I am so excited this is my first post! Heading to one of the conferences I attended, I felt like such a cool kid for skipping class and heading to the ABQ International Airport. Hoping on a plane to Minneapolis, Minnesota, I was going to the Society of Women Engineers Conference based on breaking boundaries and empowering women in engineering. I was so excited. Ready to not only have a break from classes but network with huge names in industry, my resumes which were printed on fancy paper were tucked in my suitcase. I even had business cards which didn’t say much since what freshman needs a business card. I felt prepare and ready and excited for this new adventure.

The hours leading up to take off were hectic. There’s no other way I could’ve done it. I raced from my honors course to my room to pick up my luggage. My amazing roommate got food from the cafe for me . I ate it on the way. We got checked in and through TSA and the first thing I did was sit down in one of those airport waiting chairs, pulled out by laptop and started my homework. My president got such a kick out of it she took a friend and my picture.

We boarded the plane. One of my absolute favorite things to do is ride an airplane. Something about the take off, how the air hugs the plane helps it stay afloat in the middle of the sky, excites me every time. I’m lucky I don’t get motion sickness and can fall asleep anywhere. I basically slept and listened to music the whole flight, contrary to my original intention of doing homework.

When we landed, things got more crazy. I flew with four of the five girls that were staying in a different hotel and according to the email, the fifth girl was coming in thirty or so minutes. It was completely logical to wait. There was another group that was waiting for our vice president on the same flight. So we waited. And waited. And waited until we realized we were in the wrong terminal. We rushed over to the place we thought we needed to be taking the light system, one of the first forms of public transport I’ve ever taken. Something I wasn’t quite used to was the tram we took since the Boise Airports is one of the smallest airports there are.

Along the way we lost the other group; the president lost her wallet somewhere along the line and called an officer to check the kiosk for her. The four of us traveled down to go find our friends. We found out that the fifth girl was arriving much later when we met the vice president at the baggage claim. She accidentally put her arrival time for them. Tired, we ordered an Uber to our hotel. That night, we ended up at the hotel’s restaurant which was overpriced but delicious, because we were so tired. I had mac and cheese and a chicken wrap. Before we got ready for the first day of conference, we talked and laughed in the almost empty restaurant.

We barely made the shuttle. As usual I was running late, racing to the car trying to put my other shoe on. A coffee in my hand, we went on our way to the conference center. There was so much happening. We all had our schedules made the night before. The conference had lectures on everything from resume critics to how to be equally successful as an engineer and a mother. It was quite frankly overwhelming. Knowing this, I designed my schedule to be a little on the simpler side.

We walked in and there were so many girls. There was lines everywhere, for presenters, for attendees and for the keynote speaker… We took too long filling up our water bottles and found ourselves in the big group, desperate for a seat. I wiggle my way to the front with my friends and as soon as we look up there is a representative from Honeywell standing in front of us.

You might need some background: One of the girls on the trip talked to me about Honeywell before we came. We were listing the companies from Albuquerque. Of course there were the national laboratories, Sandia and Los Alamos (Although, to my surprise, they had a much smaller booth that the conferences I have attended here). I had never really heard of Honeywell and not doing my background research didn’t help my case. Not sure what they manufactured, this was the perfect time to ask and to network. The representative right in front of me and not a single fear was holding me back.

I told her my name and school and ask her what is Honeywell about and what were they looking for. Thinking the conversation was going great, the rep asked our age. I told her we are freshman. She asked if we were freshman in grad school, but I am definitely a freshman undergrad. She replied, saying “Oh, so you are really fresh…” I thought this was hilarious at first. Being a college student for only nine weeks does not seem so short until someone points it out. Unfortunately, this was somewhat along the lines of how the rest of the conference went.

It was great experience to put myself out there and perfect my so called 30-second elevator pitch, but so many companies did not want freshman. I was discouraged talking to big names like Texas Instruments and NASA. Many of the recruiters discounted my abilities based on my year in school. However, I embraced the fact I wasn’t quite what they wanted yet. In doing so, I saw a lot of encouragement to keep up my research and participation in clubs.

I had a blast at conference. Some highlights included an amazing panel by four powerful women at NASA. These women were so different, yet they all are such important parts of such amazing instruments and projects. It was the most inspired I have been in a very long time. I also had a blast with the keynote speaking on Friday. Marillyn A. Hewson spoke as Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Lockheed Martin Corporation. My friend and I scored seats in the fifth row right behind the sponsors right in the middle. They directed the speeches, it seemed, right at me. They left me with motivation to keep exploring STEM careers.

I was put off for a while by the Honeywell comment. It felt like my age was the only limiting factor to these companies really giving me a chance. But I didn’t let it stop me. I think taking the pressure of a job or internship as a freshman made the experience more enjoyable. I got a lot of resume critics and advise to keep researching and engaging in career specific extracurricular activities to stand out in the years to come.

This conference was much more memorable due to the great friendships built and lots of free stuff obtained. I had a great time exploring the city as well. Conference was a great time. Almost exploiting my “freshman-ness” let me soak up each and every aspect of this opportunity. So I leave you with the advice, no matter what stage of life you are in, if you encounter something new, enjoy it and learn because at one point or another we are really fresh.

 

Anna