I had the awesome opportunity to travel to Anaheim, California for the 2019 Society of Women Engineers (SWE) national conference: WE 19. The theme this year was “We Live, We Learn, We Lead” and I can say with confidence that I did all three.

This is my second year as a member of UNM’s chapter of SWE. I was lucky enough to attend WE 18, last year’s national conference, and because of that, I had some expectations going into it. My main priority was to listen to the keynote speakers. At WE 18, I wasn’t able to see the Thursday speaker. This year, my friends and I made sure we got there super early to not only get to listen to the speakers but get a great seat!

My Thursday started off with a plate full of pastries, a cup full of more cream than coffee, and so much excitement for my first talk of the weekend. Carol Malnati, Vice President CRHF R&D at Medtronic, was the opening keynote speaker for the conference. I was completely captured by her first story.

She explained a turning point in her career. She was a mother working towards her Ph.D. when her professor gave her a lower overall grade than her male classmate. She explained how she confronted the professor, asked some of the most difficult questions while remaining calm and fought for the grade she deserved. Even then, she fully admitted how discouraged and defeated she felt but, in that defining moment, she decided to power on for her daughter.

Throughout the speech she gave great advice like following your inner compass, being resilient and finding your own moxie. After her standing ovation, I wandered over to where the UNM chapter took our group photo. It was then when I finally realized how many students our organization took. I was so proud we took 39 students and I really wish I had more time to get to know everyone who came.

The rest of the day I bounced between the career fair and tech talks. It was different going to a career fair when I already have a job that I love. I talked to some companies and got awesome company swag, but having a job took a lot of pressure off the 30-second elevator speech I practiced about a thousand times last year. SWE’s career fair is one of the largest for women engineers. I got to learn so much about companies I never knew before and got some resume tips. Other members were lucky enough to be asked to interview and offered jobs or internships.

The second day, Rachel Hutter, Senior Vice President for International Facilities Operations Services and Worldwide Safety, Health and Engineering at Disney, empowered the crowd using the strong female characters from Star Wars to celebrate a new theme park’s opening: Galaxy’s Edge lands. Not only were there snippets from Disney’s Star Wars movies and TV shows but each piece of advice had a brilliant story accompanying it that kept me engaged the entire talk.

I revisited the career fair and went to some more tech talks. Some of the speeches where super funny like “How Netflix is ruining your Career” or exceptionally empowering like the plenary panel, “#SHECANDOIT.” The second day of the conference was my time to work at the SWE boutique. This is one of UNM SWE’s best fundraisers. It was fun to volunteer for the club and look at how cool our stuff was. I fell in love with the SWE crew necks that sold out at the conference. The club is now special ordering it for our members (thank goodness)!

By the end of the weekend, I was super tired and so behind on homework, but I had a really amazing time living, learning, and leading. I wasn’t at the conference the whole time either. I got to go to Downtown Disney, went out with the organization for out-group dinner, and took a trip to San Diego. The conference was a perfect pick me up right before finals and re-inspired me to pursue engineering.

I hope you all are able to find new inspiration in your dream career field to help finals feel a little less awful.

Anna