The PDL Team offers a variety of sessions throughout the year for the Columbia Engineering community. Please find more information about our specific topics below.

Business Writing

Write like you mean business and create effective cover letters.

Ethics & Integrity

Elevate your academic and professional ethics (global and micro perspectives), values, and integrity.

Executive Presence

Identify and practice verbal and non-verbal techniques that will enhance any presentation or interaction.

In-person Communication

Augment your in-person communication skills to inspire, persuade and provoke change.


Prepare your US professional resume.

Social Media and the Job Search

Leverage Social Media for your career development and networking.

Adaptability Quotient

Adaptability is increasingly important in the ever changing workforce. You will be given prescriptive takeaways on how to adapt to changes in life, in school, and in the workplace. You're encouraged to find comfort in the discomfort that comes with growth and change and able to stop seeing change as an inherently negative process.

Alcohol and Networking

Picture it: You are at an event networking with possible colleagues and employers and there is alcohol being served. Do you drink? Do you say no? Join Alice! Health Promotion in a discussion about how to make smart, safe, and responsible decisions around alcohol use.

Build and Bond

Stress management is a practice that’s often easier said than done, so we’re bringing it to you! Take a break with classmates from across SEAS programs and build your own creation based on that day's topic.

Chat and Chew

Join Dr. Mak for a cooking lesson featuring ingredients locally sourced here in Morningside Heights! This is a hands-on workshop has teams reverse engineering a dish! Test your culinary engineering skills and enjoy a nice snack with your classmates.

Emotional Intelligence

Social Scientists have recognized that success is strongly influenced by personal qualities such as perseverance, self-control, and the ability to work well on teams. Companies recognize that employees with high Emotional Intelligence are more resilient, flexible, and adjust easier to the fast changing dynamic of the workplace. After this class you’ll understand what it is, how to measure it, and methods to increase your EQ to accelerate career success and happiness.

Engineering Your Happiness

Happiness is in your hands! Learn more about how you can engineer your happiness through a series of exercises and experiments supported by relevant research in the field of positive psychology. This is an interactive session, requiring participants to reflect and articulate in class.

Engineer Your Positive and Productive Summer

Review the world of opportunities for this summer and leave the session with 3 concrete ideas and a plan for executing them!


Friend2Friend is Alice! Health Promotion's skills-based training program designed to help Columbia students effectively recognize and respond to others exhibiting indicators of distress. Students can be a helper and connect peers to resources on- and off-campus. The training is focused on understanding, re-framing, referring, and self-care.

Healthy Relationships

A healthy relationship is an important part in your life. Spend some time with Alice! Health Promotion to discuss tips and tricks to help you manage your relationships and learn about resources available on campus that can be of help.

Impact: Accountability

The goal of Impact: Accountability is to initiate campus cultural shifts in embracing humility, exercising accountability, and taking ownership of oversights by providing concrete techniques and scenarios on accountability and apologizing through experiential exercises and activities. In doing so, the facilitators also aim to highlight and recognize the spaces within the Columbia University campus culture where accountability is most needed and to ensure the impact of student actions and behaviors matches their intent.

Let's Talk about Failures - Netflix "Losers" Screening

In a "winning is everything" society, how do you handle a failure? Can you have compassion for your competitors and still win? In this workshop, we will screen episodes from the Netflix docu-series “Losers” and discuss how “winning is everything” culture affects us and how you can overcome failures.

Nourish to Flourish: Self-Care Workshop

Self-care is an essential part of successfully completing your studies. In this workshop, you will create your own customize self-care plan you can use while pursuing your degree at SEAS and beyond

Power of Being Quiet - Challenging an Extrovert Ideal

In the United States, being an extrovert is often preferred, for introverts, living in such an environment can have a negative effect on their well-being. Based on Susan Cain’s best-selling book “Quiet,” we will discover the strengths of being an introvert.

Reducing and Managing Stress

Stress management, sleep, and nutrition are key elements of a student’s well-being. Participants will learn about why these behaviors are important, strategies for incorporating them into their lives, and resources available on campus that can provide support.

Replace Self-Doubt with Confidence - Conversation on Imposter Syndrome

In this workshop, students will have an opportunity to have a safe space to share their experience with self-doubt and learn effective ways to manage anxiety. Banish self-doubt and say “I’m good enough”!

Sleep Management

Sleep is a critical factor in supporting an individual's overall well-being. Health Promotion for a discussion on the importance of sleep, barriers students face when trying to get enough quality sleep and strategies for improving sleep habits.

Stress Management

Life and school can be stressful but there are many ways to manage your stress in a positive way. Spend some time with Alice! Health Promotion to discuss tips and tricks to help you manage your stress and learn about resources available on campus that can be of help.

Time Management

Making informed choices about how to use available time can set the stage for academic success. Join us! Health Promotion in a discussion on factors that impact time-choice, managing time effectively, building a balanced schedule, and tools for overcoming procrastination.

