By Nicole Woon
Nicole Woon is an active SWE leader and Life Member, Program Manager at Microsoft, global jetsetter, and eternal food connoisseur.
I remember attending my first Society of Women Engineers (SWE) region conference in 2012. A college sophomore at the time, I piled into a BoltBus with my fellow University of Pennsylvania SWE members and traveled up to Columbia University with no idea of how invigorating that weekend would ultimately be.
The vibrancy of New York as a city is infectious but a SWE conference took it to the next level—uniting hundreds of talented women engineers in one place. We were there to celebrate each other’s achievements, engage in scintillating discussions and grow together. One of my most exciting encounters was when my section members and I found ourselves at the same table as SWE founding member Alma Forman at the Saturday night awards dinner. Talk about an empowering experience!
Fast-forward three years, when it came full circle at the 2015 region conference in Philadelphia. During those three years, I became deeply involved with my local section, as well as at the region and society levels. As the FY15 Collegiate Director, I was honored to give the lunch keynote alongside founding member Alma Forman, and then President-Elect Colleen Layman on SWE’s past, present and future. This serendipity moment could only happen at SWE conferences—thanks to the participation and generosity of our members, volunteers and sponsors.
Now, with the exciting shift towards WE Local, we are able to continue this legacy of creating environments where attendees are able to dedicate a weekend to meet new faces and reconnect with old friends. What I love about these local conferences is that despite the larger attendance, it still feels intimate enough that you can make connections easily. Collegiate and professionals are equals at these events, and it isn’t unusual to walk past a lively hallway conversation between a freshman new to SWE and a 20-year SWE veteran. Some of those hellos and handshakes may spark thought-provoking discussions for the weekend, others may blossom into long-lasting relationships. Additionally, WE Local creates an opportunity to come to an event that may be geographically closer than Annual Conference and is just as jam-packed with inspiring keynotes, informative sessions, numerous companies at the career fair, professional networking, and fun.
When an organization invests in SWE, it shows me that they care about our values. Moreover, they are invested in encouraging women to flourish in their careers as engineers and leaders. WE Local conferences are a prime showcase for those principles. I know I’ll be attending them for years to come—join me!