Monday, October 26, 2009

Want to Build Your Professional Network? Attend a Conference!

We've told you all about our Grace Hopper experiences here on the CU-WISE blog, but we don't talk a lot about other conferences. I went to an academic conference last week and wanted to tell you all about my experience.

The conference was called the International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality, or ISMAR for short. I went because I intend to research augmented reality during my PhD, and wanted to start building my ties with the community. My first step in making it to Orlando was to apply to become a student volunteer. Luckily, I was accepted, so my hotel and registration were paid. My thesis supervisor then agreed to pay my airfare, and Carleton's Student Activity Fund will cover my food expenses. So basically I got a free trip out of the deal - not bad!

Volunteering is the single best way to meet people at a conference, especially if you attend alone. You often get paired up with another volunteer in your hotel room, like I did.

My roommate Stephanie.

I also met friendly conference attendees as I helped them figure out their registration or answered their questions about where to go next. This is such a superb way to build your professional network, and truly integrate yourself into a particular community.

I felt so inspired after seeing the talks over four days. There were amazing keynotes, such as Mark Mine from Disney Imagineering:


There were also a lot of cool demos from technologists and artists alike, which gave me a more immediate sense of what I might be able to accomplish. (You can click through the images below to get a brief description.)

ISMAR09-23 ISMAR09-28
ISMAR09-31 ISMAR09-39

Best of all, I was able to attend a workshop on experiential learning using augmented reality. Since I want to also do educational games for my research, this was a must-see!

Check out my ISMAR09 posts on my personal blog if you are interested in the learning workshop, the mobile augmented reality games tutorial, or a taste of some of the human factors papers presented at the conference.

The next time you hear about a conference on a topic that interests you, try attending as a volunteer and build that professional network! It will be so worth it.