I am Kazi Tasneem, WE Local Liaison in GradSWE Leadership Team. Last month I attended WE Local Tampa as a Collegiate Member. During my graduate studies, I attended many conferences and presented my research several times. Yet, attending WE Local appeared interestingly one of the most effective ones for networking with knowledgeable professionals and other collegiate members. It was a great opportunity to meet people from academia and industries and to have one-on-one interaction. In a very intimate setting like the WE Local conferences, you will get enough time to get to know people. I was able to connect with people instantly via LinkedIn while sitting and chatting together!
Graduate Collegiate Competition:
The best part of my WE Local experience was the Graduate Collegiate Competition where I delivered a lightning talk and presented a poster. While preparing for the competition, I had to learn how to present concisely and at the same time interestingly to the broader audience. Getting feedback from the judges was very useful and helped me understand what I should focus more on next time I present. It was a detailed judging on posters and talks under different criteria – visual presentation and/or speaking style, technical content, supporting figures, results, and conclusions, contribution and applicability, and completeness. Mujan Seif, our Graduate Program Chair, attended WE Local in 2018 and 2019 and she shared the same feeling. She echoed that the judges’ feedbacks from the collegiate competition talks are really meant to get insight where you can make yourself better. In addition to that, participation in the collegiate competition facilitates partial funding as a finalist of a collegiate competition to attend your WE Local. You should not miss a chance to attend a WE Local conference! Our GradSWE Member Coordinator Carolyn Chlebek attended the WE Local Providence last year. She highly encourages local graduate students to attend WE Local. “If the cost to travel to the conference and potential to obtain lodging fits in your budget, you should absolutely attend!”, she said.
Let me share my experience and thoughts about Career Fair. As a graduate student I was little concerned about that the career fair would be tailored more towards undergrads. So, I decided to visit the stands I was interested in and instead of simply uploading my resume to their system, I reached out to the company person at the stand and expressed my interest in particular area of the company. Later I connected with them in LinkedIn so I could follow up with them for forwarding the graduate resumes to relevant departments. This slow-paced one-on-one interaction won’t be possible in the SWE Annual meeting because of its pretty overwhelming crowd. I really found it a great way to utilize the small sized Career Fair at WE Local.
We had a wonderful experience of meeting past three Presidents and current President of SWE at WE Local Tampa! Breakout Sessions presented by them were very informative. “It’s so simple! Improve your e-communication with an easy mantra” by Virginia Count, “Be More Strategic: How to Make Networking Work for You” by Jessica Rannow, and “Creating a One Page Visual Resume” by Jonna Gerken- those were really beneficial and appropriate for graduate attendees. Carolyn Chlebek suggests graduate students to attend early breakout sessions: “Go to the early breakout sessions meant for networking! It was very friendly and allowed for easier one-on-one networking as many people were not early risers.”
Not only can you attend the WE Local, you can also get involved with the organizers too. I judged for the undergraduate collegiate competition. Keynote speakers were amazingly inspiring and thought-provoking. You will get enough delicious foods at these events! The social events were engaging and cordial enough that you will feel right at home. I am amazed at the organization and effort that goes into putting it all together. Although not many Graduate Talks in this year’s WE Locals are happening, the future WE Locals will certainly work on improving more active participations of graduate students.
Networking and Networking:
WE Local brings together participants in all stages of their collegiate and professional journeys. This is the smaller sized conference – they don’t feel as busy, allowing you to get a better connection to both the Society and the members. You just really get to know people and also reconnect with people that you don’t get to see very often. “Be ready to network’, as advised by our Collegiate Director Genevieve Kane.
I got to meet my friend Armana Sabiha Huq after 10 years at WE Local Tampa. She is a PhD Candidate at Florida International University. Although she has been heavily involved with multiple leadership roles in other professional societies, WE Local Tampa was her first conference of SWE. She was amazed to see the friendly setting of local conferences that helps her get connected with numbers of professionals from local areas and beyond. The enthusiasm and encouragement she received motivated her in getting more involved with SWE in the near future.
Last but not least, WE Locals are still evolving and day by day they are reaching the height of expectation. We as Graduate Students can be actively involved with WE Local Host Committees in the future to facilitate the future WE Local events beneficially for graduate students. The WE Local program is now recruiting SWE Members to serve on the forthcoming WE Local Advisory Board. If you live near a 2020 host city (San Diego, CA; Salt Lake City, UT; Raleigh, NC; Des Moines, IA; Buffalo, NY), apply to be a part of the WE Local Advisory Board. All SWE Membership levels (collegiate to retirement and everything in between) are encouraged to apply. View the online application form at here. Get involved and join WE Locals for an enriched conference experience!