Mathematics major and international student from Ethiopia at The College of Wooster, Alayt Issak ’21 started her junior year by meeting and networking with professionals in her field at three conferences that she attended. Each conference provided Isaak with slightly different opportunities and catered to a different area of her interests, but together all of these experiences allow Issak to return to Wooster with a greater understanding of what real-world computing looks like.
Designed to put your networking, academic, and interpersonal skills to the test, Issak felt that conferences are the perfect exposure to the “real world” while you are still in college, as they “provide a snippet of post-grad life,” she said. “Company professionals are there, excited to break away from their routine and engage with college students for a day. Recruiters are excited to meet and greet candidates in comparison to email interactions, and academic professionals are excited to talk about their research to students of interest,” said Issak.
Not only was Issak able to learn from hearing about other’s research, but she presented her own research along with the professionals around her at SANCAS (The National Diversity in Stem Conference), which works to empower and energize participants in the multidisciplinary paths of STEM that they are involved in. Presenting the research she did over the summer titled “Computational Exploration of The Chebyshec Bias,” Issak was recognized for her outstanding research and poster presentation.
In addition to gaining presenting experience, Isaak “expanded [her] network, met professionals and connected with students with similar interests and career trajectory.” Due to its focus on diversity, at the ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing conference Issak enjoyed exploring a passion for advocating computer science research and education.Energized by the diverse experiences and individuals she met at all of the conferences, Issak was also “inspired by an all-female powerhouse of technology” a The Grace Hopper Celebration. As the world’s largest gathering of women technologists, it was a great experience for her to be able to network with professionals in her area of interest outside of conference hours as well.
In addition to the educational experiences the conferences’ offered, Isaak got a taste of real-world living as well. “Conferences are expensive, but they do not have to be,” said Isaak. By taking the initiative to find scholarships offered by the conferences, the cost of attending was greatly diminished for Isaak, so she was able to spend her money on other unexpected costs such as food, transportation, and souvenirs.
After Isaak’s experiences she shared four tips for future conference-goers at the College on the ways to make the most of your experience — “know why you are attending each conference, complete all of your schoolwork prior to attending, make sure that you have adequate finances, and have fun!”