Tuesday, October 23, 2012

SWE Society Conference

Society of Women Engineers is an international organization that was founded on the premise of promoting women in engineering both in academia and the professional arena. Every year, the organization holds a Society-wide conference where members from all around the world congregate to participate in workshops, networking, social events, and career fairs. This year the conference will be held in Houston TX.

I've been lucky enough to attend the Society conference for the past 2 years. My sophomore year it was held in Orlando, Florida, and last year's conference was in Chicago. As a sophomore with little to no experience at career fairs, the SWE career fair was definitely an eye-opening experience. Over 150 companies attend the career fair, and all of them are there for the sole purpose of promoting themselves to women engineers. It's pretty amazing. I got to meet so many professional members working at amazing companies. Being at Penn is a great environment, that I forget sometimes that it isn't a perfect microcosm of the world. And the recruiters are mostly women engineers and they want to tell you their story, they want to help you find a company that would be a great fit for you.

The workshops I've attended have also been very helpful. There are ones tailor-made for college students - Is Grad School a Good Option? How do I Find and Internship? - but there are also ones targeted towards women at any point in their careers - How do I brand Myself? Networking 101. At these workshops, you get the chance to hear women tell their story, give their advice, ad you have a chance to meet other students and workers who have the same problems, same worries, and same goals as you. And a lot of the time they have suggestions that you've never considered before.

Finally, Society conference has always been a great way for me to get to know people better - people from Penn. Usually only SWE board members attend, but we are trying to expand so that we can fund more people. It's a great social environment. In Orlando, we went to Harry Potter World at Universal Studios. In Chicago, we went out for a late night meal of deep dish pizza after walking on the boardwalk and riding a ferris wheel. I talked to upperclassmen and got advice about how to talk to recruiters, how to interview, they even critiqued my resume.

If you've never been to a conference, it really is a mind blowing experience. I've never seen so many engineers in one place. When someone tells a math joke, everyone laughs. When people talk about problem sets and crazy team projects, everyone can relate. It's an amazing opportunity to get to talk to other college students and working engineers. Anyone interested can find out more and register at the SWE website!

Have questions for Melissa about SWE?  Contact her at awe@seas.upenn.edu

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