April Yang on Berkeley MEng’s Spring Boot CampBy April Yang, MEng ’23 (IEOR/FinTech) The Power of Diversity and Inclusion for Engineering Leaders is one of the elective courses that UC Berkeley Master of Engineering students can take as part of their Spring Boot Camp. Through exercises, projects, and participation-based learning, Professor Jennifer Yang says the course allows students to both adopt a leadership mindset and reflect on their own perspectives about diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Ultimately, the course is about understanding one another, embracing each other’s differences, and recognizing the strengths of others in order to thrive. Here, MEng student April Yang reflects on her time in the course. Students in the UC Berkeley Master of Engineering (MEng) program are all required to take two mandatory leadership courses in the Fall Boot Camp — Organizational Behavior & Negotiations and R&D Technology Management & Ethics — and two elective leadership courses in the Spring Boot Camp. For the Spring Boot Camp elective courses, I chose Power of Diversity and Inclusion for Engineering Leaders taught by Jennifer Yang and Innovation Management taught by Nima Shomali. The comprehensive topics covered in these courses, combined with the opportunity to connect with students across the seven different engineering departments within MEng, gave me a thorough introduction to the technology industry.
Coming from a management science undergraduate background, I was eager to learn about the intersection of business and technology and the essential soft skills that can shape a successful engineering career.
Expanding my mindsetBefore taking the Power of Diversity and Inclusion for Engineering Leaders, I had assumed that the course would just emphasize the importance of diversity in the workplace. However, it turned out to introduce lots of meaningful topics, including the ways to ensure inclusion as well as the legal and economic implications of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB). The contents covered expanded my understanding of DEIB so that I can bring these practices of promoting DEIB with me when I enter the workforce. Something that stuck out to me was that while diversity has drawn a lot of attention, many people have neglected promoting inclusion. It’s important to ensure that minority groups receive adequate care and accommodation. For example, in workplaces we should ensure that they can deliver their opinions independently without being pressured. Otherwise efforts in promoting diversity would also be in vain. After taking the Diversity and Inclusion for Engineering Leaders course and actively completing the course project, I also have a much better understanding of the biases that I was previously unaware of as well as how to overcome them.
Learning from the bestRecalling the guest speakers panels, Fung Institute executive director Stephany D. Baker’s lecture inspired me the most. Stephany delivered a lecture on the topic of Servant Leadership, during which I learned about definitions and dimensions of inclusive leadership and, more importantly, how servant leadership promotes a more inclusive working place. When Stephany asked us to discuss the difference between traditional leadership and servant leadership, I was able to contribute because I related the question to a previous internship experience. My former leader was always listening, discussing, and sharing her power with the team to get work done, in contrast a traditional leader would just use their power to drive the team.
Each of the guest lecturers, including Stephany, provided a unique perspective about diversity and inclusion.Having been introduced to the general knowledge base of this topic during regular lectures, the guest lectures gave me a glimpse into the extended concepts and practices that really help successfully embed diversity and inclusion into the workplace.
Turning knowledge into meaningAs part of the group project component of the Power of Diversity and Inclusion for Engineering Leaders course, we were tasked with creating a project in which we got to convert the theoretical knowledge we learned into solid impact. My teammates Leah, Catherine, Roy, and I worked on promoting the representation of Black students in the MEng classroom. We picked this topic because we noticed that the proportion of Black students at UC Berkeley seems to be relatively lower than other schools. Likewise, during the prospective student chatting sessions I held, I learned a lot about how underrepresented minorities faced barriers when applying to grad school. We first decided to conduct interviews to gather information from program staff and current students. Because I happen to be one of the MEng Ambassadors, I had connections with some staff at the Fung Institute so I just directly reached out to them. It was interesting to see how different people approach this issue. Through researching the cause of this underrepresentation as well as measures that UC Berkeley and other universities had taken to combat it, we learned about Prop 209. This proposition is a law in California that prohibits considering race in the admissions process. That really surprised us and spurred our thoughts on helping tackle this controversial issue. We concluded by presenting our findings in class and writing a letter to the Fung Institute proposing suggestions for the initiative and hopefully, making a tangible impact.
Looking back and moving forwardReflecting on the leadership course experience as a whole, I see it as an invaluable asset. Given that I will be moving into my professional career after graduation and wish to step into managerial positions in the future, I am certain that the knowledge taught in these courses will accompany me along my career journey and hopefully propel me towards my long-term career goals faster. Edited by Veronica Roseborough.
A student’s perspective: The Power of Diversity and Inclusion for Engineering Leaders was originally published in Berkeley Master of Engineering on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.