SWEet Woman Engineers

Orlando, Florida was our destination.  Last week, 24 women and 2 (manly) men got to Orlando for the annual Society of Women Engineers (SWE) National Conference.  As the name suggests, it was a congregation of thousands of women in engineering around the country seeking to network and build career ties with one another.
 
26 students of the Olin chapter accepted the invitation to the conference, of whom 8 were finalists at the Poster Competition.  To say the least, we were all eager to meet new people and potential employers outside of the Olin bubble.

As a participant in the conference, I looked forward:  to meet other women in engineering - to learn of their careers, their current work, and their purpose at the conference; to develop my networking and career-seeking skills; to spread the name of Olin; and finally, to enjoy Florida!  (I tried really hard to make it to Universal Studios, I really did.  Some of the other girls went to Disney World though.)

Sneak Preview (with pictures, courtesy of Poorva ('12) and Matt ('12) =):

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Clockwise
from Top-Left:  Part of the Olin SWE Section posing with SWE President
Siddika Demir & our awards; 2.  Banquet Hall for Celebrate SWE!; 
3.  Dinner with Olin Alumna;  4.  Tara ('13) and I just before the
Career Fair

Conference Day 1:  It consisted of professionals mentoring collegiates in the categories of elevator pitching, self-marketing, and success in the professional field.  My elevator pitch required quite some refining, it appeared.  An elevator pitch gives me one minute or less to approach a prospective employer, lets say at the career fair later that day, to present my skills and experience to show them why they should work with me.  The key was to be concise and powerful, and more importantly, to tell a story that they would remember.

This opening of the career fair reminded me of a carnival.  Literally, there were spinning banners, flashing lights, and enthusiastic hiring recruiters waiting for some talent.  Over 300 companies set up shop in  the largest hall of the convention center.  The automotive companies brought their cars, the hardware companies - their gadgets, and the defense companies - well, their confidentiality.  And not to mention, all of those free goodies.  Fuzzy blankets, hair mousse, flip flops, notebooks, and post-its, and pens, and pins, and any other stationary memorabilia you could think of.  Apart from the cool free stuff, those of us collegians who knew how to pitch our experience and to pick our companies, certainly had a field day at the biggest career fair I've ever seen.

Rebecca ('12) at the career fair...(Rebecca, I had to =)

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It was a pleasant learning experience to meet recruiters at the career fair.  Many never heard of the small 300-student school called Olin and it felt good to know that each of the 26 of us at the fair took pride in pitching the school we are building every day.  And of course, it took many by surprise.  A tiny engineering school in Needham develops impressive experience in its students within just a year of entering college.  The recruiters wish they had known sooner (I got this response at one point).  I enjoy seeing their response when they learn about the applied project-based work that we built from day one.  I am confident we established built-to-last relationships with some of the companies there.

Finally, Celebrate SWE! concluded the three day conference.  It was a celebration of 60 years of the Society, a celebration of women who have accomplished as engineers, and a celebration of collegiate sections which have encouraged engineering within their communities and amongst younger generations of girls.  The entertainment was nice, the food was delicious, and the mention of Olin was without fail.

Other highlights of the conference include: meeting some of the Olin alumna and chatting with them over dinner about their Olin careers and present lives, walking around Orlando and shopping & eating, and spending that time reflecting on my future as a woman engineer.  I enjoyed the experience and the people and look forward to Chicago next year!

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