WE'21: Society of Women Engineers Conference
The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) is a club which advocates for and empowers women who are in STEM fields. Additionally, they host an annual global conference with the purpose of empowering women through professional development, networking, and an exclusive career fair! Each year, this conference is held at a different location. For WE’21, the conference was in Indianapolis, Indiana. The SWE chapter at Virginia Tech (VT) was able to sponsor 23 ladies to attend this year.
Career Fair & Opportunities
The SWE conference opens up a number of opportunities including a career fair and many professional development sessions! The career fair has a huge selection of companies that participate in the fair in a combination of virtual and in person modalities. While talking to companies, many members were given an opportunity to interview onsite! These time slots took place on the first and second day of the conference. In addition to the career fair, the SWE conference also had many opportunities to learn about self growth and network. Members could use the SWE conference app or website to choose between a number of sessions. After the daily keynote speaker, sessions included topics like “Around the World in 40 Hours - Working Globally,” “Building an Accommodating, Diverse, and Inclusive Work Culture,” “Building Momentum in Industry: Skills for your First 5 Years,” and many more.
"It was a good experience. There were a ton of great companies to talk to. I got an internship with GE Renewable Energy from it. I went to the GE lounge and talked to the people there and they gave me an interview (this was for the virtual conference in 2020)." - Erin Cox
Attendees also had access to resources like the SWE Member Center which gave members a place to unwind, network, and explore the displays of SWE member benefits. The professional headshots resource gave attendees an opportunity to get headshots taken which could be used for things like LinkedIn or included on resumes. Past Success: In case you are wondering about the success of the career fair, there are many ladies who were able to get opportunities in the past! Erin Cox, a junior in electrical engineering talked about how “it was a good experience. There were a ton of great companies to talk to. I got an internship with GE Renewable Energy from it. I went to the GE lounge and talked to the people there and they gave me an interview (this was for the virtual conference in 2020).” Additionally, the career fair also cuts out on some of the time it takes to go through the internship search because of the format. For example, many attendees are given an opportunity to give an interview within just a few hours of speaking to company representatives. Some are given immediate decisions while others receive decisions between one to two weeks after the interview day.
Another member, Vitha Anumolu, a junior in Industrial and Systems Engineering, mentioned that she “was able to get multiple company contacts, which helped build my network. I haven’t gotten an internship directly from a WE conference, as I had accepted one before the conference.” Anumolu used her time at the career fair to focus on expanding her network, so the conference is a great opportunity to build relationships for future experiences.
Sarah Loomis, a senior in biological systems engineering, stated that the “career fair was awesome - much more relaxed than Engineering Expo.” Overall, the members who attend the SWE conference are all satisfied with their experience at the career fair. Many also use it as an opportunity to network with other women attending the fair since it can help build more female engineering contacts.
The annual conference has continually strengthened the bond between SWE members! Loomis mentioned that “the conference, especially my freshman year, was an incredible opportunity to meet upperclassmen and other freshmen. I met one of my best friends who is now on my senior design team through SWE conference my freshman year!” Another SWE member, Cox, stated that, “I met a lot of fellow SWE members from VT and got to know them a lot better. I really appreciated the opportunity to get to know them better!” The conference gave SWE members the opportunity to travel, eat, and explore a new location with each other. This experience encourages members to grow closer to one another as they navigate the conference together.
(Images: Top - Some of the SWE at VT chapter by a local Indianapolis monument! Left - More of SWE at VT members at the Gold Over America Tour. Right - The SWE at VT’s chapter president, Sarah Loomis, pictured at the Gold over America Tour.)
Another part of the conference is being able to explore different cities in between sessions at the SWE conference. At WE’21 many of the ladies who attended went to the Gold Over America Tour in Indianapolis. This tour starred Simone Biles, an American Olympic gymnast. The message behind the tour was fitting for the SWE conference since it was about inspiring and celebrating female athletes. The other gymnasts in the show included Jade Carey, Jordan Chiles, Grace McCallum, MyKayla Skinner, Laurie Hernandez, Morgan Hurd, Katelyn Ohashi, Chellsie Memmel, Shilese Jones, Melanie Johanna De Jesus Dos Santos, Ellie Black and Nia Dennis.
Another experience was being able to eat at local restaurants! On the second day of the SWE conference, all the ladies from SWE at VT who attended went to Mimi Blue, a restaurant known for their meatballs and banana mousse! In between sessions, some of the SWE members explored the city of Indianapolis, visited the Canal Walk, or took pictures around local buildings and monuments.
(Images: A photospread of downtown Indianapolis. / Pictures taken by SWE at VT members)
Generally, the SWE chapter at VT felt that WE’21 was an absolute success! Adeline Ghosh, a sophomore in Electrical Engineering said that “I had an amazing time at the conference! Networking was made so much easier thanks to the sessions and career fair. I also got to meet so many more members of our chapter that I previously had never talked to. I definitely made some lifelong friends in Indianapolis!” Next year’s conference will be held in Houston, Texas. If you are interested in attending, the first step is to become an official member of SWE and reach out to any of the officers at VT’s SWE chapter!