I got ready for the conference on time but still managed to reach late (damn rush hour traffic) but reached just in time for keynote speaker’s speech. Since the traffic was really slow, I had decided not to stop anywhere for coffee and to head straight to the conference hall thinking there should be some kind of arrangement for breakfast and coffee. Yes there was but just one and the queue was a killer. As I waited in the queue to get my coffee, all I could do was blame myself for not thinking about this in advance. I could have easily walked a few blocks within downtown and grabbed a coffee in less time than standing in that line. After almost 15 minutes which felt like eternity, I got a tall cup of coffee and a warm croissant, gobbled the croissant and tiptoed to the hall to listen to the very first keynote speaker, Sheryl Sandberg.
Sheryl Sandberg was joined by ABI President, Telle Whitney and Harvey Mudd College President, Maria Klawe but Sheryl Sandberg was definitely the person of the hour. The session was pretty casual. It was more like a discussion panel where each of them asked questions to each other. Sheryl Sandberg was asked questions about her book Lean In and about the reasons behind writing the book. At the end of the session, the audience also got a chance to ask questions to the panel. Since everyone didn’t get a chance to ask and the time was over, the panel did an impromptu meet-up for anyone who had a question. I decided to skip and head to my next activity in my agenda, a 4 hour long leadership session!
As tedious at it may sound, the workshop was very interesting and the speaker was very pragmatic. Patty Azzarello led this workshop and the room was jam-packed with enthusiastic students and industry professionals. The room chosen for this workshop had a pretty good size yet there were people who had to sit on the floor. As a matter of fact, there were so many people trying to get into this session that the door monitors or volunteers had to request people standing outside to leave. Luckily, I was able to get a seat, not just get in. The room was arranged in banquet style with around 10 people per table. I am not sure about other tables but the people at my table were very impressive. I met folks working for industries like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple and Amazon. Although I work on technical field I must admit that I felt like an underdog. Anyhow, no one in my table was snarky or anything. Everyone was very friendly and since the workshop was interactive, we talked to each a lot. There were short breaks in between and people were still trying to get in. At the end of workshop we all exchanged business cards hoping to keep ourselves in touch.
Career fair was next. Light appetizers with drinks (non-alcoholic of course) were being served but I also heard they were also serving box lunches somewhere in the building, which I didn’t know. But snacks were equally good. I strolled around the fair to see what companies were participating and ended up standing in line to get a digital caricature of myself. This was in the Thomson Reuters booth. They had 2 artists to create the caricatures. I think I was among the first 15 in the line, yet I waited for almost 45 minutes to an hour. However the time it took to create the caricature was less than 10 minutes. The picture came out pretty darn good and I am glad that I did it on the first day of the fair because second day got a little crazy. There were literally 50 people standing in line to get their caricature drawn. If I was looking for a job or internship, this would have been a big distraction.
Then comes the best part of the day. Once I got my caricature, I headed to Westin Hotel to attend a happy hour and Q&A session with the Facebook engineers. I got an invite from one of the HRs from Facebook on my LinkedIn account. I couldn’t make it to the happy hour but I made it to the Q&A session, which was very informative. This was followed by another hour of socializing. I got to ask questions to the engineers personally about the nature of their work and things about the company itself. I stayed there pretty late. When I got out, it was past 10 pm and it was raining heavily! All the building was closed and my car was parked 5 blocks away! I waited for few minutes for the rain to die down but that didn’t happen so I sprinted like a poor cat in the rain!