To anyone who considers themselves a lifelong student, a career in the ever-evolving world of tech is a fitting choice. And nowhere is the dynamic energy of this field more keenly felt than at industry conferences. With hundreds of these events to choose from, though, how do you separate the noise from the opportunities that offer the most career-boosting value?
The folks at CDW have some expertise in this area. The Illinois-based, multi-brand technology solutions provider is a major proponent of conferences, viewing them as an investment in employees’ professional growth. Women who work here consistently report seeing their professional development supported, something Tara Barbieri, director of CDW’s Capture team, called a core company focus.
“The continued learning and development of coworkers is the top priority for me as a leader at CDW because it’s critical to achieving success in all other priorities,” Barbieri said. “Our industry consistently evolves and presents new opportunities, so our growth depends on our ability to match the market evolution with an informed strategy and an openness to change.”
What better way to keep an open, change-oriented mindset than through connection and collaboration at conferences? To that end, we spoke to a few high-performing women in tech at CDW about the events they consider to be the most worthwhile career investments in 2018. If you’re looking to take your career to the next level, here are five CDW-recommended conferences all tech-centric women should consider attending this year:
1. Simmons Leadership Conference
Boston, Massachusetts — April 5, 2018
Now in its 39th year, the Simmons Leadership Conference is less about tech, specifically, and more about professional development across industries. Its 2018 theme should resonate particularly well with women technologists, though — “Disrupt the Ordinary” is expected to draw a crowd of more than 3,000 women. Back-to-back speakers make up the bulk of this day-long event, with 2018’s names including journalist and activist Gretchen Carlson and Tan Le, CEO and co-founder of neuroengineering company EMOTIV.
Barbieri called the Simmons conference both “informative and inspiring,” drawing from a range of topics that reflect the diversity of CDW’s own leadership model.
“The keynote speakers’ messages frequently address topical issues for women in a way that is relevant to both women and men,” she explained. “I’ve attended this conference for more than a decade and brought many CDW leaders with me, including men, to reinforce our value of diversity of thought and to spark passion among leaders to return to work and encourage innovation and creativity within our teams.”
Dallas, Texas — April 11-13, 2018
Billed as “not your typical IT experience,” the SIM Connect Live conference prioritizes interactive roundtable sessions over podium speeches. Vetted tech and IT experts facilitate collaborative dialogue between attendees during these sessions, with popular tracks including: disruption and innovation; security, privacy and risk management; and enterprise technologies. On Thursday (April 12), the day kicks off with a SIM Women breakfast, and a breakout session later that day by AI thought leader Christina “CK” Kerley promises to be a highlight.
Customer Insights Manager Lisa Wood spoke to the thematic similarities between SIM and CDW, saying that both center around “strategic and tactical direction.” She also called the conference an especially smart one for women to attend, given the growing numbers of opportunities for women in the IT space.
“In a legacy, male-dominant industry, IT technology is looking to attract many new entrants — women being one of them,” Wood said. “It’s imperative for women seeking to expand on their potential and skills to attend this conference and tap into its resources and network.”
3. Women of the Channel Leadership Summits: West and East
West: Palm Springs, California — May 15-16, 2018
East: New York, New York — December 3-4, 2018
With conferences based on both the east and west coasts, the Channel Leadership Summit features multiple learning opportunities for the next generation of female IT leaders. From interactive workshops to peer panels and networking time, all activities center around the same theme: the challenges, trends, and opportunities in today’s technology sector. Undergraduates will be especially gratified by the Career Pursuits Workshop, which helps young women explore and discover tech careers that extend beyond the traditional IT space, including ones that intersect with sales, marketing, HR, and finance.
Considering the summit’s emphasis on early development, it’s no surprise that CDW makes a point of sending “up-and-coming” female leaders each year, explained Security Solutions Category Manager Jamie Burke.
“The summit provides women an opportunity to learn how others with similar experiences position themselves as leaders in a male-dominated industry,” Burke said. “As an attendee for the past three years, I have taken back inspiring stories that moved me and ways to challenge my coworkers to get out of their comfort zone and take risks… (it’s) made me better as a leader and allows me to influence other women across CDW.”
4. Cisco Live
Orlando, Florida — June 10-14, 2018
In the three decades that have passed since Cisco Live’s inaugural event, this annual, week-long conference has garnered a reputation as being a destination for all things digital business. Through a series of immersive labs, hands-on seminars, “think tanks,” and 1:1 networking opportunities, conference attendees walk away with worlds of new information. (The fact it’s based in sunny Orlando doesn’t exactly lessen its appeal either!)
Christine Holloway, vice president of healthcare sales at CDW, described the conference as a prime forum for attendees to learn how to “leverage technology to deliver business results.” Additionally, a pre-conference event hosted by the Cisco Empowered Women’s Network is seen as a must for women in tech.
“Cisco and their partners provide thought-provoking content and networking… it’s inspiring to see so many of these women in one place learning from one another,” she explained.
Similarly, Holloway described CDW’s own Women’s Opportunity Network (WON) as a place where women can access these development resources year-round. Activities like speed networking with CDW executives, dinners with senior leadership, and the annual WON Summit are a few examples of the network’s mission to, as Holloway put it, “foster an inclusive culture where women are actively engaged and can realize their fullest career potential.”
Houston, Texas — Sept. 26-28, 2018
Known as the world’s largest gathering of women in tech, Grace Hopper is produced annually by the nonprofit AnitaB.org, a digital community founded in 1987 by Anita Borg for fellow female computer scientists. Today, Grace Hopper carries a similar social mission of supporting women technologists and highlighting their achievements, with a special emphasis on students, emerging leaders, and changemakers. Everyone from Sheryl Sandberg to Melinda Gates to Mary Lou Jepsen has keynoted, and the conference tends to sell out in record time — so those who are interested should be sure to save their spot early.
For Amy Rizzo, a talent acquisition manager at CDW, the decision to attend Grace Hopper is a no-brainer. She calls the conference “empowering” and a place where women can “be their authentic selves.”
“With CDW’s long-standing commitment to women in the technology industry, Grace Hopper serves as a key forum for celebrating the women who contribute immeasurably to our organization,” Rizzo said. “CDW recognizes that its female talent is changing the game. And to be at a conference filled with so many confident and talented women who are full of initiative, curiosity and drive is amazing.”
If being surrounded by other talented, game-changing women is appealing to you, consider attending one of the above conferences this year. But if counting yourself among game-changing women on a more regular basis sounds even better, be sure to check out CDW’s openings for full-time roles and internships — there are tons of them!