I did not know what to expect from this year’s BEYA conference, held at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington D. C. last month, with Global Competitiveness as its theme. It had been more than a decade since I last attended. When I entered the lobby of the hotel on Thursday afternoon I was completely surprised….very pleasantly so.
It was not just the number of people (the huge main lobby and registration area outside of the ballroom were both full), there were also a couple of other things that caught my attention. First, the wide range of ages of the attendees was very much to my liking. It speaks to the focus to bring professionals and students from a wide variety of STEM-related fields together. Second, the diversity amongst the participants was also very nice to see. Not just demographically was there diversity, but also the mix of military and civilians, corporate and non-profit, students and educators, entrepreneurs and community activists, lawmakers and pleased parents, employers and job seekers, were all represented.
Over the course of 3 days ~10,000 people came and went through the conference to receive one or more of the many awards presented throughout, attend the free career fair (Intel hired 70 people on site), network with generals and cadets or highly successful entrepreneurs and executives. Some professionals were there for mentoring and on-site training where individuals earned continuing education units across numerous knowledge areas, there were education and collaboration opportunities for educators via the STEM Innovation Program where they interacted with industry leaders in best practice sharing, military and federal employees were there to network, receive honors and mentor 300+ high school students. I even got to present the Global Leadership Forum to a large audience of attendees at the WWT customer appreciation event.
Of course there were parties! There were parties for the young folks kick it and the grown folks to unwind, catch up and throw down on the dance floor. The weekend culminated Saturday evening with the black tie gala where the 32nd Black Engineer of the Year award was presented to Alicia Boler Davis, Executive Vice President Global Manufacturing, Manufacturing Engineering and Labor Relations at General Motors.
Everyday there were fully packed agendas that filled the entire hotel and everything went off without a hitch. When I left Sunday morning, I promised myself I would not wait another 10 years to attend the BEYA conference. Next year it is at the same location, 7-9 Feb 2019. Be there.
by Kendall Norris