Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Unmanned Systems Canada Conference Review

Amy is blogging about her experience as part of the CU-WISE initiative Blog To Attend A Conference Fund. Check out our Opportunities page for more details. 

The Unmanned Systems industry is a small, tight-knit community.  However, the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) community goes beyond tight-knit – it is more like a family.  The few hundred people who attended the Unmanned Systems Canada (USC) Conference this year span pretty much all of Canada’s UAV specialists.  That’s it.  A few hundred researchers and companies making up an entire nation’s worth of knowledge on autonomous systems.  They know each other very well – perhaps too well. 

Walking into the conference, I knew I was an outsider.  Having worked in the UAV industry for just a single year – and as a co-op student no less – I had been introduced to many of the other players in the UAV field, but never like this, never all of them together.  I was intimidated. 

I have been intimidated before. As one of five female aerospace engineering students in my year at Carleton, I was typically made aware of being different from the rest of the crowd.  But this was not like that.  Here the questioning faces weren’t asking “why is she here?” they were just asking how I fit into the UAV family. 

It was amazing.  One of those moments where you realize you are being judged on the knowledge and experiences you bring to the table and not the fact that you are female.  I love that feeling.  I live for that moment when I can get behind the radar and fit in and share and learn.  No judgments.  The USC Conference was like that for four whole days. 

Despite the fact that I counted less than 20 women at the conference, the atmosphere told me that it wasn’t the men who were stopping women from joining their inner circle.  They are ready for us.  We just need the guts to admit we are interested and the confidence to share what we know.   At USC I struck a power pose (see video), then walked up and joined the conversation.  I hope conferences will give you the opportunity to do the same.