Author: Rosie Hart, Programmes Officer - Faculty of Engineering and Design
So, next week I’m off to Manchester for my third AUA annual conference. Whilst this makes me feel slightly apprehensive, I have learned that forcing myself out of my comfort zone is good for me as a functioning human.
I attended my first regional conference at Cardiff in February which was one fairly intensive day, but with each session both interesting and relevant (a somewhat rare treat), it was a really positive experience.
I originally intended this blog post to be a review of my day at the regional conference but as it’s taken a while to get around to writing this (whoops!) I feel it is not quite as pertinent anymore and probably not as valid to others anyhow. Instead I want to focus on what I gain from going to talks, presentations or conferences in general.
Sharing and feeling part of something bigger
This is a big one for me. It’s good to share your knowledge; good for you and good for others. By sharing you learn and you contribute.
It can be reassuring to find out that others beyond your direct circle are working on the same issues and trying to overcome similar frustrations, sometimes even with success! We don’t all need to work independently trying to crack the same issues, we can share out knowledge and learn from others experience.
It also helps you to have time away from your role to think about what it is you want to achieve. In some instances you may even meet positive role models who inspire. I like to feel part of a team. I also like to feel part of a Faculty, a University, an education system/ network. To me this is comforting and positive.
I consider myself to be healthily sceptical; whilst slightly dubious about how valuable a talk or event is going to be I anticipate that I will take away at least one piece of useful information. I have been to talks or workshops where I had high expectations and left feeling underwhelmed. I have also been surprised by talks which I have thought would be really dry or a reiteration of something I already know but have turned out to be witty or enlightening. Presentations are given by humans, these humans may be natural or highly trained speakers or they may be presenting for the first time, they are a mixed bag. What is clear to me is that if you don’t attend anything, you miss the opportunity to find out something new.
When I see ‘Networking session’ on an agenda, a shudder goes down my spine and I start to think about how I might be able to get out of that bit. For an awkward British person networking is an entirely unnatural process. However I do find that the more I go, the less alien it feels.
It does help to meet people outside your team to gain fresh perspective and support. You may find at some point, when you are struggling to think of a way to solve a problem, that you call on your contacts to bounce ideas off one another.
Don’t feel you have to go it alone, if it makes you feel better to walk in with someone you know, then why not? It can be a lot less intimidating.
Gaining confidence naturally
When you're feeling shy it’s hard to put yourself out there and to do something outside of your comfort zone. But gaining knowledge and achieving new things makes you feel stronger in your decisions and spurs you on to give things a go. With each success you become more confident. It takes time- more for some than others and you have to do it in your own style but keep at it, it’s good for you.