On October 22-25, 2014, a record-breaking 8,200 attendees met in Los Angeles for WE14, the Annual Society of Women Engineers Conference! This year’s conference was also combined with ICWES16, the conference for the International Network of Women Engineers and Scientists, which was a celebration of that organization’s 50th anniversary. This partnership brought a new level of energy and attendees from 42 countries to an already HUGE conference! Attendees from all across the world came together to learn, network, and discuss a variety of topics ranging from professional development and leadership skills to outreach and academia.
Many Dallas SWE members were in attendance, and below you will find a full run-down of major events from my (Shelley Stracener, Dallas SWE Section Rep and Webmaster) perspective. Later in the week, I’ll be posting some Dallas SWE member perspectives on their experience at WE14. For those of you who have never been to an international SWE conference, check out the latest issue of SWE Magazine to get an idea of the volume and variety of sessions that were available. A few videos have been uploaded to the new WE TV Youtube Channel with clips from major events at the conference and interviews with SWE leadership. You can also view many filmed sessions by registering for the WE14 Virtual Experience. Check out the WE14 Registration Information page for more information.
WE14 kicked off Wednesday night with the iScream Social, a combination Halloween costume contest and delicious dessert bar. There were some really creative costumes this year and you can’t really go wrong with tasty ice cream!
Thursday morning, attendees of the Keynote Breakfast were in for a treat when SWE President Elizabeth Bierman took the stage to have a fireside-chat style interview with Gwynne Shotwell (which you can watch in its entirety here at the SWE YouTube channel), President and COO of SpaceX. The interview format was great, especially the ability for the audience to submit questions via Twitter for Elizabeth to ask! Shotwell candidly relayed lessons learned from her experiences as a mechanical engineering individual contributor through her transition to upper management where she now manages the daily operations of a $5 billion company with 3,000 people on its payroll. She was also very frank about how she’s chosen to balance her career with home life and responsibilities. Gwynne’s idea of work life balance “is not 50-50, it’s whatever is sustainable,” which for her meant hiring a nanny to help with household tasks and supervising her two children when they were young so that she could give more focus to her work. Later, as a divorced mother, she was able to schedule business trips on weeks when her children were with their father. She said she’s never had a direct career plan, but has instead been open to opportunities as they’ve presented themselves. To the question, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” she responded that she would like to focus on improving the education system in the United States. It was a REALLY inspirational way to start out the conference: definitely take the time to watch the entire interview. It is well worth it!
Region C Meeting
Thursday afternoon, Region C Governor Dianne Beever hosted a series of Region C Meetings: first the professional section meeting, a joint session for both professionals and collegiates, then a session just for collegiate sections. In the professional session, we broke up into small groups on a number of different topics: the new Region C Mentoring Program, social media use, the Region C leadership pipeline, and the possibility of having a Region Conference in conjunction with another nearby region. There was some really great feedback on these topics! In the joint session, we got an update from our Region C Senators and Treasurer and some announcements on the Region C Conference Feb 6-8, 2015 in Austin, TX. For more details and documents from the Region C meetings, check out the Region C Professional blog post about it! You can also view more details on how to get involved in SWE HQ and Region C volunteer activities, including leadership evaluation, scholarship application evaluation, and Region C Award selection in this Region C Professional blog post.
Over 300 companies were represented at the WE14 career fair which opened Thursday afternoon, continuing into hospitality suites that evening, and all day Friday. Certain times were set aside for experience professional recruiting, but most of the career fair was open to SWE members and non-members alike. Many companies had areas reserved in the exhibit hall where they could conduct on-site interviews with prospective candidates! Many SWE members, including myself, have gotten jobs at SWE conference career fairs. It’s an amazing experience!
At Celebrate SWE, the conference’s closing banquet, Dallas SWE President in FY13 and FY14, Jennifer Vilbig, received the Outstanding SWE Counselor Award for her work with Southern Methodist University SWE! You can view her bio and details about the award from SWE Magazine here. Dallas SWE also received the Outstanding Parent and Educator Program Award for the Adult Session portions of our Design Your World – STEM Conference for Girls events!
This was the first year that I signed up to be a volunteer for a SWE Annual Conference. The 50% registration discount was attractive since my employer does not subsidize my travel or registration for the conference, and since I signed up to be a volunteer early on in the process I was able to judiciously select my 4 hours of volunteer shifts during sessions that I wanted to attend anyway! It was really great to participate in making WE14 a success, and being a room monitor allowed me to spend additional time with the great speakers in each session. Plus I got a beautiful blue scarf that designated me as a volunteer in-the-know! I will definitely be signing up to volunteer again next year and encourage you to as well!