Wednesday, February 19, 2014

SWE Region H Conference

This weekend I attended the SWE Region H Conference at Michigan Tech in Houghton, MI. SWE is the Society of Women Engineers, which is a professional society comprised of collegiate and professional members. Membership is not limited to female engineers; I even saw a handful of guys attending the conference. Every year there is a national conference and each region hosts its own regional conference. The conference took place all day Saturday, and we spent all day Friday and Sunday on a charter bus traveling to and from the conference.

Michigan State has its own section of SWE, and I am a member of our local section and a national member. We have meetings that are generally biweekly where we have food and company representatives come to talk. It does not cost any money to be a member of our Michigan State section and attend meetings, but it does cost a small amount of money to be a national collegiate member. I regularly go to meetings, but I wanted to get a little more involved, so I thought going to the regional conference was a good way to do that.

The conference started with a keynote speaker, Patricia K. Poppe, who is vice president of customer experience and operations for Consumers Energy. Then the president of SWE Stacey Delvecchio gave the State of SWE address. I really liked learning about what was going on with SWE at a regional, national, and international level, because I never really thought about what SWE does beyond what we do at MSU. After, there was a joint meeting with the professional and collegiate session, and we voted on where we wanted to hold next year's regional conference. Each section had one vote, so I was able to contribute my opinion. The 2015 SWE Region H conference is going to be at Notre Dame in South Bend, IN, which will be a much closer drive than to Houghton! Then we separated into professional and collegiate sections, and had our own meetings and sessions. I attended a session on "Promoting Your Work with Powerful Presentations." I thought that the speaker was very engaging, and I learned a few tips, like to not dim the lights during your presentation in order to keep your audience engaged.

For lunch, we had boxed lunches and got to talk to the company representatives that were going to be at the career fair later that day. I liked that the atmosphere was relaxed and casual, but it was a little awkward when a representative wanted to shake you hand and it was in a bag of Doritos!

In the afternoon, there was a series of four breakout sessions that anyone could attend. When we registered, we chose what sessions we wanted to attend, because a couple of the special sessions had limited space. There were sessions on interviewing tips, building teams, fundraising, and leadership success, for example. There were also some special sessions that filled up fast, like snowshoeing and dog-sledding. Instead of attending a breakout session, people could also take tours of Michigan Tech departments and facilities and of local attractions, like a brewery and mine. One of the other options was the career fair. It was on a much smaller scale than the events at MSU, but I was able to talk to a lot of companies and hand them my resume. Over the course of the weekend, I accumulated quite the haul of free stuff from the career fair and conference in general.

That night we had the final event: the banquet. Because of the weather in Houghton, our keynote speaker's plane was not able to land! Our keynote speaker was Martha N. Sullivan, President and Chief Executive Officer of Sensata Technologies. Good thing engineers are problem-solvers, because she was still able to talk with us over Skype.

Me (left) with some of the MSU SWE girls at the banquet
I had a wonderful SWEekend and was definitely glad that I went, even though I had to miss class on Friday. I liked listening to the speakers and learning how they were able to build their careers starting out with their engineering degrees. I also liked networking with other students and professionals and learning about their experiences. Overall, it was a great experience, and I would like to go to the regional conference next year!

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