Advanced Communications

In your Core communication session Chuck Garcia discussed and displayed the 10 Commandments of Great Communicators. In this highly interactive class, you will have an opportunity to bring that framework to life through small group exercises. You will then stand, deliver, and receive feedback as you learn to become more comfortable in the discomfort of communication skill development.

Advanced Storytelling: Owning the Stage

A single word can make an audience cry, a raised voice can make an audience clap, and a wry smile can make an audience laugh. But only when it’s the exact right move at the exact right time. We’ll learn advanced techniques for word choice, vocal tone, and body movement, with the help of scientific research and a diverse array of characters – poets, politicians, pop stars, and visionary leaders from business and engineering.

Confidence in Comedy

Confidence is a muscle. Come and exercise yours in a safe and fun space! In this class, students will participate in several long-form improv exercises that focus on bulking up the muscle of confidence.

Email First Impressions

Learn to craft an email that puts your best face forward, creates genuine connection, and makes the reader open to further conversation. 

Engineering Slides for Impact

Designing slides is an art and a science. In this elective, you will learn the steps for creating simple, well-structured, and visually appealing slides for highest impact.

Framing & Persuasive Communication

Engineers and other scientists often believe it is the facts that drive persuasion. But facts by themselves, however important, are not enough. Context drives meaning. And framing is the creation of content. This elective is on ways to embed facts within frames in order to move people to feel, think, know, or do things they otherwise would not.

Formal Email Writing

Email writing is vital for successful communication in US workplaces. Participants in this session will be able to list checklists for formal e-mail writing and analyze the rhetorical structure of e-mails in workplaces. The practice and awareness will help people be prepared for effective communications.

Hip Hop Improv

Ever wonder how rappers practice? Want to try? In this class, we will cover the basics of hip hop and practice our flows. By the end of the class, students will have the drills necessary to strengthen their skills at home. All activities will be group and improv-based.

Making Small Talk

In classrooms and workplaces, you encounter many opportunities for discussion and conversation. In this session, you will be able to develop the skills of engaging in conversation appropriately, arguing effectively, and telling your thoughts clearly. You will discuss the cultural differences in discussion and conversation to engage in small talks actively in the US.

Mindfulness in Improv

Improv is a great way to reflect on our own emotions and mental state. In this class, we will use improv comedy to settle into a deeper awareness of our thoughts and feelings and from that point of awareness, we will practice a mindfulness meditation.

Paraphrasing and Citation

You want to cite good sources but do not know how to use the sources effectively? In this session, you will practice some paraphrasing skills to cite sources. You will learn the cultural differences in understanding paraphrasing and citation use. You will be able to list paraphrasing techniques, apply the skills to citing sources. Also, you will learn how to use in-text citation, direct quotation, and reference with following the US citation conventions.

Powerful Presentations

Powerful, persuasive presentation is a valuable and often required skill in the business world, as well as in the classroom. This dynamic and highly participatory seminar will increase your confidence and comfort level, as well as provide guidance on: Organizing content; Engaging and reading an audience; Effective non­verbal behaviors; The program will provide specific, effective techniques and strategies to use in any public speaking situation.

Public Speaking Anxiety Strategies

In this session, participants will learn how to cope with their speaking anxiety or stage fright. By understanding the nature of anxiety and developing their own coping strategies, people could become confident in public speaking settings and show their full ability with fewer language barriers. The session provides helpful advice on coping strategies and setting mindsets.

The Shape of Successful Storytelling

Effective content can inform people, but it takes an effective story to inspire people. Storytelling has been a defining feature of the human experience since prehistory, but the skill of storytelling is often lost in a modern world full of complex organizations and technical concepts. The most successful stories have in common their clear structure, disciplined order, and compelling rhythm. We’ll learn how to combine those elements into a single shape that can make any idea – from a project proposal to an employment application – irresistible.

Charcuterie and Cheese - How to Entertain and Impress

In this course, we will be learning about the history of Charcuterie. Not only will we learn about it, each student gets to join a team to create their own Charcuterie board!

Columbia and You

You are part of a great Columbia tradition! Learn more about this place we call home from inception to present day. 

Criminal Minds: Cyber and Phone Scams!

Our colleagues in Public Safety are going to talk about ways to protect yourself from crime, physically and virtually. We will cover cyber scams, street smarts, and the best ways to keep yourself safe in any environment.

