Published: March 11, 2024

The oSTEM students in front of a Mickey Mouse statue at DisneylandCU Boulder's Out in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (oSTEM) student chapter won a travel grant through the Rady Department of Mechanical Engineering. After they traveled to Anaheim, California, for the national oSTEM conference, the DEI Working Group asked them about their experience:

What was the oSTEM Conference like?

It was a great opportunity for us to talk directly to people at companies we were applying to, in addition to there being an opportunity to network with professionals in the field and learn how they support LGBTQ+ employees and the community at large. We attended small breakout sessions about subjects like how to determine how much of your identity you want to share with the people you work with and how to go about revealing it.

What was the most memorable session you attended?

A group of engineers and managers from Boeing who were also members of the LGBTQ+ community led a discussion about how they had managed to have successful careers, despite making what people would consider “mistakes.” One of the women who spoke studied mechanical engineering and talked about how she had struggled in college and started working in automotives before moving on to Boeing. It was very reassuring to hear about how people navigated their careers in non-linear ways, often learning by trial and error what roles they were best suited for.

Another thing we learned during the Q&A was that larger companies will also have internal societies or groups for minority employees, which includes groups for their LGBTQ+ employees.

How will the CU oSTEM chapter use what you’ve learned from the conference?

We received a lot of good career advice as well as how to work with a STEM career in a personally fulfilling way. We learned a lot about what we are looking for in a company that is accepting and supportive of our identities. Seeing that companies were actively recruiting members of the LGBTQ+ community really encouraged us to apply for opportunities at those companies.

What advice do you have for a student attending the national conference for the first time?

A national conference is a great opportunity to meet new people, learn new things and to look for potential jobs and internships. When you’re there, it can be a little bit overwhelming, so we would recommend researching ahead of time which companies you want to talk to and what sessions you want to attend since there’s a lot of things to do and you have a limited time.

For the same reason, having somewhere to take notes is helpful, so when you talk to a lot of people you won’t forget what you’ve learned. We recommend printing out copies of your resume so you can easily exchange information with a company contact. Overall, our advice would be to have fun and talk to as many people as possible. Having in-person conversations with people who are where we want to be in the future was the most valuable part of the experience.