Later this month I will be attending my 4th Society of Women Engineers (SWE) annual conference as a college student. I look forward to this event every year as a chance learn, network and catch up with friends that I only get to see once a year at this event. Additionally, I have SWE annual conference to thank for two out of my four summer engineering internships!
To pass on some of the knowledge I have gained from past conferences, I have written up my tips and tricks for getting the most out of your experience at WE16 this year in Philadelphia on Octobter 27–29.
Pack comfortable shoes. You will be walking. A lot. I know you think you can rock those tall heels, but just spare yourself. SWE conference takes place over a large area and you will most likely be doing a lot of walking around the city as well. Comfortable flats and low heels are definitely your friend.
Leave empty space in your suitcase. The career fair is full of awesome giveaways, so you will most likely be going home with a lot more than you came with. I know people who bring an entire empty suitcase or duffel bag purely for packing away giveaways and souvenirs. I have gotten everything from t-shirts to stuffed animals to measuring spoons as giveaways.
Pack professional and casual clothes. Bring business professional clothes for Thursday, Friday and Saturday, as well a change of clothes for when you get back to the hotel in the evenings. Professional means a nice blouse, blazer and pants or a pencil skirt. Appropriate length professional dresses also work. See a few good examples in the picture below.
Collegiate groups often go exploring in the evenings and on part of the day Saturday, so bring clothes appropriate for the weather and temperatures at these times.
Pack a tote bag every day for the convention. All attendees get a SWE tote bag each year. Bring your SWE tote bag back every day to the events! Pack this bag with your purse necessities, phone charger, battery backup, resumes, business cards, and your convention guide. Keep your resources available to you and leave empty space in the bag to put all the giveaways you get.
Career fair is big. Really big.Probably bigger than any career fair you have been to at your school. Do not be overwhelmed by the quantity of booths and recruiters as well as the size of the displays companies bring with them.
Apply for positions through SWE online career center before the conference. You can get interviews set up before the career fair! This is actually how I got my internships after my sophomore year. Companies will search the SWE career database for resumes and applicants so make sure info is up to date as soon as possible. Find the career center here: http://careers.swe.org/
Be prepared to interview at all times. When talking to someone at a booth, they could pull you aside to interview you right then! Do not be surprised by early morning and late night interviews as well.
Go to hospitality suites. What are these you ask? Awesome opportunities on Thursday night. You might be tired after a long first day of conference, but do not pass these up! Hospitality suites are rooms rented out by companies. Companies have an entire room dedicated to their recruiters and students interested in their companies. It is a great time to dive and talk to a ton of people from one specific company. They also often have some really cool giveaways, food and other fun experiences to keep you going through the night. Make sure to monitor your phone though for any call backs from talking to recruiters at career fair earlier. It is easy to miss calls with all of the noise.
Prioritize going to the career fair opening on Thursday night. A huge amount of interview slots are given away on Thursday night. During Friday they fill the remainder of these slots, but as the day goes on, there are less opportunities to interview. Make sure to go to your top companies on Thursday to get your best shot at an interview. People will line up in advance of the opening of the doors to the career fair to storm in (think Black Friday crowds) so get there early to be at the front.
Connect with recruiters on LinkedIn ASAP. The night after connecting with someone, find them on LinkedIn, connect and send a follow up message. It will remind the recruiter of connection of who you are and give you a chance to thank them for their time.
PlanningSchedule out the sessions you want to go to ahead of time. You are not going to have much down time at conference, so start your planning before you arrive! Look at conference track topics that intrigue you and put them in your phone. Also look for speakers that you would really like to meet and go up and network with them afterwards. You can start planning now! Visit http://we16.swe.org/ to start the process.
Make sure to include food in your schedule. You have to eat! Do not get so booked up that you don’t have time for a quick morning breakfast or a sandwich for lunch. Food is important too!
Download the app. The SWE app is extremely convenient for planning your conference adventure. Get this ASAP to get updates and starting to look at the schedule and speakers, as well as have it ready to take notes and share contact information once the conference begins. Download it here: http://we16.swe.org/about-we16/we16-conference-app/
NetworkingFollow up with connections after the event. The best network is one that you stay in touch with. Do not lose contact with these awesome people! Try to meet up again at next year’s conference too.
Make a point of talking to and meeting people from other sections. This an amazing opportunity to meet fantastic women engineers from around the country. Stop by the SWE boutique to meet women from other sections. Go to collegiate lunches and sit with someone you do not know. Break out of your comfort zone!
Misc.Get to the ribbons early and rock them with pride!
SWE has a tradition of putting out trays of ribbons with different distinctions on them. They range from “First Time Attendee” to “Speaker” to “Past President”. (Pro tip: The Past President ribbon is for past society wide SWE presidents, not section presidents). The ribbons are a fun way to start conversations with other people at the conference and are a fun memento the keep on your badge.
Have fun! SWE conference has lots of opportunities to enjoy yourself from exploring the city to taking tours of local attractions to a live singing contest. Set aside a little time to relive all the stress as well. :)
Have any additional questions about the collegiate conference experience? Comment below! I’ll do my best to answer any questions you might have.
See you all in Philadelphia October 27–29 for WE16! I will be speaking Friday, October 28th, at 11am on Starting a Company in College if you would you like to say hi!
Want to reach out to me directly or get updates on my experience at WE16? You can find me on Twitter @bcofengineering, Instagram @erinwinick or my website erinwinick.com.
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