California State University, Fullerton

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Alumna Supports Student Engineers

Funds Program to Foster Workforce-Ready Skills

April 22, 2013

Engineering alumna Caecilia Gotama knows that engineers are sometimes perceived as not possessing the business acumen needed to be successful in their careers.

While those assumptions may be true in some cases, Gotama '82, '86 (B.S., M.S. engineering-mechanical) hopes to change those perceptions about future graduates of the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

To help students achieve success in the workplace, Gotama has pledged and given upward of $50,000 in cash and in-kind support for communications and "people" skills workshops over the next five years, said Hart Roussel, the college's director of development.

"The biggest criticism I hear from industry is that engineers' social skills are below average, and my hope is to help Cal State Fullerton engineering students improve their communications skills to become more well-rounded in the workplace — and help them be successful in the early phases of their careers," said Gotama.

Gotama, who founded Gotama Building Engineers in Long Beach in 1998, and the college developed the "Communication Skills for Successful Engineers" series, based on her own expertise and insight as an accomplished professional engineer.

Three workshops offered this year were open to juniors and seniors both in engineering and computer science and organized by student engineering clubs. The sessions, led by industry professionals, focused on learning about personality types and making compelling project proposals, and at the April 12 program, about creating memorable and visually appealing presentations.

Negotiating skills and working as a team will be presented this fall, the fourth in the series. Students also receive a certificate of completion for their resume.

Mechanical engineering major Rae-Lynne Lansang is among students who have taken advantage of the programs. "I saw the workshops as a way for students to show the world that any graduate from the College of Engineering and Computer Science is an invaluable asset to any team."

For Gotama, whose firm hires college graduates, her goal is to help create the next generation of engineers who can "present and sell their ideas, and when they walk into a door, they are well-received by the people on the other side of the table."

Lansang, a member of the student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, which helped plan the recent workshop, agreed: "As students, becoming effective communicators allows us to be better team players and strengthens interpersonal relationships. Whichever path in engineering that we choose to follow, possessing such skills makes us more competitive than others, people are less intimidated by us, and we will be able to thoroughly convey the ideas implemented in our designs."

Gotama, a member of the engineering college's Dean's Advisory Council and a 2011-12 Vision & Visionaries Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, explained that giving back to her alma mater is simple.

"Giving back is part of life. You grow up, and achieve to a certain level, and the next level, naturally, seems to give back. The personal satisfaction is hoping that you are making a difference in helping young engineers be prepared for the workforce."

Lansang, plans on graduating in 2015 well prepared for her future career. "I hope that applying the skills I learned in these workshops will improve my professional networking, eventually leading to profitable job opportunities."

By: Debra Cano Ramos, 657-278-4027

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