By Guest Blogger Lauren, Student at Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS)
If I could sum up my week in one word, it would be opportunity. The Esri User Conference Student Assistantship Program provided so many opportunities during the conference, and it truly becomes what you make of it. The choices I made during the week will have a long term effect, and seeking every opportunity possible opened many doors.
I first met some other student assistants for breakfast on Friday morning, thanks to the connections made through a Facebook group. Connecting with other students before working together allowed for a more relaxed atmosphere, as we were all a bit more comfortable with each other. After breakfast we made our way to the Convention Center, where we were greeted by our hosts Esri employees Terri, Peter, Noah, and Matt. Each of them were very inviting and informative, which was the perfect first impression of how the User Conference was going to be.
This year, 60 students from six countries were selected to participate in the Student Assistantship Program. Our main tasks involved registration, helping with the Esri Store, and overall conference logistics. Each student worked some full days and some half days. Before and after our shifts we were permitted to do as we pleased, so I spent much of my time at the Expo—startups and larger well-known companies promoting their products and services. I made many professional connections during my time at the Expo, which I felt was very rewarding. I also had the opportunity to take part in technical workshops. These were very informative and helpful, and I recommend anyone who has the opportunity to attend.
If time away from the Convention Center to wind down was needed, San Diego had much to offer. The central location of our hotel allowed for easy walking distance to anything we needed, which allowed time to explore the city. Unfortunately I did not have time to visit some of the attractions I had originally planned, although I was able to experience the relaxed and welcoming atmosphere San Diego offers.
The first piece of advice I would like to offer anyone reading this blog post is to take any opportunity that arises, including applying for this program! I guarantee it will open your eyes and provide a worthwhile perspective on the GIS industry; if not, it will provide useful skills for the future. My second piece of advice is to take time to extend your trip if possible, as it will allow you to focus most of your time on the professional aspects of the conference, and then time after may be spent at leisure. I visited Los Angeles with another student I met during the week and was thrilled with my experience there. My final piece of advice is to treat the entire week as a professional networking opportunity, one that may result in a job offer or interview from an unlikely or surprising source!
Overall, the week of the User Conference was one of the best weeks of my life. I had the chance to make some amazing contacts in the GIS industry and mingle with others who share similar interests. I can also say I have honestly made friends I will remain in contact with for years to come. I hope this post inspires some interest in the program, and I am honored to have been a part of it.
We’ll soon begin accepting applications for the 2015 Esri User Conference Student Assistantship Program. Visit our website this fall for details!