- Ashley Alexander
Sunday night, the host of Her Conference, Her Campus tweeted asking attendees to share their post-Her Conference feels in three emojis.
Now, feeling (possibly overly) confident in my Twitter skills, I wanted to immediately jump in on the conversation. After drafting a few unsent tweets, I found it unlikely that three emojis could fully describe this past weekend. Luckily, I have this space to describe mine at the 2017 Her Conference.
While I was initially excited for the event, I didn’t know what the conference would bring. I didn’t know what kind of coverage I would be able to get, what inspiration I would leave with or how developed this would make me professionally.
Immediately, the conference started off strong. Two of the four co-chairs of the Women’s March spoke as keynotes. The speakers focused on their work with the Women’s March, women empowerment and activism in general. How could I not be inspired by this topic? I tested out my first tweet of the conference and quickly received positive feedback in the form of retweets and likes. The combination of these two things gave me the confidence boost that would set the mood for the rest of the conference.
After a mad dash to the first panel I was attending, titled “Be Your Own Boss: Young Entrepreneurs Make It Happen” I learned a little about entrepreneurship, how to go about creating my own company and what it would be like once I got there. Hearing the keys to success from women who have goals far different than my own (i.e. being in charge of their own companies) opened my eyes to the flexibility of a career in this field.
Following this was a panel titled “What Working in PR is Really Means and How To Do It.” For the first half of my collegiate career as a Strategic Communications major, I assumed my path would lead to PR. However, this panel opened my eyes to the vast world that PR encompasses and helped me realize that I can find my niche within.
Lunch was followed by keynote speaker, Lisa Sugar the founder and CEO of PopSugar. Lisa talked about the importance of happiness in both your professional life and your personal life.
“Surround yourself with people who are lifting you up.”
After, I attended the last workshop of the day one, “Closing the Confidence Gap: Strategies to Make Your Brain More Confidence-Prone.” Rachel Daszik, founder and CEO of The Brand Girls spoke about confidence in the workplace. I was shocked to hear that a majority of women are afraid to ask for a raise (and ask for less than male counterparts). She broke down the science of how we slowly lose confidence and provided tips on how to bring it back. Rachael was, quite simply, a networking guru. Her confidence was contagious.
The next morning, I woke up extra excited. I even attempted to go get an authentic New York bagel before the conference. (Side note, New Yorkers seem to be extraordinarily willing to wait in ridiculous non-moving lines.) I had lined up my schedule with speakers that were specific to the field I want to go into. Today was the day when I would figure out the exact trajectory of the rest of my life.
Opening the day was Gretchen Carlson, a news anchor and advocate for women’s equality in the workplace. I hadn’t followed her story closely, so the anecdotes I heard were shocking and emotional. Her topic of sexual assault in the workplace brought attention to the fact that there are real problems that women experience as professionals. It warned, prepared and inspired me to help combat the treatment that women experience in the workplace.
First, I then attended “Working with a Purpose: Inside Careers with Social Impact.” This was the highlight of the weekend for me. I had looked forward to this panel since I saw the lineup. Recently, I had been contemplating redirecting my career goal as a member of the communications team for a non-profit. I felt that the desire to help the common good and make a difference was shared by these panelists and that they would guide my decision. With each panelists’ answer, I felt assurance. These women had broken away from their career path and started companies that impacted the social good.
One speaker I particularly fangirled over when she retweeted my tweet post-conference was Nicole Cardoza. She is the sole founder and CEO of YogaFoster. After the panel, I had a chance to ask Nicole a question. As an active member of my campus’ volunteer chapter and studying Human Service Studies as a minor, I couldn’t imagine doing something other than working with a cause I was passionate about, but I didn’t know how to go about that. Nicole broke it down:
“Spend some time listening to what you really care about and that will drive you.”
Then was a panel about my one true communication passion, social media. It was titled, “Social Superstars: How to Make Social Media Your Full-Time Job.” With the incredibly positive experiences I’ve had managing social media accounts for organizations, the idea of making it my job was desirable. With social media managers from Diane Von Furstenburg to PlayBill, each of these individuals seemed to absolutely love what they do and had loved the organizations they represented from a young age. I wanted to know if you had to be passionate about the organization you represent as a social media manager. A resounding yes came after I asked my question. Above all, this reinforced the necessity of finding my passion.
Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, the founder of MuslimGirl.com was the next keynote speaker. She spoke about intersectionality in feminism. She specifically focused on the need for unity among women.
“When we come together we are unstoppable.”
Meryl Weinsaft Cooper led the final workshop on how to “Be Your Own Best Publicist.” She gave great advice on how to be noticed when applying to jobs and how to stand out. From your network to your social media she emphasized aiming your life towards the job you want to have.
Finally, actress Aja Naomi King from “How to Get Away with Murder” spoke as the final keynote. She talked about her role in the entertainment industry as a young female black woman. She answered questions about success, hate and other experiences that got her to where she is today.
Overall, this was an experience that prepared, inspired and encouraged me to enter the workforce as a female in communications. Through networking, I felt excited, through advice from panelists I felt prepared and through thoughts from keynotes I felt inspired. I’m very grateful to have attended Her Conference 2017!