The National Society of Black Engineers 44th Annual Convention is approaching quickly! My colleagues and I, at Palo Alto Networks, are excited to engage with hundreds of engineering students and professionals who want to make a difference in the world around them. Ahead of the conference, we’ve put together a few tips to help you make your time in Pittsburgh productive, rewarding, and fun.
Pregame the Convention
Preparation is key if you want to maximize your conference time. If you’ve never attended an NSBE Convention before, reach out to peers who can tell you what to expect. Create a wish list of people and organizations you’d like to connect with over the course of the convention. Then, pre-introduce yourself on social media platforms. The #NSBE44 Twitter hashtag and NSBE LinkedIn groups are great tools for engaging others before the convention begins. Polish your elevator pitch so you can communicate who you are, your skills, interests, and aspirations in 60 seconds or less. Come ready with conversation starters and thoughtful questions. If networking events are intimidating, bring a networking buddy to events where you’ll be working the room. With the right preparation, you’ll be able to navigate the conference confidently and stress-free.
Be Strategic and Goal-Oriented
Your time at NSBE44 is limited, and your options to network and learn are endless. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by choice, so it’s important to set goals for yourself and be strategic about how you plan to achieve them. Do you want to pick up new skills? Learn about new trends in your target field? Expand your professional network? Read through the agenda ahead of time and prioritize the sessions that will help meet your objectives. Watch videos of speakers beforehand to get a sense of their style, substance, and potential value-add to your professional development. If you’re attending NSBE44 with classmates or colleagues, consider dividing up sessions so you can cover more topics and share notes afterward.
Don’t Limit Networking to Recruiters
We know a primary motivation for attending NSBE conventions is to learn about job opportunities and connect directly with potential employers. However, an interview or job offer can come from avenues other than the Career Fair Expo. Look beyond recruiters when seeking out openings. Conferences are an excellent venue to strengthen existing relationships. If you spend all of your time with people you already know, then you’ll miss out on chances to build new connections. New professional contacts will have access to opportunities beyond the conference and can open doors you might not have known were even there. Connect with speakers and workshop facilitators, especially if you want to learn more about a specific topic or industry covered in their session. You might just discover a job prospect or gain a mentor in the process.
Make Time for Self-Care
Between breakout sessions, workshops, the Career Fair Expo, one-on-one conversations, coffee breaks, and happy hours there’s no limit to the number of ways you can develop your skillset or connect with fellow conference-goers. We know you’re ready to do the most; however, it’s essential that you give yourself time to rest and rejuvenate during the conference. Be sure to get enough sleep. Stay hydrated. Carve out time for meditation, yoga, running, lifting – whatever it is you need to keep your mind and body healthy. The key to surviving a hectic schedule is to manage your time efficiently. If you burn out before the week ends, you won’t reap the full benefits of your conference investment.
Stop by to Say “Hello!”
As a company, we believe building an inclusive and diverse workforce is core to achieving our mission of protecting our way of life in the digital age and empowers us to solve the world’s toughest security challenges. We need engineers with the creativity to deliver next-generation solutions that defend against advanced threats and sophisticated cybercriminals. We invite you to drop by Booth #1641 at the Career Fair Expo to learn about the innovative work we do at Palo Alto Networks and how you can contribute to our mission. On Thursday, March 22, we’re hosting How to “Break In” to the Cybersecurity Industry, a workshop designed to help you navigate a career in security.
Keep an Open Mind
Although a convention game plan can keep you focused and organized, don’t be too rigid with your conference schedule or your expectations for yourself. During your week in Pittsburg, you’ll be introduced to industries, fields, and functions that you’ve never considered. Remember that your technical experience can add value to both traditional engineering roles and non-technical positions. For example, in cybersecurity, technical training is a solid foundation for threat hunting, malware reversing, and cyber forensics. An engineering background is also a major strength in marketing, sales, operations, business analysis, and supply chain management roles. Even more, don’t be discouraged if you discover an interesting industry or function and you don’t have certificates or training in that area. Many organizations dedicate resources to develop top talent; cybersecurity companies are especially invested in training the next generation of security defenders. An open mind and flexibility may lead you to an undiscovered passion and a rewarding career!
If you’d like to connect with us before the convention, feel free to send us a note at @WeHireLeaders on Twitter, where we will be live tweeting the event! Or, if you’re more of a Facebook person, follow us at Life at Palo Alto Networks.