What to do BEFORE attending the World’s Largest Women in Engineering Conference: Trip Logistics, Digital Planning, the Career Fair and more!
The annual SWE Conference, or WE, is the largest conference for women in engineering and technology, arranged by the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), to allow professionals and collegiate members from around the world to network, grow, and inspire one another to unlock their potential. Now that sounds a bit intimidating for sure, but don’t let that scare you. This conference has been a wonderful experience for the previous three iterations I’ve attended, and I can certainly say from each attendance I’ve gained something new (including an internship!). With that being said and with WE22 just around the corner, I wanted to share a few of my suggestions on how to prepare before attending the conference.
In this article, I will share some tips on registration and trip logistics, how to plan out your days with speaker sessions, and how to tackle the career fair.
- For simplicity sake, I’m going to assume that the future conferences put together will be similar to a pre-covid world, where events were in person.*
First things first, you have to make sure you are registered to attend the conference! The cool thing here is, if you are student, you have a few opportunities to save some money!
My university’s SWE chapter sponsors a select number of students to attend the WE conference every year. This includes the cost of travel, lodging, and registration for the conference! I’m sure each university is different, but it’s worth looking into to save on costs as well as attend with a group of friends!
Another option to save on registration costs is to register for SWE’s Collegiate Leadership Institute Program, CLI. Not only is this essentially a “scholarship”, but students gain access to an additional network of opportunities ranging from professional development to networking sessions. Plus, you get to attend a CLI exclusive meal during the conference!
The Collegiate Leadership Institute’s (CLI) overarching goal is to equip collegiate members with the skills, knowledge, and leadership abilities that will enable them to become global leaders in their engineering careers and serve as a future pipeline for leaders in the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).
Lastly, if you aren’t able to waive your registration, don’t worry! WE offers a few discount codes (early bird, 20% off..etc) up until the conference. I would recommend getting registration taken care of earlier rather than later.
Hotels and Flights
The only thing I can say here is make sure to BOOK EARLY! Everything sells out fairly quickly.
Additionally, SWE does facilitate in accommodating housing, so make sure to check that out!
Now that your trip logistics have been discussed, let’s move on to the stuff you’re probably reading this for.
Digital Planning and Organization
Anyone who knows me knows that I cannot keep track of things in my head and therefore I resort to……lists, lists, and more lists. Did I mention I use a lot of lists? Anyways, sometimes I like to get fancy and utilize Google Sheets to organize my life. With that, I’m now going to show you how I planned my days at the conference between the career fair and speaker sessions.
First, browse the sessions that are being hosted at the conference and decide what you are interested in. Make sure to take your own interests into account and don’t just attend stuff because all of your friends are going to a session. You are there for your own growth, just keep that in mind.
Once you find sessions you are interested in, make note of the day, time, and location the session takes place in and create a mini schedule such as the one below. It’s also worth noting that downloading the SWE mobile app for the conference provides this functionality as well, but this was how I planned for myself before I was aware of that.
This schedule is not set in stone, but rather provides a guide for you to follow. It is easy to be overwhelmed surrounded by tons of people and having no plans, so this is just a way to facilitate that.
Next, browse the list of exhibitors attending the conference and note which ones you are interested in networking with and/or applying to. Keep in mind that the career fair typically lasts only two days within the conference. Additionally, it is important to talk to companies you are interested in on the FIRST day of the career fair, because this is when most interviews are handed out to be held on the second day. Lastly, because this is an in-person career fair, and because there will be lots and lots of people attending, lines to talk to recruiters will be LONG. Therefore, certainly mark all of the companies that interest you, but don’t be discouraged if you aren’t able to meet with recruiters from all of them. It helps to prioritize which companies you are interested in and where you will be spending more of your time and effort.
Additionally, with career fairs of this scale, location is very important to note in order to make the most of your energy. Try to hit all of the companies on your list within a given area before moving to a different section of the floor. This will prevent you from running back and forth all day.
Side note: Having a longer list of companies will help you consider other options if lines are longer at another company you are interested in. Also speaking to recruiters to companies you aren’t as interested in will help you practice and calm your nerves before going up to companies you actually are interested in.
Quick note! Make time to be a tourist. Take the time to search up interesting things you can do while you are in a new city! It’s well worth spending the time doing research before hand so you aren’t scrambling and wasting time while you are there.
Tackling the Career Fair
Now, for the moment you’ve probably been waiting for….. tackling the beast known as the career fair. Honestly, it’s not that daunting, as long as you are prepared… which is what I’m here for :)
Make sure your resumes are updated and proofread before you print a million copies or upload them online. Now that that’s out of the way, here are a few tips in this category.
- Upload your resume to the SWE resume database. This gives recruiters early access to your resumes and some may even schedule interviews earlier to make the most of your time!
- For all of the companies that you are interested in, apply online in their job portals on their company website. Many companies, even after waiting in line to speak to their recruiters will tell you to do this anyway. Doing it ahead of time may save you time and allow you to bring your application forward during your time with recruiters.
- Make sure to apply online with resumes that can be easily read by ATS systems.
- Create a visual resume to print out and bring with you to the conference. This will help your resume stand out in the eyes of a recruiter, but having your text resume that you use to apply online will help move your application forward in the “eyes” of ATS.
- Print multiple copies of your resume…. at least 30. Most places these days will tell you to apply online, or scan your resume instead of taking it from you, but I would still keep a couple to be safe.
- Have digital copies of your resume/portfolios (sharable links, pdfs..etc) on your phone
After applying and even meeting with recruiters, LinkedIn will be where most people go. Therefore, it’s essential your LinkedIn leaves a lasting impression!
- Have a good headshot and LinkedIn Banner
- Add to your headline to include your school, current positions, or positions you are seeking. This should essentially be a quick summary.
- Make sure all of your content is updated
- Make sure to have the mobile app downloaded because it makes connecting with others at the conference faster.
What should you pack?
I’m notorious for taking forever to pack, so if you’re anything like me, this section is for you. Here are a few tips:
- Comfortable Shoes — this is probably the most important because you are going to be on your feet for HOURS!
- Business Professional clothes — Dress to impress here! My outfits included slacks, blouses, and blazers.
- Make note of the weather! Now if you are going to be in Texas, this doesn’t help much considering the weather changes every hour, but still. WE Conferences take place in the fall, so most places are slightly cool, so take that into consideration.
- Tote/Backpack — this will be helpful in transporting all of the swag you will get as well as carrying things like water, snacks, and resumes. Note: carrying this all day will also get heavy, which is why I opt for a backpack to help distribute the weight.
Other Items (just to name a few):
- Battery Pack
- Hair Ties — I always tie my hair up when eating, so this is a must!
- Pain Relief Medicine
And that’s a wrap! I know this was quite a bit of information, but thinking ahead and planning for this conference will be well worth! As we get closer to WE22, I will be sharing more tips about what to expect during the conference and how I tackle interviews! Feel free to drop any questions you may have in the comments and let me know what you thought of this article!