This article was provided by Suchismita Sanyal, publicity chair on the WE Local India Advisory Board, Technology Opportunity Manager, Computational R&D Platform Manager, Computational Chemistry & Materials Science, Shell Technology Centre Bangalore.
My first interaction with Society of Women Engineers (SWE) dates back to 2011, when I participated in WE11, their annual conference at Chicago. I was truly inspired by the size and scale of it, with participation from over 13,000 women in STEM across all engineering disciplines, industry and academia attending sessions and workshops around professional development, technical advancement and career fair. I was thinking how to share this opportunity back home in India. It felt like life had come full circle when I became a member of the SWE Advisory Board last year, working together with a team of like-minded professionals across the industry and with wonderful SWE colleagues to shape and design the agenda of WE Local India, Bengaluru 2019, that took place 11-13 April, at the Sheraton Grand Bengaluru Whitefield Hotel & Convention Center. With 850+ registrations for the conference and 300+ registrations for the career fair, this was the largest WE Local India conference thus far!
WE Local India started with an electrifying keynote by renowned TED speaker Sabina Nawaz. In her authentic style, Sabina urged us to shut out ‘junk mail’ from our lives, the nagging self-doubts, the negative self-talk that takes up our mind-space and limits our potential. What stayed with me were her thoughtful words “we constantly compare our insides with other people’s outsides”.
One of the other highlights of the conference for me was the Speed Mentoring session, where the mentors were paired with their mentees for a quick 10 minute session and each of us had 4 rounds in an hour. It was humbling to be part of this session as a mentor, exchanging notes and sharing perspectives which enriched both the mentor as well as the mentees. Also, the session provided the perfect seed for building new relationships that developed further over the next two days at the conference, with the promise of taking it beyond with new requests from LinkedIn!
One of the new things we did this year as the advisory board was to reach out to colleges to encourage participation of women in stem via their poster presentations. This was a big success, with us being able to hear the cutting-edge innovations from these bright minds, while the poster presenters also got the opportunity to attend all 3 days of the conference with complimentary passes. It was deeply gratifying to get a note from Preethi Karpoor, a student who said that “the SWE conference was an excellent avenue to understand the industry requirements and interact with women who are at the top of their respective fields. It’s not every day that you see 700+ women from diverse backgrounds coming together and backing each other up so as to achieve their one common goal of excellence. To witness the sheer brilliance of the event and to embrace the fact that women belong in tech – that they are doers, believers and change makers.”
The other thing that drew a lot of attention was the career fair. With over 300+ registrations, Saturday was buzzing with aspiring job-seekers interacting with the 20+ exhibitors on display and attending career workshops.
Above and beyond these fantastic sessions, the greatest success of WE Local India for me was seeing many of my long-standing friends at the conference and making several new ones on the advisory board, thereby bringing to life the primary goal of WE Local “meet locally, learn socially”!