Thursday, January 19, 2012

The 2011 GWAMIT Leadership Conference in Review

Graduate Women at MIT had its second Leadership Conference from November 7-10, 2011. The conference was comprised of six events and a networking reception. The theme of the 2011 Leadership Conference was “Discover the Keys to Leadership” and the goal was to help graduate women discover the various aspects of leadership and learn how to integrate them into their daily lives.

The overall conference was a huge success. We had around 225 registrations prior to the event and the total number of attendees for all the events combined was around 350. Most of the participants appreciated the variety of leadership skills showcased and the practical tips given during the presentations, panel and workshops.

Opening Keynote: Unlock Your Leadership Potential [Photos]
An opening keynote by Christine Furstoss, the Technical Director for Manufacturing and Materials Technology at GE, kicked off this year’s Fall leadership Conference. Christine began the keynote by sharing her career journey in GE where she first started as a Materials Engineer. Through her dynamic and conversational presentation she was able to captivate the audience who enjoyed learning about her professional experience. She then went on to share her seven “learnings to unlock one’s leadership potential”. She offered her perspective on how we can become stronger and more impactful by building competencies and by growing our “sphere of influence”. During the Q&A, she shared some of her personal stories and challenges that she faced during her career. The crowd expressed an overwhelming positive response towards the “clear and action-oriented takeaways” from the keynote. Moreover, the optimism that she exuded throughout the keynote was very inspiring. After the keynote, participants mingled with the speaker over refreshments at the reception, and they loved the GE swag items.

How to Give a Scientific Talk [Photos]
Professor Heather Duffy of Harvard University conducted a workshop on how to give an award winning scientific talk. Topics ranged from how to organize data on a slide to body posture while presenting to appropriate attire for speakers. The workshop was interactive, with many questions from participants and several anecdotes from Prof. Duffy about her experiences speaking to varied audiences. Although the event was scheduled to last an hour, Prof. Duffy stayed an additional 45 minutes to answer questions. The response to this workshop was overwhelming, with over 100 people RSVPing in advance; however space constraints allowed only 50 people to attend the workshop. The biggest takeaway message from this workshop was the importance of practice. Over 90% of participants found the material to be interesting and insightful. Several participants noted the relevance of this workshop, as they had talks to give that same day or in the following weeks.

Entrepreneurship Panel
Laura Ring, tax advisor at WTAS and former VP of Castile Ventures, moderated a panel consisting of three successful female entrepreneurs: Bettina Hein (founder and CEO of Pixability), Daphne Zohar (founding partner and manager of PureTech Ventures), and Rosalind Picard (MIT professor and co-founder of Affectiva, Inc.). The panel focused on the entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership skills required to successfully start and manage businesses. Panel members were very honest and direct in discussing their experiences, sharing personal tips that they have learned along the way. Bettina, for instance, told the audience that to be a successful entrepreneur, you need the “5Ms”: Market, Management (your team), Model (of business), Momentum, and Money. Daphne stated that the “best way to get experience is to just do it!”, and Rosalind emphasized that fearlessness is needed for any entrepreneurial venture. After a few focused questions prompted by Laura, the audience was able to ask the panelists questions most relevant to them. Audience members “loved the speakers! Moderator was also very good”, and they thought that the “panelists were great – very candid”. Some lamented that the panel was only about 1 hour long, wishing for a longer event – perhaps even a ½ day workshop! Overall, the majority of audience members felt that the personal stories and advice, from the point of view of women, were enlightening and that the panelists were not afraid to tackle “tough” questions.

Time and Stress Management Workshop
Susanna (Zan) Barry and Lauren Mayhew from MIT Community Wellness led a workshop which instructed participants on how to manage time efficiently and keep stress responses in check. In the first half of the workshop, Zan gave a formal presentation on synchronizing tasks according to one’s energy levels, factoring in procrastination, assertive communication, and the biology behind the stress response. During the second half, Lauren led a guided mindfulness meditation session, which taught students to relax, become more aware of their thoughts, and less self-critical. The response to the workshop was extremely positive: Zan and Lauren were “very interactive” with the audience, and were “fantastic” speakers. Participants felt that the methods presented in the workshop were “very useful”, and “good to share with family and friends!” 90% of participants found the content to be interesting and/or insightful, and expressed interest in attending a similar event in the future.

Networking Workshop
Marilyn Wilson and Bob Dolan from the MIT Career Development Center led a workshop to help the audience gain good networking skills. With their extensive experience in networking and career development, Marilyn and Bob shared with the audience lots of specific tips about why, where and how to network well. The two speakers did a role playing example showing how two people met for the first time, had a nice conversation and how it became a productive professional connection, which turned out to be the favorite part of many attendees. The workshop also provided suggestions on how to start a conversation, how to network at conferences, how to use social network websites and much more. The participates asked many insightful questions through the 1 hour workshop, and enjoyed this very interactive experience. 96% of participants felt the event is what they expected and 85% said they would attend a similar event in the future. Many said that they wished the event could be even longer and almost everyone said that they learned some practical tips that could be applied immediately in their life. Following the workshop, a reception was held where invited industry and academic professionals helped the audience practice their freshly-learned networking skills. Lots of attendees stayed for more than 2 hours mingling with new friends and filled-in and exchanged the name card templates provided by GWAMIT.

Closing Keynote: From Unlocked to Unleashed: Leadership in Your Life
Lila Ibrahim, a partner at venture capital firm KPCB and a former Intel executive, gave a closing keynote that was described by attendees as “phenomenal”, “inspirational”, and “insightful.” Lila shared her impressive career path with personal anecdotes and highlighted key life lessons that she learned along the way. Among the pieces of advice she offered was to run towards rather than away from change. She also urged audience members to live their life with the goal of leaving behind a legacy for future generations. It was an inspiring note to end the 2011 GWAMIT Leadership Conference on!

Though the conference was tailored to meet the needs of female graduate students at MIT, around 20% of the participants were undergrads, postdocs and alum. The conference was inclusive and we were happy to see that around 3% of the audience were male. These statistics indicate that the topics covered in the conference are relevant to the general MIT community.

GWAMIT co-chairs Sharon Paradesi (EECS) and Clarissa Lee (Biology) led the planning; the planning committee consisted of Marzyeh Ghassemi (EECS), Anima Singh (EECS), Vinita Lukose (Chemistry), Bomy Chung (Chemical Eng.), Elena Helman (HST), Sonia Tikoo-Schantz (EAPS), Tengfei Zheng (Chemistry), Jennifer Apell (CEE), Rathi Srinivas (Chemical Eng.), Erin Shea (EAPS), and Carrie Thompson (Bio Eng.). Our sponsors included the Graduate Student Council, the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education, GE, the MIT School of Engineering and the MIT School of Science.

Note: This post was written by the entire planning committee.

1 comment:

  1. nice blog......thanks for good tips of Time and Stress Management.....
    Leadership Planning Workshop