Every Spring, the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) holds a Regional Conference for each university’s SWE section to meet up with fellow SWE members in the same area. During the Fall, SWE hosts a National Conference at a chosen location to bring together the entire SWE population in the US under a single roof to network, mingle, chit chat and learn from each other’s experiences. This year’s National Conference was held in the beautiful city of Orlando, Florida.

So 11 other ladies from SWE-USC and myself headed off to LAX at 4am. My flight took a stopover in Houston and then landed smoothly in Orlando. We were hoping to be the one of the lucky spectators of the Discovery space shuttle launch scheduled for that weekend, but the unfavorable weather caused its delay. Here’s a brief article from CNN about the incident.

Thinn, Vanessa, Christina and I killing time at the Bush International Airport, TX

As soon as we arrived in Orlando, we went straight to the convention center (with our luggage and all!) to catch up at the Career Fair. Let me tell you, this was a career fair like no other. There were hundreds of companies with booths lined up throughout a massive room. Fliers, freebies and resumes were found at every corner; welcoming recruiters and enthusiastic students buzzed about the room, filling the air with small talk, giggles and chatter.

At the end of the evening, we checked into our hotel — the Rosen Inn — conveniently located near the convention center. I roomed with 3 friends and met a couple other SWE members from Houston, San Francisco, Detroit, and just about any city you can name. It was great to have all of SWE unite over the weekend. There’s such great spirit and camaraderie in the community!

Selling our awesome SWE-USC shirts

The next day we took a break from career-related happenings by exploring the Wonderworks Museum conveniently located right next to the Rosen Inn, taking form of an upside-down building (complete with an inverted lamp post and palm tree!). Wonderworks served dinner and held tours in the inverted structure… very Inception-esque.

Spot me in the shadows...

Are we standing on the ceiling?!

We also took the night off to head to Downtown Disney at Disney World. Wandering around hearing classic Disney songs, watching an Irish dancer clogging on stage and stepping into chocolate heaven (a.k.a. the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory) were some of the highlights.

The moving statue-ess, a classic sight around Disneyland

Oh, and did I mention we had dinner at the T-Rex restaurant, surrounded by raptors, mammoths, fish aquariums, an ice cave and shooting stars?? You won’t find that anywhere else but at Disney!

Dinner with a mammoth in the ice cave

Dinner under the sea

From childhood entertainment and back to the career track… The very next morning, we were back at the convention center for a SWE Networking Lunch hosted by Northrop Grumman. We all got to sit with professionals and students from all over the country for a nice meal and an inspiring talk given by Gloria Flach, Corporate Vice President of Northrop Grumman. She is a wonderful lady (an engineer, herself) who spoke to the room of about 1200 participants about “Defining Success in Our Own Terms,” which was the theme of the national conference. Her main message emphasized how we should look for jobs that fit our priorities and needs, one that allows us to grow and embraces our contribution to engineering as women.

Later that evening, we went to the Peabody Hotel for the Celebrate SWE Dinner and Dance Party. With over a thousand girls (and some guys, too) in attendance, we played a “Know It or Show It” game, listened to Chicago-based singer Roxy, and danced the night away to some old school tunes and club remixes.

Alas, our weekend was over and it was time to head back to LA to tell the rest of SWE-USC about the experience and implement some of our learnings to make our organization a better and more effective service to Viterbi students and the surrounding community. This was another amazing experience that I encourage all engineers (both men and women) to take advantage of. Congratulations to SWE for another amazing conference.

Up next for SWE: Regional Conference in Palm Springs and National Conference in Chicago!!