This past weekend I left LA for Chicago to attend the SWE National Conference, WE11, with the Officers Council of the USC Chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, which includes fellow VSA Emily. Not only did I have an excellent time at the conference meeting with and learning from fellow women engineers, but I had a blast exploring Chicago on my first trip to “The Windy City.”

The conference technically began on Thursday with workshops, the career fair, and some evening gatherings. I left USC on Thursday afternoon with my roommate, and made it to Chicago by Thursday evening. The following morning we checked into the conference, and spent the morning meeting with recruiters at the large career fair. It was a great experience, not only to practice interviewing skills, but also to network with other engineers and recruiters, and to learn about various companies. Not to mention all of the excellent swag we accumulated from the various company tables – the highlights being blankets, scarves, and technology gadgets. After the career fair we attended workshops on innovation and technology, management and strategy, leadership, cultural awareness, and career and life skills. Some of the conferences I attended included a discussion on graduate school funding led by Fulbright Scholars and NSF fellows, a discussion on women of color in engineering led mainly by managers at Northrop Grumman, and a lecture on the stereotypes of women in leadership roles given by an ExxonMobil executive manager.

After the conference on Friday, we walked up and explored Michigan Avenue, stopping at The Art Institute of Chicago Museum, The Bean, and Millennium Park, among other notable tourist destinations. For dinner we went to Giordano’s for authentic Chicago deep dish pizza. It was delicious!

Saturday was filled with more workshops and a luncheon on “Women Defining the Future,” which we followed up with shopping in Chicago, including a stop at the popular Topshop. After shopping we strolled along the river and then headed back to the hotel to get ready for the closing ceremony of the conference, Celebrate SWE!.

We decided to make our last night in Chicago a memorable one by making a midnight stop at The Melting Pot, where we enjoyed several pots of dessert fondue. Yum!! Unfortunately the food didn’t last long enough to document its artistic presentation.

We left Chicago early this (Sunday) morning, so we could get back to USC at a decent hour and give ourselves time to prepare for the coming week. I absolutely loved my time in Chicago, and can’t wait to go back! Being a Southern California girl I was a little concerned about the weather, but it ended up being in the low 60s with a breeze, which was perfect for exploring the city. Unfortunately this morning it was raining – I guess we left Chicago just in time. All in all the weekend was a great success in terms of the conference and for my first trip to Chicago. Now back to USC and studying for the next round of papers and midterms!