Planning the 12th Annual Women's Leadership Conference

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

On April 29th I joined over 400 women at the 12th Annual Women’s Leadership Conference held at and put on by Carlson. For the women in attendance it was a one-day event that provided them with the opportunity to get out of the office and connect with other professional women while finding inspiration in the speaker sessions. For me and the rest of the Carlson graduate and undergraduate students on the planning committee, as well as some amazing Carlson staff, it was the culmination of months of planning. 

As I looked around the Carlson atrium that morning, I couldn’t help but think about all of the work that had gone into making the event a success, and how many amazing women I had the chance to work with along the way. The Carlson Women’s Leadership Conference is unique in that, while there is staff support, the conference is almost entirely planned and run by students. We started planning in the fall, when the end of April seemed so far away, yet here we are. As the head of the marketing committee, I was responsible for making sure that the conference had an overall branded identity, and that it shone through in all aspects of the conference, among other things. I also took it upon myself to spearhead an initiative to carry the conversations from the conference offline into the social media space, capitalizing on my professional background in social media and digital marketing. (Check out #UMNWLC) This act, while small and behind the scenes, encapsulates what the conference is about, and I would argue, the MBA experience in general: using the foundation of one’s past experience and existing knowledge and continuing to grow and to build upon it.

For me, I was able to use my digital marketing experience and skills to help take the conference to the next level -- to allow the speakers and sponsors to help publicize their involvement in a great event, while providing attendees a framework and avenue to share their conference experience and learnings. Yet while I felt good about what I was able to contribute, I also got something in return: an opportunity to expand my experience as a leader. Being the head of the marketing committee for the Women’s Leadership Conference allowed me to gain exposure to additional Carlson staff, undergrads, and 2nd year MBA students that I hadn’t had a chance to work with it the past. It gave me the opportunity to work and communicate with multiple stakeholders, and to make decisions and persuade others to get onboard. I had the chance to sit at the table with women from all different professional backgrounds and who all had a different role to play in the planning of this conference, and to watch and learn as we all navigated competing priorities in the pursuit of one common goal.

For me, the contribution that I am most proud of, and the opportunity that I am most appreciative for, was getting to mentor and help develop the skills of an undergrad student on my committee. I delegated to her the responsibility for the tactical social media support elements for the event, and while I helped guide and support her along the way, she did the work on her own. And at the event, she had the opportunity to stand up in front of an auditorium full of professional women and announce the winner of the conference’s Social Media Award. She did it all on her own, but I felt like a proud mother hen.

If there was anything that I took away from that day (and there were in fact many things), it’s the importance of growth and giving back. In my mind, the two go hand-in-hand, and nowhere was this more evident than at the 12th Annual Carlson Women’s Leadership Conference. The women in attendance that day walked away with new knowledge and hopefully newfound inspiration, while our keynote speakers and the women who led each breakout session shared theirs.  

Next year I will be on the planning committee once again, but this time in a support role for the incoming 1st year female MBA students. I’m looking forward not only to help make next year’s conference better than ever, but also to continuing to grow as a leader, and to continue to give back by sharing my knowledge with others. That’s what the MBA experience, both in school and after graduation, is all about.

Ignite Conference Sign