By Himani Gaur
I had the incredible opportunity to immerse myself in the vibrant world of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) at the WE23 Conference in Los Angeles.
As an immigrant seeking to find my sense of belonging in new territories, this conference became an enriching chapter in my journey and left me on an all-time high.
Embrace the Power of Connection
When I arrived at LAX, the balmy breeze and bustling traffic instantly transported me back to the familiarity of home. Yet what truly defined this WE23 experience was the remarkable women I met and the conversations we shared.
Entering the SWE conference, I was initially surrounded by a sea of faces that, at first glance, appeared just like mine. The overwhelming question of “How could I possibly stand out and make a mark?” momentarily clouded my thoughts.
However, I quickly realized that this initial uncertainty was unwarranted. The warmth and openness of everyone at WE23 transformed strangers into connections, mentors, and friends.
This experience reminded me that while we may all be on similar journeys, our paths to this point have been uniquely our own. Don’t hesitate to reach out to fellow attendees; the connections you make can be transformative.
Soak in the Brilliance of SWE Sessions
Throughout the conference, I attended impactful sessions, one of which was “Taking the Lead in SWE – From an Asian Perspective.” The women on stage were truly inspiring.
Nicole Woon, Senior Product Manager at Microsoft, shared how SWE can serve as a limitless creative outlet, and Sreyoshi Bhaduri, a Senior Research Scientist at Amazon, shared a tip about the “3+3+3 Rule” which was a great takeaway ― connect with three people from different disciplines, three with diverse interests, and three from various corners of the globe. Putting this into practice enriched my conference experience significantly.
Seek out sessions that resonate with your interests and goals and actively engage with the insights shared. The “3+3+3 Rule” can help you diversify your network and gain valuable perspectives.
Make the Most of the Career Fair
The career fair was a treasure trove of opportunities. It allowed me to connect with numerous incredible individuals and gain insights into their companies and roles. Conversations with product managers from different domains provided me with a fascinating glimpse into the diversity of this field.
The recruiter screenings felt like warm conversations, further reinforcing the supportive atmosphere of the SWE community, and I ended up securing a couple of interviews in the field of my interest.
Attend career fairs with an open mind and a readiness to explore various opportunities. Treat interactions with recruiters as valuable conversations and don’t underestimate the power of networking. It also helps to be prepared for interviews beforehand as many companies conduct them on site.
Challenge Yourself to Attend Random Networking Sessions
Days before the conference, I was scrolling through the WE23 website and stumbled upon the description for “The Responsible Data and Women in AI” meetup organized by Latech4good, which proved to be a delightful surprise.
I met so many wonderful women from various backgrounds, and we relaxed and engaged in conversations over a couple of drinks. These spontaneous interactions beyond the handshakes in the conference can lead to some of the most meaningful connections.
Thanks to Karen Borchgrevink‘s organizational skills; I had the opportunity to meet her and learn about the importance of responsible data management. Data is intrinsically linked to individuals, which highlights the need for accountability, privacy, and equity.
Don’t be afraid to explore events or meetings that may not align directly with your field; these can lead to unexpected and inspiring connections. Plus, many networking lounges offer food and comfy chairs to rest your tired soles.
As I bid farewell to the City of Angels, I carried with me a heart brimming with inspiration. The WE23 was not just a professional development opportunity, but also a celebration of diversity, empowerment and the unwavering support of a community of brilliant women.
My first SWE experience was a memorable one, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds as I continue to be a part of this extraordinary community.