The weekend after the second week of school I boarded a plane to San Diego for the WE Local 2020 Society of Women Engineers Conference. I will not lie; it was challenging to pick up and leave for three days when I was barely into the semester, but it turned out to be so much fun and even a little relaxing.

Plane Ride

Some of the best parts of the flight were that the flight was not delayed, Sunport TSA barely had a line, and after watching the sunset out the gate window listening to my Physics III lecture on the wave equation, I boarded a direct flight from ABQ to San Diego. We shared a flight with the UNM swim team who was heading to Reno, Nevada.

Airbnb

There were seven other girls that got to go to the conference too. We stepped off the plane, got into an Uber, and headed to our Airbnb. The instructions for our stay, though, were sent to the wrong place so we spent a good hour trying to figure out how to get in. It felt like a “How many engineers does it take to open a door?” situation. Once we got in, we set up the beds and got ready for the conference the next day.

Conference Day 1

We woke up early Friday morning to walk about twenty minutes to the conference center to register and listen to the keynote speaker while eating a very nice continental breakfast. The keynote was Bhavya Mehta. She is a product development engineer at BD and was just a few years older than us. It was cool learning from her because she was in our spot, an undergraduate student studying to be an engineer, not too long ago.

We all headed to the graduate poster competition which was fun to listen to. The talks were no longer than 10 minutes and most were on thesis topics. I headed to a resume workshop with General Atomics and scored great feedback and a perfect grocery bag. I took a homework break and met back up with the other SWE members to listen to lightning talks. One of my favorites was about doing yoga in the workplace.

We ate lunch and listened to the State of the SWE speech. The rest of the day was spent listening to other breakout sessions. One of the standout sessions for me was a panel on moving whether it be for school or work. We headed back to Airbnb after the talks. On the way back, we passed right next to the Padres’ stadium and a cute matcha place. Friday night was also our club dinner night and we all headed to a really delicious Greek place.

Conference Day 2

Day two went about the same as day one. We started the day with a really good breakfast again. The activity for the morning was a networking hour where we got to know a nanotechnology engineer. We went to listen to talks on data mining, leadership and LinkedIn, which all were super eye-opening. Lunch was provided during the keynote Q&A session. For this keynote, they asked a high school student and her mother to talk about how they have founded an SWE club and participated in an SWE Next competition in their local community. After lunch, we took a short beachfront walk and took advantage of the beautiful weather in San Diego. We kept attending talks until 5:00 pm. We headed back to the Airbnb, went to this super good California burrito place, and got ready for the flight back to ABQ.

Takeaways

I would say this was one of my favorite conferences I have gone to. It was much smaller than the national conference, but I still got to listen to great talks and participate in a career fair. It was much easier to catch speakers walking around and talk to them and make more connections. The food provided at the conference center was so good which doesn’t seem like a huge factor, but the meals totally kept me on site (since I normally go out to grab a bite) to listen to more talks and saved me a lot of money. I liked that we only took eight members and we all got to know each other super well by attending talks and going out to dinner all together.

Even though I missed school, it was nice to go somewhere that wasn’t ABQ and meet awesome professionals. I learned way more than I thought and I came back way more motivated than I thought.

I hope you all have found a little motivation as were still in the early weeks of the semester!

Anna