Elevating Multicultural Competence

One challenge international students face is how to develop a career in a country and culture outside of their own. The seminar will help you build confidence and competitive advantage through providing practical techniques in: – Managing culture shock (a set of stress related reactions in contact with an unfamiliar culture) – Adaptation in professional settings, while maintaining cultural authenticity Developing multicultural competence

Financial Wellness and You

In this presentation, Financial Literacy topics, resources, and tools will be presented to assist attendees in better understanding the skills needed to endeavor toward Financial Wellness; a state of well-being surrounding individual financial affairs. Topics presented include: Effective Budgeting, Understanding Credit, Retirement Planning, Student Loan Indebtedness, and Financial Literacy Tools (including iGrad - a free, web-based Financial Literacy platform that provides personalized financial wellness education and loan management resources to which Columbia University students have lifetime access).

Intro to Swing Dancing

Learning to work hard is important but so is learning to let go, have fun, and explore new things! Known for its high energy, individualism, and fun music choices, swing is an incredible way to get some exercise, have a blast, and be goofy in a supportive and fun environment. Led by a data scientist who is also a professional choreographer and director, the class will end with a short discussion on how the lesson from how we approach dancing are applicable with shocking ease to the world of STEM. Pull out those sneakers and lets dance! Attire: Workout clothes and shoes with good traction.

Life After F1

Come join us for an informative session on your F-1 status on what to expect after you graduate and while on OPT. Life After F-1 (or J-1) will provide detailed overview of the transition to H-1B non-immigrant category. Other non-immigrant categories can also be discussed, if there is time and interest.

Science of Style

You have many style choices — often too many — to make, and need to be strategic and deliberate about the message your look sends. 

The First 30 Days

Having been an HR Management Consultant, Gabby Lilienthal shares what she learned about making an impact in the first 30 days of any new job, opportunity, experience, team, etc. Join us to talk about tips for building trust and creating a consistent brand so that you can be set up for success moving forward!

What Did I Just Sign? The U.S. Legal System and working in the U.S.

Introduction to U.S. legal system and Contracts Basics of the U.S. legal system U.S. Constitution and separation of powers Contract law (including employment contracts, non-competes, non-disclosure agreements, employment at-will, etc.) Litigation/dispute process (including lawsuits, arbitration, mediation, settlement, etc.) Other important areas you need to know (immigration, employment discrimination, etc.) When do I need a lawyer and why?

Wine 101

Wines may be present in many professional situations, and having some baseline knowledge is helpful. The focus of these sessions will be on the education and culture of wines. Some sampling will be available for those interested and 21 years of age or older. 

You Can Get Fired for That?!: Social Media & Free Speech in the Digital Age

What is the First Amendment, what does it do? What are the First Amendment rights of students & employees specifically How social media has changed or challenged these rights as explored through recent case studies & relevant Supreme Court cases.

Art of the Interview

A well-written resume, appropriate experience, and /or a personal referral will often get you in the door, but they won't necessarily get you the job. Effective, well-prepared communication and a compelling conversational style are more necessary than ever to distinguish you as a top candidate and differentiate you from the competition.

Career Talk: Analytics

What does it mean for an organization to be data-driven? How does an organization get there? Many organizations think that they are data-driven but the reality is that few genuinely are and we can all do better.

Career Talk: Consulting 101

Our resident expert in all things consulting, Professor Mark Herman, will be giving a career talk on what it means to be a consultant and suggestions for those interested in breaking into the industry. With over 30 years of experience in the consulting business, Professor Herman created and ran Booz Allen Hamilton’s (BAH) data science and analytics practice. He is a subject matter expert on modelling, simulation, and war-gaming.

Career Talk: Wall Street 101

Provide a roadmap to various careers on Wall Street, and a broad landscape of interview questions/situations to expect.

How to Prepare for a Career in Data after Graduating

Data careers have been the fastest growing sector for the past few years running. How can you as a young graduate navigate the confusing landscape that surrounding securing a job in data? This session will attempt to break down this problem and provide you with some useful tools and tips to prepare you for a great career in data.

HR Tales From The Other Side of the Table

In this session, we cover best practices for interacting during any type of interview - before, during, and after. At the end of the session, you will have tools to improve your interview responses and make more impact with the small gestures that are a part of the hiring process!

Natural Networking

Natural networking is an effective way to help you find more connections and opportunities in a thoughtful and genuine way. Take the chance to learn it and expand your possibilities through people!

Tackling a Programming Interview

Gearing up for your first programming interview? Not sure what to expect? Join us in this PDL as we cover the “need to haves” and “nice to haves” in tech interviews.

Technical Interviewing

A session on what to expect from a technical interview and how to best prepare for one from the lens of an industry professional . We cover what types of questions to expect, timing of tests, what skills are most tested, and how to prepare.

Virtual Presence: Standing Out Online

This session will review best practices for virtual presence for all aspects of a career. From phone screening and video interviewing to presenting on a virtual meeting, we will discuss how to present yourself effectively and succinctly using online platforms.

Advanced Ethics

We will be exploring some of the ethical challenges engineers face in the industry. This interactive session will feature an extended case study of the design and construction of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig, focusing on engineering decisions that compromised safety for cost savings that led to both fatalities to one of the worst environmental disasters in American history.

