Electrical engineering student Jazzmin Robinson knows the value public speaking skills hold for a career in engineering.
A senior, Robinson’s wake-up call with stage fright was during a presentation at her first big internship with the Department of Defense. “I never knew this about myself, and my friends and supervisors were shocked that I was so terrified,” she says.
This moment was a turning point for Robinson. She knew then that to become a successful engineer she needed to find ways to utilize the many organizations across the Mason community to become a leader on George Mason University’s Fairfax Campus.
“I always enjoyed being involved, but the day that I realized my fear of public speaking was pretty crippling, that added to my motivation,” says Robinson.
A Richmond, Virginia native, Robinson has now held six leadership positions at Mason. Currently, she is the public relations chair for the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) region two executive board and the vice president for NSBE’s collegiate chapter. She is also secretary for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.
“The organizations I’ve been a part of have given me so much exposure and leadership experience, and it has given me much more confidence in presenting and public speaking,” she says.
Robinson sees the skill as crucial to a successful engineering career because of the collaborative nature of the field. “In NSBE, IEEE, and others, we have to work together to reach specific outcomes. But at the end of the day, we need to be able to mentor others and tell outsiders all that we’ve done,” she says. “In engineering, you need to similarly communicate with other stakeholders on projects you are working on.”
In other internships and even her senior design project, the importance of leadership and speaking skills held constant. Sometimes in our engineering education, we are so busy learning theories or principles, that the communication skills fall behind, says Robinson. But she thinks that all students should find a way to build a communications and leadership toolkit.
As a student leader, she has made it a mission to help other students develop these skills. As NSBE’s regional public relations chair, she started a new initiative to try and expose collegiate NSBE leaders to how the regional team operates. “NSBE at the collegiate level has a pretty big structure, with more than 500 chapters, there are regional teams that oversee collegiate chapters, and I felt it could be beneficial for collegiate members to see how the regional team runs,” she says. “Past leaders in the student organizations I’ve been in have really inspired me to be a better leader.”
After her graduation in May, Robinson plans to take these skills into whatever career she chooses, but she admits she will miss the collaborative nature at Mason. “I love it at Mason, and I’ve been able to learn so much. While I am excited to get my career started, I will miss Mason for sure.”