This morning my Facebook memories reminded me that five years ago today I was attending my first SWE Annual Conference in Chicago, IL with the photo to the left. For those that haven’t experienced a SWE Annual Conference (usually abbreviated WE then the year of the conference, so WE16 for this year) it is the “world’s largest conference for women engineers.” This description doesn’t do it justice because as I look forward to attending my sixth conference, I can attest that it is truly magnificent opportunity to grow, network, and connect with the SWE community. The keynotes, networking opportunities, speaker events, the career fair, and a variety of satellite activities (do yourself a favor and plan some chill out time in the lava lounge) provide different avenues for attendees to take value away from the conference experience.
Getting started, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the huge variety of things to do every day, so I’d like to share some tips on how to maximize your experience. As a first time attendee and a proud introvert, I was thankful to have Martha Walker, a proven conference veteran staying with me to show me the ropes that first year – including the Hospitality Suites (yes, even professionals can attend them … just ask before grabbing the swag). The jam-packed schedule was daunting and I found it frustrating when I started building my schedule and realized that I couldn’t possibly attend every session that I found interesting. It would have been easy for me to have been lost in it all and resort to crashing in the mountain high pile of conference bags tucked in the quiet corner behind registration … no really, the bags are padded and insulated – I have thought about it😉. Another thing that surprised me was how many people I got to meet and interact with and what it felt like to be in the gender majority, especially when talking about work and technical issues. It’s a unique and empowering experience that I would recommend to everyone (this is also a truly amazing opportunity to allow male advocates to experience first-hand what it is like to be a part of the gender minority … many male advocates I have talked to refer to their first time experiencing this as a pivotal point in their advocacy journey.)
I am glad I had done my prep and grateful that I had supportive SWEsters around me. So for those who haven’t yet found your Martha, are new/newer to the conference, or are looking for more ways to maximize your conference experience, below are some excellent resources that will help you get prepared.
- Erin Winick’s Blogpost titled “A Collegiate’s Guide to WE16, SWE Annual Conference” … I know this post was written with collegiates in mind, but this blog appeals to professionals as well. She covers all the basics: packing, the career fair, planning your schedule, networking … and the infamous ribbon bar at medium.com/@scichic/
- The Conference Website at we16.swe.org and the mobile app at we16.swe.org/about-we16/we16-conference-app/
- Watch the recordings of the SWE WE16 Webinar Series at swe.org – they can be easily found with “WE16” as your search option. The series includes the following:
- WE16 Orientation
- What Not to Wear – SWE Conference Edition
- Networking for Newbies
- Career Fair Savvy
As a veteran SWE Annual Conference attendee, I am excited to be in my final preparations for WE16 in Philadelphia in less than two weeks! I have tested a lot of tips over these years … personally, the one that has been most valuable came from SWEster Amy Hammar when she told me to push myself to meet at least one new person as each event but to balance that with scheduling downtime for yourself to recharge each day. She was so right, you have to listen to yourself and take care of yourself in order to get the most value out of your conference experience.
Here’s to looking back five years from now and celebrating the continued friendships of my SWEsters!
#WE16 #SWEsters #RegionBSenate @SWETalk @SWE.Bee1 #SWEBee