By Marta Wicke, Mt. Diablo Section President
WE Local is the new format for regional conferences for the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). In the past, regional conferences were completely planned and organized by member volunteers. Starting last year, SWE Headquarters started helping organize and support local conferences around the world. This year, they expanded to 5 U.S. WE Local conferences and 2 international ones.
Last year, I served as the Local Host Committee Chair for WE Local San Jose. I also attended WE Local Tulsa earlier this year. What I like about WE Local is the size, intimacy and convenience.
The smaller size allows me to meet people and run into them again in the same weekend, so we are able to build stronger bonds. Many times I get lost in the enormity of Annual Conference and have a hard time finding people I know, let alone run into new people more than once. As an introvert, this is especially useful, since I can usually find someone I have met before in each social event.
In spite of the smaller size, I have found the content and keynote speakers to be comparable to Annual Conference. The topics have been varied and I did not have a problem finding interesting sessions to attend. There is still a vibrant career fair with employers targeting that area of the country, although a little less crowded and intimidating than Annual Conference. Overall, I was satisfied with the amount of information and coaching I received over the two days.
During WE Local there are several shared meal times included. These are great opportunities to not only meet new people, but also rub elbows with SWE leaders. I enjoyed informal discussions with collegiates as well as candid conversations with members of the SWE Board of Directors. The presentations are smaller in scale and you have plenty of time to engage the speakers before or after sessions.
With 5 conferences a year across the country, there should be a WE Local within a short flight (or drive) for most of us. They are only 2 to 3 days (one weekend day), but packed full of sessions and content. Because of the shorter format, I was able to pack in 2 events on the same budget I usually spend on Annual Conference. Plus, most meals are included, so I do not have to worry about finding food and can focus on the conference.
In addition to attending, if there happens to be a WE Local in your area in the future, I highly recommend getting involved. As a former WE Local Host Committee Chair, I can attest that SWE HQ takes on most of the high stress activities like contracts and budget. That leaves the Local Host Committee to focus on the fun stuff, like Friday Celebration themes and speaker selection.
I hope you all get a chance to attend a WE Local this year. Maybe I will see you there!
The Clorox Company