social media

What Does Your Profile Picture Say?

A picture is worth a thousand words.

An idiom we have all heard a thousand times. We have all also been told a thousand times that one of the best ways to update your LinkedIn Profile is to include a profile picture, but what is your picture saying about you?

Professional? Competent? Likeable? Confident? Trustworthy? Fun? Flirty?

I was recently turned onto the site which is a website where you can upload your photo and have people vote on how they see you. You can upload a business photo, social photo, or dating photo with different ranking criteria for each. For business photos, voters are asked to rank how each how competent, likable, and influential each person appears. Voters are also able to give feedback comments. You can set up your own campaign and vote on others photos. Your scores are a percentile ranking of other scores on the site, a comparison.

I tested it out with my LinkedIn profile picture and another similar professional photo I use with a different pose to see what my picture would say.


My LinkedIn profile picture proved to be the more competent looking picture, while the other proved to be the more influential looking picture. Neither picture paints me as very likable; many comments suggested I needed to smile more. I cannot say I am surprised. One comment that stood out to me on my LinkedIn profile was that I looked sad: I could actually work with that in some of my other social media profiles relating to my poetry writing. Comments that stood out to me with the other photo were that it was too intimidating or intense; I am not sure what to do with that feedback.

So what is your picture saying about you? Are you happy with what it says? There is some great information about different expressions and photo tools on the website if you are not happy with your photo or your results. Check it out and have a little fun voting on other pictures.

Confidence, Networking, Personal Development

Don’t Be an Imposter: Take Responsibility for Your Successes

I was asked this week by a member of a content management team to provide a project management story, an example, for a project management module the group was working on. He reached out to me saying they were looking for “project management experts” to share career experiences.

My first thought was,

I’m not an expert at anything, let alone project management.

This is often my first thought when someone says I am an expert or experienced in a topic. The shock of someone considering me an expert and my own resounding echo of self-doubt were classic imposter syndrome. The imposter syndrome is that feeling that people will find out you can’t cut it, that you’re a fraud, or that you’re incompetent.

What if I submit one of my projects and it’s not any good? Or it shows that I really can’t manage anything?

These were just a few of the thoughts going through my head.

But anyone who feels the effects of the imposter syndrome, like I did this week, can’t let it put up roadblocks in your path. If it’s drained all your confidence, you can either “fake it ‘til you make it,” or pull out a stash of confidence boosters and run through those road blocks. Take responsibility for your successes, write them down, and pull them out in these moments of self-doubt.

That’s what I did. I have a great resource of projects I’ve worked on written down in a Dropbox folder, built from my professional engineering licensure application. I pulled that out and thought,

Yes, I can do this! I have made it from through several ranks of project engineer. I have managed projects from manufacturing to consulting services; I should be able to provide something.

Do you ever have moments of self-doubt or are overcome by the imposter syndrome? How do you deal with that? Do you fake it ‘til you make it,” or do you have a stash of confidence boosters? What are some of the ways you take responsibility or record your successes?


Conversations on Engineering Ethics: Canon III

“Issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner.”

The third item from the fundamental canon of the Engineering Code of Ethics from the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) discusses issuing public statements objectively and truthfully. It is also the same or similarly worded first fundamental canon of Code of Ethics from professionally engineering societies like the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Again we examine what does this actually mean?

ASME’s Society policy on ethics which we have previously explored does not have this statement or a similar statement as a third canon. Instead, this organization values continued professional development and ethical development of the engineer as its third most important quality.

ASCE’s Code of Ethics expands even further on the idea of objective and truthful public statements,. The organization explains that “[an] engineer may apply his or her technical expertise only when competent to do so, must indicate when a statement has been paid for by an interested party, and may not promote his or her own interests in a manner derogatory to the integrity of the profession.”

NSPE further expands by highlighting three points on issuing public statements, including professional reports and testimony.

  1. Engineers shall be objective and truthful in professional reports, statements, or testimony. They shall include all relevant and pertinent information in such reports, statements, or testimony, which should bear the date indicating when it was current.
  2. Engineers may express publicly technical opinions that are founded upon knowledge of the facts and competence in the subject matter.
  3. Engineers shall issue no statements, criticisms, or arguments on technical matters that are inspired or paid for by interested parties, unless they have prefaced their comments by explicitly identifying the interested parties on whose behalf they are speaking, and by revealing the existence of any interest the engineers may have in the matters.