Human Centered Design and Innovation

We will discuss: the strategies and technologies of global manufacturing and service enterprises, connections between the needs of a global enterprise, the technology and methodology needed for manufacturing and product development, and strategic planning as currently practiced in industry.

Leadership in Crisis

This session will focus on the ways to think clearly and make smart decisions when both personal and institutional trust are at risk. We will cover: The drivers of trust; How to deal with failures, accidents, protests, and other difficult incidents or events; How to manage effectively and engage those who matter in ways that maintain trust.

Leadership in Crisis: Communicating in a world with COVID-19

COVID-19 has changed everything and leaders have been struggling to keep their institutions healthy as they simultaneously grapple with the public health emergency, the effect of all of this on their institutions, economic uncertainty, and other dimensions of the crisis. This elective teaches us how to create a leadership mindset that can help leaders maintain the trust of those who matter during times of distress.

Leadership, Followership, and Teamwork

Learn when and how to be the leader, follower and team player.

Peak Performance: How to Manage It All Without Burnout

Balancing school, work, and leadership roles, while figuring out how to position yourself for success is not easy. This session shares the common mindset that all peak performers share, regardless of discipline. We will apply workshop action items from these lesson in your daily, 6 month, 5 year, and 10 year plan to start you on your journey towards reaching your peak and enjoying the climb.

The Bedrock of Cloudproc: PySpark On Google Cloud Platform

This lecture will introduce the cloud PySpark/Hadoop offering from Google Cloud Platform and several best practices for its use. Prerequisites: Basic knowledge of SQL, Basic knowledge of Python, a well charged laptop

BigQuery: A Tour Of The GCP Data Warehouse

Analyzing data from several disparate locations is a common challenge in business and a Data Warehouse is a great solution. This course will cover de-normalizing data from several different locations and then performing analysis on that data with Google Cloud Platform’s data warehouse product, BigQuery.

Cryptography: One Bit at a Time

Cryptography surrounds us. Every time we access an “https” website, we are using incredibly powerful cryptographic tools. This class will take a high-level look at what tools we have at our disposal to keep our communications secure. We will also take a deeper look at asymmetric key cryptography.

Data Visualization

The final step of any analysis is presenting the result concisely and effectively. This session will cover principles of data visualization and how to build a story with data.

Deployments: Getting Your Product To The People

In this session, we will cover the topic of deployment, how its different than local development, and a few platforms provided by GCP for publishing your code to the would. Those platforms include, VMs, App Engine, and Kubernetes. Students should come with a well charged laptop.

Django: Python and the Web

Django and Flask have become the predominate Python web frameworks available today. In this class, we will set up our own Django web application in order to pull apart and analyze each piece in the framework's stack.

My First Server on Amazon Web Services

In this session, we will sign up for a free AWS account and walk through the steps of setting up our own server. By the end of class, students will be able to set up, provision, and tear down their own virtual resources. Prerequisites: a well-charged laptop, Bash, Linux, And SSH and Get Git [+ GitHub] are suggested.

NoSQL, No Problem: A Beginners Look At MongoDB and Cassandra

This session covers two of the dominant non-relational databases in industry; MongoDB and Cassandra. Both are Not-Only-SQL (NoSQL) databases but each approaches the challenge of coordinating data storage differently. These differences as well as an introduction to the technical use of each database will be presented. Prerequisites: Basic knowledge of SQL, a well charged laptop

Python 101: Python in a Pinch

Python is a high-level general-purpose programming language that can be applied to many different classes of problems. This introductory session will teach you the basics of Python numbers, strings, and sequences. No prior programming knowledge is needed.

Python 201: Python with a Punch

Python 201 will introduce you to some of Python's more intricate capabilities and prepare you to move into domain-specific study. In this class, we will cover: Basics of Object Oriented Programming, Decorators, Generators, Exceptions, Unit Testing, and Pandas

SQL 101

SQL is the standard language for relational database management systems. In this session you will learn about databases and their usefulness. You will also learn about structured data tables and common data type, table relations, and SQL queries.

Text, Plain Text and The Text Editor Vim

The computer program "vim" is a text editor invented over 30 years ago, yet still in wide use today in various forms. We'll discuss just what it means to be a "plain" text editor, how plain text differs from that which you'd see in Google Docs or Microsoft Word, why such a simple old program like vim still has much to offer, and how one can learn to use it for day to day productivity.

Training a Machine Learning Model: A Crash Course

Machine learning is a field that, like programming, is widely applicable even beyond those within the data science profession itself. We'll learn to create our own machine learning model using easily available open source libraries, using some even easier to use automated machine learning libraries, and some simple tips about when and how to apply machine learning to problems encountered in any environment. Prerequisites: A Mac (or Linux) laptop, with Python 3 installed