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Networking and freebies: The perks of collegiate conferences

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This past weekend, seven other members of Stanford’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) attended the national annual SWE conference at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California, which is right below Los Angeles.  

After taking the uneventful hour-long flight from San Jose to the Orange County airport, we checked into our hotel and headed over to the Convention Center. The sheer number of attendees was impressive, with hundreds of women from all backgrounds. Surprisingly, there were many men as well, waiting in the snaking lines to speak with recruiters from a wide gamut of engineering companies, ranging from ubiquitous and formidable household names like Nike to lesser-known, but still important, payroll provider, Paycom.  

Some companies had humble tables with a banner hung up on the divider behind them. Other companies had platforms on the ground with huge pillars and light-up signs.  

Throughout the conference, there were a myriad of events like plenaries, meal events, massage and manicure sessions and, most importantly (at least to all us job-seeking folks), the massive career fan that spanned two gigantic and high-ceilinged rooms. Having never been to such a career fair before, I first ventured up to the Peloton station and began talking with a woman behind the counter. Typically, the recruiter will either ask you about yourself or you will have to take the initiative to introduce yourself, hand over a freshly-printed copy of your résumé and then proceed to delineate your experience (low-key humble brag about your multitude of achievements as a Stanford student) marketing yourself as the ideal candidate for an internship or job position.  

Some recruiters would be more friendly and willing to have detailed conversations with you, while others were a bit more aloof and quiet. Nonetheless, I believe that interacting with a wide variety of industry representatives gave me plenty of experience to build upon for the future. I truly know how to interact with company professionals in the future and that I should print way more résumé copies than I think I’ll ever need.  Many of the recruiters gave insightful insider tips that will be super helpful moving on in the application processes.

The networking was very fun, and I also enjoyed spending time with other passionate students from SWE. Connections were made on LinkedIn, and it just so happened that I sat next to an Apple recruiter on the flight back to San Jose.  

Last but not least, the swag was pretty epic. The conference itself gives you a big tote bag and a water bottle, and each company tends to bring its own medley of goodies. P&G gave out legitimate spray cans of Febreze, face wash and tubes of toothpaste. T-shirts and pens were understandably everywhere. Nike had drawstring bags and, like Garmin, gave out headbands.  Keeping up with modern trends, some companies gave out phone wallet pockets that can be stuck on the backs of phones. It was pretty exhilarating to walk around collecting all the free stuff and talking nonstop.

Although registration, travel and lodging can be pricey during these conferences, Stanford does indeed provide funding for many opportunities. While attending such an eminent university with innumerable connections to networks of professionals and industries, we should truly take advantage of the opportunity to meet more people and network (while using Daddy Stanny’s and campus organizations’ specially designated travel funds, since we evidently don’t otherwise have the wherewithal).  If a student group or pre-professional society that you are a member of talks about attending a conference, I recommend really jumping and snagging the opportunity.  

Contact Sarayu Pai at smpai918 ‘at’ stanford.edu.