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Grad Spotlight: How Julia Azevedo and SWE Benefited From Each Other

Azevedo is graduating with a degree in industrial engineering and management sciences

Northwestern’s undergraduate chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) is an important part of the Northwestern Engineering fabric. SWE hosts events and connects students with internship and job opportunities, plus forms a support network for women in the field.

Julia Azevedo left her mark on the group during her time at Northwestern.

Azevedo, who is graduating from the McCormick School of Engineering with a degree in industrial engineering and management sciences, served on the outreach committee for three years (one as outreach director), and on the executive board for three years, including one as president. 

Julia Azevedo

“SWE is a wonderful community that introduced me to some of my best friends and closest mentors. I have gotten incredible advice from third- or fourth-year students, connected with professors and industry professionals who gave me research and internship opportunities, participated in meaningful conversations about pursuing social justice in STEM, and gave back by sharing my love for engineering with younger girls,” Azevedo said. “All of these were central to my McCormick experience.”

In a Q&A, Azevedo reflected on her time at Northwestern Engineering.

Why did you decide to pursue engineering at Northwestern?
There were two main factors. The first one is that I really wasn't sure that I wanted to be an engineer and Northwestern was a school that offered me tons of flexibility to try new things and confirm this was what I wanted. I also liked that even while being an engineer, I'd be exposed to other subjects.

The second factor is that I really liked the idea of human-centered engineering — and thinking about engineering as a way of using math and science tools to solve people's problems — and McCormick's curriculum really highlighted that.

How did the McCormick curriculum help build a balanced, whole-brain ecosystem around your studies in your major?
I have loved taking design classes! Even though I took Design Thinking and Communication during the COVID-19 pandemic and the experience was certainly different from what I imagined it would be, it still opened the doors for me to explore design thinking as a great framework to approach problem-solving in my engineering career. I went on to dedicate most of my electives to design classes, which have truly helped me stay in touch with many of the human sides of engineering. One of my favorite classes that really explored that was DSGN 395: User Research: Learning to See People and their Patterns.

What skills or knowledge did you learn in the undergraduate program that you think will stay with you for a lifetime?
The most important thing I've learned is to truly listen to people and that the most important part of solving any problem is to properly diagnose it, which can never be done without talking to all the stakeholders involved in it.

What's next? What are your short- and long-term plans/goals in terms of graduate studies and/or career path? 
Following graduation, I will be working as a routing analyst at 4MATIV Technologies, a company owned by a McCormick IEMS alum and that was introduced to me by one of my professors. There, I hope to make an impact on how school transportation is run in districts across the country, improving equitable access to education. I'm excited to continue learning while on the job and to apply many of the things I have learned as an industrial engineering student. Long term, I also continue to be dedicated to using engineering knowledge to create a positive impact on people's lives.

What advice do you have for current and future Northwestern Engineering students?
Seek out help! Engineering is hard, but McCormick is an incredibly collaborative school and there are many people out there who will help you when you need it. I have gotten great advice from peers, professors, and advisers.