Both NSPE and ASCE take note of the engineer’s competence when issuing statements which lead back to ASME’s canon on professional development. Do you consider being able to issue statements and reports in an objective and truthful manner a higher priority than the continuing professional and ethical development of the engineer? In my view they are two sides of the same coin, the engineer must continue to learn and develop to maintain competence in order to be able to issue statements and reports in an objective and truthful manner.


  1. NSPE Code of Ethics
  2. The Seven Fundamental Canons of ASCE’s Code of Ethics
  3. ASME Society Policy: Ethics
Personal Development

Toastmasters and My Self-confidence

I am a quiet person. There I have admitted it to all the world. I have heard that I am too quiet for years from family, friends, managers, and potential employers. I agree with them that I am a quiet person; I consider myself an introvert who likes to retreat to quiet spaces to recharge and am a reflection of that quiet space.

I was never the one to be called out in the classroom for chatting with my friends while the teacher lectured. When I am in a meeting, I like to listen to all the view points and soak in the information. I feel that I do chime in if and only if I can contribute meaningfully to the conversation, not just to hear myself talk, pick arguments, or prolong the conversation. Yet I am still told that I am still too quiet and need to speak more. This is the one constant piece of advice I have to hear from recruiters, potential employers, and managers over the years.

Last fall I finally decided to take control of this situation. I joined my local Toastmasters group to improve my verbal communication skills. I have tried to join Toastmasters before, but I never got to the point of ever really giving any speeches. This time was different. I have now made it through my eighth speech project and only have two more before completing the competent communicator series. During this time I have also presented at two conferences.

One week the Toastmaster for our meeting said, “Toastmasters is a group that helps you speak without fear and lead with confidence.” I would not say that I have no fear or even less fear giving a speech in the speeches I’ve given, plus two presentations as well as the additional speaking roles during other meetings. I am still nervous. I was very nervous for my presentation at that last conference presentation wondering if anyone would even show up and I was very nervous about the speech I gave at the Toastmaster meeting this week wondering if I would drop my props or run over time or whether or not anyone would like my speech. Despite all the doubts and nervousness, I do have, I am able to push past them, practice and give my speech or my presentation. My participation in Toastmasters so far has improved my self-confidence to overcome some of those doubts and nervousness.

I don’t expect to be the center of attention at the party or to suddenly turn into an extrovert. I do hope to see continued improvement in my self-confidence and verbal communication skills. as I continue to participate in Toastmasters.

(Repurposed from my article in the FY17 Society of Women Engineers MAL Newsletter 4 May 2017)


Full STEAM Ahead: Engineering Poetry

Writing poetry can be like solving a problem from math or engineering class. Math and engineering problems often have a set of parameters or design parameters (mass, weight, velocity, acceleration, distance, time) asking you to solve for something specific like the missing parameter. Think of the classic, “two trains leave different cities heading toward each other at different speed, when and where do they meet?”

Poetry is no different. In poetry, you have design parameters of rhythm/cadence, rhyme scheme, the number of lines, the and the number of syllables per line asking you to “solve” for a poem that either creates and image or tells a story. For example, the English Sonnet or Shakespearean Sonnet is a 14 line (the number of lines) poem divided into three sets of 4 lines and a rhyming couplet written in iambic pentameter (rhythm/cadence) with the rhyme scheme of abab/cdcd/efef/gg. If you’ve read Shakespear, you’re familiar with the English sonnet and the stories and images that can be created like the famous Sonnet 18 which opens “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day.”

A limerick is another form of poetry that you may be familiar with that has similar design parameters as the English Sonnet, but a completely different poem you are trying to “solve” for or objective.  A Limerick is supposed to a comic or humorous poem. It also has a restriction in length, but instead of 14 lines asks for a much shorter poem of five lines with a rhyme scheme aabba. The rhythm/cadence is not specified for a limerick like a sonnet; however, the first, second and fifth lines are longer and rhyme together, while the third and fourth lines rhyme together and are shorter.

There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, ‘It is just as I feared!
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!

(From “There was an Old Man with a Beard” by Edward Lear)

Now that you are more familiar with how similar writing poetry is to solving the engineering and math problems that you are all comfortable with from you too can write poetry. Why not start with something short and simple as a haiku. A haiku is nonrhyming, three line poem. You often hear that the first line has five syllables, the second seven syllables, and the third five syllables again (5/7/5). This rule is not set in stone and allows writers of modern haiku greater flexibility and creativity for writing poetry of different variations (4/6/4 or 3/5/3).  The haiku is often about nature and the seasons, but try writing about the modern nature that surrounds us (technology and machine) and tweet me your creations @jennsealscooper and @zennjenn.

inspired by
engineering poems
we write onward

(Haiku from the  STEM Poetry Presentation at the Society of Women Engineers Region D Conference March 10, 2017, by Jennifer Seals Cooper)



Conversations on Engineering Ethics: Canon II

“Perform services only in areas of their competence.”

The second item from the fundamental canon of the Engineering Code of Ethics from the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) discusses the competence of the engineer. It is also the same or similarly worded first fundamental canon of Code of Ethics from professionally engineering societies like and American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Again we examine what does this actually mean?

ASME’s Society policy on ethic’s further states the engineer “shall build their professional reputation on the merit of their services and shall not compete unfairly with others.” ASCE’s Code of Ethic’s expands even further on this idea, explaining that “this canon means that an engineer may not seal an engineering plan or document unless that document has been prepared or reviewed under his or her supervisory control… this provision is considerably less restrictive than the licensing laws in many U.S. states and jurisdictions, underlining the need for civil engineers to be aware of state codes of conduct as well as those of ASCE.”

NSPE further expands highlighting three points on the qualification of assigned duties and sealing responsibilities.

  1. Engineers shall undertake assignments only when qualified by education or experience in the specific technical fields involved.
  2. Engineers shall not affix their signatures to any plans or documents dealing with subject matter in which they lack competence, nor to any plan or document not prepared under their direction and control.
  3. Engineers may accept assignments and assume responsibility for coordination of an entire project and sign and seal the engineering documents for the entire project, provided that each technical segment is signed and sealed only by the qualified engineers who prepared the segment

Both NSPE and ASCE take note of the engineer’s qualifications in education and experience, the foundations for engineering licensure, and expand upon signature requirements that the licensing laws in many U.S. states and jurisdictions stringently spell out. ASME’s additional details of the engineer’s professional reputation and fair competition is interesting.

Both ASCE and NSPE further expand on professional business dealing later in their ethics canons, but ASME as an additional part of their second cannon must hold maintaining fair competition and the development of a professional reputation as an essential part of the engineer’s qualification.

Do you consider being able to develop a professional reputation and compete fairly with others essential to an engineer’s qualification?


  1. NSPE Code of Ethics
  2. The Seven Fundamental Canons of ASCE’s Code of Ethics
  3. ASME Society Policy: Ethics
Networking, Personal Development

An Abundant Mindset

During the weekly Toastmasters’ meeting this week, we were challenged to develop an Abundant mindset or mentality. A mentality of abundance is that line of thinking that there is a slice of the pie for everyone, you just have to reach out and grab it. The opposite, a scarcity mindset which thinks competitively such that if you take that slice of the pie than I do not get one.
While I do consider myself more of an optimist and having a mindset of abundance seems to be an optimistic way to look at things I cannot say that I have or always have a mindset of abundance. I am more the person that would frown a little over you taking my slice of the pie but not be too heartbroken because it keeps me from eating too many sweets.
I would like to cultivate more of an abundant mentality after hearing the speech this week. I found several articles on the internet with the six, eight, ten ways to develop an abundant mindset in general, in leadership, in business. There is much information, but one of the items most consistent items across many of the resources is gratitude, finding gratitude each day or creating a gratitude journal. In a gratitude journal, you can reflect daily or weekly even on all of the good things in your life and make a note of just one of them, some of them, or all of them.
I found a 21 Day Gratitude Challenge app to help me keep up the positive reflection as I travel and better cultivate a mindset of abundance. I will check back in a few weeks on this project with the progress made. What will you do create a mindset of abundance, join me in journaling gratitude, get organized, great win-win situations, or something else? Let me know.