad students were invited to submit abstracts and papers related to engineering and science.
Two days of chapter and regional meetings, workshops and presentations followed, on topics from atom interferometry to the engineering behind a Disney spectacle.
"Disney was a good partner for this event," notes Annette Jimenez, a retired IRS technical professional and the lead conference champion. At the "Enchanted Gala" banquet, conference-goers enjoyed speeches and awards, along with magical blue ice cubes that stayed lit only as long as they were submerged in water. Several engineers were seen busily attempting to reverse-engineer the magic.