Our final WE Local conference in the U.S. has come to a close and there were numerous highlights I captured throughout my weekend! Here’s a quick look at WE Local Bellevue, By the Numbers:
- 588 attendees
- 60+ breakout sessions with 40+ speakers
- 40+ volunteers serving across 70+ shifts
- 20 organizations participating in the career fair
- 5 collegiate competition finalists
- 12 of 61 WE Local award recipients in attendance
- 3 of 25 travel grant recipients in attendance
Each of our WE Local Bellevue Keynote Speakers brought new perspectives and initiated thoughtful conversation. At “Wake Up, WE Local!”, Judy Twedt demonstrated her courage and resilience by blending gender equity research and music to recognize our changing climate and its associated risks. (You can check out her recent TEDxSeattle talk here.) Rachel Morford gave the State of SWE address, which touted SWE’s recent accomplishments as an organization and where we’re moving next. During our Local Power Hour, Celeste Mergens from Days for Girls shared inspirational stories about perceptions and her organization’s movement to advance menstrual health and education everywhere. Lastly, at the WE Achieve Awards Ceremony, Teri Healy shared her moving personal experiences and drove home the message of unconditional love and believing in ourselves.
Attendees had the opportunity to choose from a wide range of breakout session topics, and I created my own diverse track across the two days. At the plenary panel “(Wo)men Leadership: Disrupting the Pipeline,” panelists discussed unconscious bias, their proactive attempts at combating bias, and how to engage the next generation of women in leadership roles. I sat in on lively group discussions about stress management and working with globally-dispersed teams. The collegiate competition, whether you were listening to finalists’ lightning talks or reading their posters, had fascinating research! As a follow-up from a session, I took one of Harvard’s implicit bias tests and learned a lot about myself (you too can take the tests here). I even got to speak during “The Reality of Mixed Reality”, a session developed with fellow Microsoft colleagues and previously presented at WE18 – we explained the concept of mixed reality, tangible examples and its value across industries, and opportunities to learn more.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a SWE conference without great forums for networking. The Friday night WE Local celebration was a festive gathering of board games and video games (Cards Against Muggles, anyone?), raffle prizes (lucky recipients got to take home some Pacific Northwest swag), food (chocolate fondue was a hit), and 3D laser printing with Glowforge (folks made name tags, luggage tags, puzzles, and ornaments). The career fair was packed with companies seeking talented recruits – some candidates even got an opportunity to interview on-site. I highly enjoyed having 1:1 conversations during resume reviews and mock interviews the day before, preparing our next generation of talented engineers.
Thank you to all of the volunteers who spent their time and effort bringing WE Local Bellevue to fruition! It was a joy being part of the Local Advisory Board (LAB) and Local Host Committee (LHC) – from developing my strategic thinking to supporting marketing efforts, my involvement in these 2 committees was a rewarding SWE leadership experience. Are you interested in helping make these conferences come to life? Then I encourage you to apply to become a LAB member or LHC chair – applications are open until Tuesday, April 30.
Content provided by Nicole Woon, Program Manager at Microsoft. She is an active SWE life member who currently serves on the SWE Magazine editorial board and WE Local Advisory Board.