A great example of diversity and innovation, the Nexus Conference held on June 9-10 took the advice of its keynote speakers to heart. NASA Aerospace Engineering Researcher Dr. Wendy Okolo spoke about the importance of diversity—which the conference exemplified by combining a wide variety of attendees and speakers with a wide range of topics to help build better careers.
Initially intended to take place in person, the conference pivoted to a new virtual platform to reach its more than 700 registrants—the first time APEGA has held such a large conference completely online. This type of thoughtful innovation is one thing Dr. Andrew Pelling, chief technology officer of Spiderwort Inc., encouraged during his keynote session—though admittedly, it’s not quite as revolutionary as growing an ear in Jello, as he has done.
A Fount of Expertise and Knowledge
Attendees spanned the country and the globe, logging in from places such as Texas, California, Mississippi, Georgia, and even Saudi Arabia. The conference was a fount of expertise and knowledge, with new and inspiring ideas coming not only from the eloquent and informative speakers, but also from the networking sessions.
According to Janelle Beblow, APEGA’s professional development officer, the virtual aspect of the conference made it more accessible to those who were unable to attend in the past. “Besides the attendees from abroad, we had many registrants from all parts of Alberta, including Rocky Mountain House, Coaldale, Sexsmith, Okotoks, and Vegreville. By taking away the geographic limitations and long commutes, we were able to provide this learning and networking opportunity for our members not living in the urban centres in which these conferences are normally held.”
Welcoming and Enthusiastic Volunteers
The opportunity to network and connect with fellow attendees in 41 themed networking rooms—hosted by professional engineers and geoscientists volunteering at the event—was heralded as one of the most valuable portions of the conference. “The volunteers did a fantastic job of making people feel welcome, involving everyone in the discussions, and encouraging the sharing of insights,” says Janelle. “They were professional, enthusiastic, and really helped to make this conference a success—we are so grateful for their efforts and hope to see them all again next year.”
According to Jose Manuel Sánchez, P.Eng., a conference registrant and volunteer who led the construction and manufacturing networking rooms, repeat attendance is a certain possibility. “I learned a lot and did what I like to do—network! I cannot describe how happy I am, and I want to put my name in your list for new events.”
Connecting Through Common Challenges
Mathew Babey, P.Eng., a volunteer host of the manufacturing and open-networking rooms, says he found the virtual networking experience different from the in-person experience—in a good way. “It was more personal and people were more open. I think it’s because attendees felt comfortable as soon as one person would break the ice in terms of describing their recent personal experience, and others had much in common. Or maybe we’re all just still yearning for contact!”
Mathew says he left the conference filled with new ideas, happy to give and receive support in the face of common challenges, and he’s sure others had comparable sentiments, too. “When you feel someone understands you, it’s easier to connect.”
The APEGA team is proud to have organized an event that catered to such a diverse crowd and successfully reached the far corners of Alberta, North America, and the world. Committed to diversity, innovation, and the opportunity to include even more members, we are excited to evolve the second Nexus Conference in 2022 to best serve the education and growth of the professional community of the future.