By Ali Anderson, WE Local Advisory Board member, engineering outreach guru, and first-time mother to be (coming February 2018!)
When I first heard of the possibility of regions transitioning, I was skeptical. I thought to myself, I’m a Region G-er; I love my fellow region ladies! What will SWE look like (for me) without regions? These thoughts ran through my mind, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.
Without regions, how will we have region conferences? I was chair of the 2015 Region G conference and I remember how valuable that experience was to my leadership growth. Would future SWE members receive the same opportunity? Therefore, I decided to explore how I could help shape the future of SWE region conferences.
I quickly learned this effort was being led by dozens of SWE members who were serving on a variety of taskforces. One of them being, what is now, the WE Local Advisory Board (LAB). I joined LAB in 2016 to help shape the direction of future WE Local conferences across the nation and also help plan the inaugural WE Local Pittsburgh in February 2017. Over the past twelve months, I’ve seen incredible efforts made by LAB and local SWE members and SWE Headquarters (HQ) to put forth two amazing conferences, and to move forward with five new conferences for 2018!
So, why am I excited for WE Local?
A large part of my excitement and reflection comes from my time as a Region Conference Chair. It was an incredible experience – but there were downsides. I was a senior in college, which brought its own stress and long hours, which left limited time for conference planning. I had a fantastic group of West Virginia University (WVU) students helping, but they also had school as a number one priority, and I was the only one with any conference planning experience. We also had support from the Pittsburgh professional section, but they were an hour north, making in-person planning difficult.
Planning activities throughout the conference weekend was fun. We loved showing off our beautiful campus, but I was not prepared for the number of contracts to be signed, the flood of daily emails and all the acronyms used in the event-planning business. Most of our time was spent handling logistics versus the tours and social events.
Now, SWE has WE Local headquarter staff dedicated to handling these detailed logistics – and we just worry about the fun stuff!
Universities and organization each have a unique set of rules for fund development and sponsorship. At WVU, we went through our college’s development office – an extremely valuable but also very busy department – who helped us create a sponsorship packet that met the school’s guidelines.
However, when a company expressed interest in sponsoring our event, they had to work with the development office. Sometimes, it would be weeks before we knew of a sponsor’s commitment. In addition, our school was located one hour from a major city, so it was challenging to find a variety of companies to support our event.
With the SWE HQ partnership, a new sponsorship packet (now called a prospectus) was created with the feedback from LAB. The prospectus (including pricing and sponsorship opportunities) is now consistent across all WE Local conferences. SWE also has dozens of corporate partnerships which broadens the number, type and size of companies represented at WE Local – meaning more opportunities to land a job or internship at the WE Local career fair!
Well, what’s left for local members to do?
All the fun stuff!
With SWE HQ taking over the logistics, contracts, budgets, etc., it frees up time for the Local Host Committee (LHC) SWE members to add their city’s local flare to the conference. This includes the Friday WE Local Celebration (a social networking event!) with local city food and entertainment, nominating keynote speakers and plenary panels, breakout session speaker selection, and so much more!
I was overwhelmed with excitement for the 2017 WE Local conferences and I cannot wait to see what 2018 has in store! Join local (and not local!) SWE members in Tulsa (January 26-28), Phoenix (February 23-25), Milwaukee (March 9-11), Portland (April 6-8) or Providence (April 20-22) for a weekend of networking, professional development and a whole lot of fun!