Championing Professional Development
TV stereotypes of engineers and scientists are getting a little old for Caecilia Gotama '82 '86 (B.S., M.S. engineeringmechanical). "It's become a running joke – engineers who can't communicate well, who can't socialize. And not just engineers – physicists, chemists, scientists," said the alumna. "My goal is to change that."
Communications and soft-skills development for engineers and those in other technical fields is a passion for Gotama. Her most recent gifts are helping create an Endowed Teaching Support Fund to integrate communication skills into the College of Engineering and Computer Science's curriculum.
Gotama knows how to challenge the norm. She studied engineering as "a rebellion. My dad didn't think it was a very feminine thing to do, and, at 15, you do exactly the opposite of what your parents tell you," she laughed. Over the years, the engineer – now retired from Gotama Building Engineers, which she founded in 1998 – has shared her experience and insight with students. She helped develop a series of workshops focused on learning about personality types, making compelling project proposals, creating impactful presentations, teamwork and negotiating skills. Planning is underway for a multiyear pilot project to adapt soft-skills content into the academic context, provide training and complement instructors with communications and soft-skills experts.
"I always believed in giving back," said Gotama, who also holds an MBA from Pepperdine University. "I got here because a lot of people helped me out and it's only fair that I do the same now that I am in a position to do so. Cal State Fullerton was one of the organizations that helped get me here. It's only natural that I give back."