Every year, the Caltech Society of Women Engineers attends the National SWE conference to network with other SWE Chapters and to hustle for jobs. Last year, the event was in Minneapolis, and the year before in Austin. This time around, it’s in Anaheim which is much more convenient for us. Since it is much closer, we were able to send many more delegates to attend and miss fewer classes in the process of doing so.
A relevant comparison to the SWE conference is Grace Hopper. Both aim to increase the concentration of women in technology. However, Grace Hopper is specific to computer science and computer engineering while SWE caters to all fields, chemical, mechanical and biological to name a few. They are similar in scale with about 10K attendees, and have massive career fairs. As such, they are both valuable opportunities.
We left early Thursday morning and arrived at the conference venue around noon. The career fair opened at 2pm and we were able to get in right away. This first day is quite hectic as most people are trying to throw their resumes at recruiters to get interviews. When booths get busy, it may take 15-30 minutes to even talk to someone. I ended up speaking to some graduate schools about their programs. A lot of schools will have fee waivers for prospective candidates. Considering that application fees are upwards of $150, these fee waivers are the best swag you can get.
Another highlight for the conference is the keynote and workshops. A couple of SWE members went to one about engagement for your club and found it extremely helpful. One of the difficult parts about hosting SWE events on campus is that there are so many other clubs with their fun events with free food that it becomes difficult to attract attendees. It’s even more of a challenge to incorporate the club’s goals of professional development and outreach within these events. Regardless, the workshop taught us a lot about how we can run SWE at Caltech.
Some of our other club members got even more out of the event – they came back with multiple job offers from the conference. Their success is a testament to the value of this event. There’s no doubt that Caltech SWE will attend the national conference in years to come. However, there is room for improvement. One of the most simple changes we can make to our itinerary is incorporating more group dinners and activities to help with team building. Hopefully, this can make the conference even more worthwhile for SWE attendees.