Conferences – Why You Should Go in College

November 17, 2018

Getting the opportunity to attend a few conferences was a highlight of my college career for many reasons! Even though they might not sound glamorous (A weekend with a bunch of meetings and speeches? Yawn.), conferences like SWE bring wonderful opportunities and people together for one purpose.

If you’re thinking of going to a conference during your college career, I highly recommend that you take the opportunity, especially if you’re a STEM major, and here’s why:

1. All of the networking opportunities!

So, if ya’ll didn’t know already, I’m a big networking gal. I wasn’t for a long time, but eventually I realized just how important it is in establishing a name for yourself. If you’re new to the networking thing, conferences are a great way to practice flexing those skills! As these events tend to have a ton of people, it’s a prime opportunity to talk to as many people as possible. If you hit it off with someone, great – you might just have yourself a mentor/friend for life! However, if you crash and burn during a convo, no need to worry. The chances of you seeing that person again are slim, and you now have the opportunity to take what you learned and try it out on someone else.

2. Conferences are crawling with potential employers

The career fairs at conferences are no joke. I go to a fairly small school, so I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the SWE career fair last year. As a Biomedical Engineering major, it was amazing to have so many medical device companies to browse! Conferences offer tons of options at their career fairs, boosting your chances at getting an interview. A bunch of my friends even received full-time offers after attending!

One of my friends, Sheryl, recently attended the SWE conference for the first time. This is what she said about the experience, and the career fair:

This was my first year attending the SWE conference and I really enjoyed it! It was so amazing to be in an environment where women in STEM were all working to achieve the same goal. The career fair was exactly what I expected in terms of the size and the number of booths, and it was really fun yet challenging to walk around to the different companies and network with them. Although it was exhausting being at the fair for 2 days, it was still a really interesting experience and allowed me to push my comfort zone and really make use of such a great opportunity.

– Sheryl Jacob, Biomedical Engineering, NJIT ’20

3. It’s an opportunity to meet people just like you.

In college, it’s easy to get stuck in your own little world. Speaking from experience, each little success and failure seems to be a solo adventure. However, attending conferences has proven me completely wrong. Conferences are designed to bring like-minded people together and paint a picture of your industry! 

For example, as a woman in engineering it was initially a struggle to find people to look up to. It seems like so many successful people are men! However, attending two SWE conferences opened my eyes to the thousands of boss women leading meetings and teams, especially in engineering.

One of my co-workers, Ibette, talked about her experience in understanding her own industry (Chemical Engineering) after attending a conference:

Last November, I attended the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) conference in Kansas City, Missouri in hopes of getting an internship position for the summer of my sophomore year. As it is well known, engineering primarily consists of males. As a woman in engineering, it was shocking to see the overwhelming amount of men in attendance. Going to the conference not only empowered me, but it allowed me to obtain my first internship with Pacific Gas and Electric Company in San Francisco, California. By attending my first conference, I learned the importance of having women in STEM- although we are a minority, we can make a huge difference.

– Ibette Cruz-Lopez, Chemical Engineering, NJIT ’20

4. Career Growth & Empowerment

At the SWE conference last year in Austin, I went to a resume review event. (Yep, they do that too!) The woman who reviewed my resume went through the typical critiques, and then started asking questions about my experiences. She gave me recommendations on internships to apply to and companies to look at, and asked me to add her on LinkedIn. Lo and behold, she was a Vice President of HR. And she liked my resume. Talk about a confidence boost!

Even if you don’t have an experience like that, the panels and sessions at conferences offer amazing opportunities for career growth. From navigating the workplace as a young professional to how to apply to grad school, you’re more than likely to find a session just for your interests.

My friend Megan attended the Grace Hopper Celebration two years in a row, and she had great things to say about empowerment:

“Each year the Grace Hopper Conference grows tremendously. This year there were almost 20,000 attendees, hundreds of company sponsors, prestigious keynote speakers, and unique workshops. All of that can definitely be overwhelming, but nothing can prepare you for the excitement that you feel during the conference, being in a room with over so many women dedicated to building a strong and supportive community. Listening to keynote speakers and networking with incredible women in technology was such an eye-opening and enriching experience and the atmosphere of the conference is so empowering. It really gives you a chance to grow as an individual, and also to set yourself apart when networking with company recruiters. I am very thankful that I was able to have those experiences because it gave me the confidence and positive energy to chase my ambitions.”

– Megan Rottkamp, Computer Science, NJIT ’19

Final Thoughts

All in all, attending conferences in college is a great idea. They provide so many opportunities right there for the taking! I can’t wait to attend SWE this Spring in Baltimore – maybe I’ll see ya there?

Also, thanks to my beautiful #STEMBabe friends for contributing to this post! I loved reading all of your stories 🙂

Have you attended conferences in college? What was your experience like?

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