By Marta Wicke, Senior Strategic Project Manager at the Clorox Company. She is currently serving as a SWE Senator, Mt. Diablo Section President and WE Local Advisory Board member.
I love attending conferences to learn new things, meet new people and just have time for my mind to focus on something other than a deadline, but they can be overwhelming if you do not have a plan. Whether your company is sponsoring you or you are supporting yourself, you want to get the most out of the experience. Here are some tips for focusing your time and effort and making progress on your personal and professional goals.
Plan to earn about a tool or topic you can bring back to your work team.
I typically look for at least one Professional Development topic that could apply to others in my office. A few good examples include "Leading an International Team" or "Project Lessons Learned." These are actual topics from the WE Local Baltimore schedule.
Once you get back to work, ask to present the topic to your department. BOOM! You just justified the cost of your time at conference. Use that as capital next time you ask for support for conference.
Plan to learn something to support your personal goals.
For me, I am always looking for Work Life Balance tips and inspiration to simplify my life. I am also becoming curious about Entrepreneurship. There are usually topics to fit any stage in your career and personal life. Plus, you will likely find other kindred spirits that are working on the same thing and can become accountability partners. (Feel free to ask me what I am doing to become an entrepreneur. I need to be reminded!)
Plan to find some ideas to share with your SWE Section.
There is no end to Outreach sessions, as well as the potential to volunteer for DesignLab. In addition, I always learn something from questions others ask at the SWE Town Hall. Plus, there will be LCC coaches giving presentations and available to answer questions on SWE leadership.
One of my favorite parts of the WE Local experience is that it is smaller and easier to run into the same people multiple times. You can find someone who was in one of your sessions at lunch and compare notes about their takeaways. There are open networking times to continue conversations without feeling rushed that you are missing the next slotted event.
I guarantee that you will meet some amazing ladies over the course of 48 hours at WE Local. We are Women Engineers. We all have stories to share.
Plan to make follow up.
As you build your network, turn your new connections into accountability partners for your goals. Let them know what skills you are working on developing or what industry you want to learn more about. Ask them what their goals are and how you can help. They may be able to suggest resources or other connections and vice versa. Don't forget to connect with them on LinkedIn or put an email reminder in your calendar so that you can follow up with them in the future.
At the end of the conference, as you are in the airport or driving home, reflect on your WE Local experience. What did you learn and what actions are you going to take to keep the momentum after the conference energy has worn off? WE Local is a great opportunity to advance you on your journey, so be prepared.
We hope to see you at one of seven WE Local conferences this year: