Congress 2017 Conference: Listen, Observe, Reflect, Share

Tiffany Chang - 2A Chemical
Posted on: January 28, 2017

Hey, friends! My name is Tiffany, and I was one of the Engineering Society-B’s delegates to the Canadian Federation of Engineering Students’ (CFES) annual Congress conference. This year, the University of Western Ontario hosted this conference from January 2nd to 8th.

You may be wondering: What is Congress? Why is this relevant to me?

With my fellow delegates, we will answer these questions, share some of what we learned, and how we can potentially implement ideas from the conference and other Engineering schools across Canada to make our very own Engineering Societies as great as they can possibly be!

Conference streams are bolded, and session names are italicized.

What is Congress?

Congress is the CFES’ annual, bilingual conference that serves as the “annual general meeting of the Canadian Federation of Engineering Students” and “a platform” that encourages knowledge sharing of best practices amongst “industry partners, sponsors, and fellow students”.

There were four conference streams of that delegates attended: EngSoc, Leadership, Professional Development, and VP External.

The EngSoc Stream

This conference stream intended to provide strategies and actionable procedures for operating an Engineering Society, running events, and working with fellow teammates, intended for delegates who are current Engineering Society Executives.

These sessions were some of the ones that were presented to the delegates who attended the EngSoc stream. For more details about the content of any EngSoc session, please contact Abdullah Barakat, Kieran Broekhoven, Rachel Malevich, Emma Xie, or Will Wilmot.

Improving Council Reputation and Inclusivity, presented by Lora Blondin
This session detailed how to break the stigma of the Engineering Society Council being portrayed as a clique and to encourage the engagement and attendance by all members (voting or not). Engineering Society Executive could work more towards improving transparency and accountability not just to Council but to the entire engineering student body. Orientation Week is when our Engineering Society should begin engaging with students. The first Council meeting sets a key precedent to the later meetings, and our Executives should aim to provide context to everything that happens during the meeting and on what our Society is currently working on. Our Executives should also work with the Speaker of Council meetings to invest their efforts into inclusivity and adding small elements of fun into Council meetings, as this could improve how Council and meetings operate. Potential improvements that could be implemented would be to engage students on Council proceedings through social media (e.g. live tweeting throughout meetings, live-streaming them for those who are unable to attend them for whatever reason).

Engineering Culture and New Traditions, presented by CFES Atlantic Ambassador Alyson Petsche
Traditions are an essential aspect to the culture of our Engineering Society, as they provide a sense of identity and unity, teach people about the values of the Society, and offer a sense of comfort and security, in that they help keep consistency as time goes on (i.e. establish a sense of institutional memory). Remember that traditions differ from routines and habits, as they are followed with a purpose in mind and require purposeful thought. If the demographic changes, and the intention of the tradition is no longer applicable, then our Society must adapt to meet the needs of the Society in its current state. Thus, traditions involve a fine balance of appreciating the old while embracing the new. Revamping traditions to fit the student experience is key to successfully engaging your students. The legacy of the tradition comes with proper transition and adaptation to the student experience.

Student Services Round-table Discussion, facilitated by CFES VP Services Nicole Barber
This round-table discussion allowed students of all Engineering Societies to share their strengths and area where they struggled with. Most of this session contained topics that both A- and B-Society at Waterloo already have a good grip on and allowed Waterloo to help out other schools. However, we learned some unique ways that other Engineering Societies interact with their professional networks (e.g. hosting pub nights with sponsors; having a reverse career fair where some people from industry come in and see either Fourth Year Design Projects, Student Teams or other things that Waterloo should be advertising to potential partner companies; a Résumé Roast that Carleton does, where they take a résumé and put it up on a big screen and allow people to roast it in a way that is beneficial to the student who wrote it).

The Leadership Stream

This conference stream was geared towards first- and second-year students who are interested in becoming more involved within their Engineering Societies and featured more hands-on learning and interactive activities and discussions.

These sessions were some of the ones that were presented to the delegates who attended the Leadership stream. For more details about the content of any Leadership session, please contact Grant Mitchell or myself.

Reeling Them In, Presented by Atlantic Ambassador Alyson Petsche
This session focused on networking strategies. Networking can be broken down into four stages. Essentially, have a clear goal before you walk into a networking session, prepare a minute-long elevator pitch to use as a self-introduction, be yourself throughout the conversation, and always thank whomever you were conversing with before moving on to another conversation. Always remember that all parties involved in a conversation at a networking event should benefit from this brief information exchange.

Leadership Inclusivity, presented by Leadership Development Commissioner Esther Te Linde
This session defined key terminology and covered steps/strategies to promote and advocate for inclusive communities. Inclusivity is defined as “events and situations that are equally welcome to all who attend and are involved”. A key ingredient to adopting inclusivity as a guiding principle is awareness, which begins with increased empathy and respect for others’ differences. A safe space that is inclusive must have ground rules, respect as the first and foremost priority, and some form of training to allow for in-depth education about safe spaces and how to create them. When you witness inappropriate behaviour, be an active bystander: essentially, do the best that you can to diffuse the situation without putting yourself or others in harm’s way.

Leadership Mistakes, presented by Leadership Development Commissioner Esther Te Linde
By addressing the many possible mistakes that one can make when they hold a leadership position, you will recognize and work on avoiding or minimizing these common mistakes. This session contained a very long, but not exhaustive list of leadership mistakes. These mistakes are probably the most common ones: being inconsistent (i.e. in your treatment of your teammates) starting strongly and ending weakly,—or vice versa—neglecting your own social or personal life, overcrowding your schedule at the beginning of a school term, setting too high standards for yourself, not differentiating the roles of teammate and friend, not asking for support when you need it, poor time management, not thinking in other people’s shoes, and using gossip or secondary information to make decisions. Some of these points seemed obvious at first, but even then, it is possible that we are guilty of these pitfalls and that they have become our habits.

The Professional Development Stream

This stream intended to inform delegates who were looking to improve their professional lives from multiple lenses, which included but was not limited to prioritizing mental health, improving soft and technical skills, and optimizing your opportunities for full-time employment through co-op or internship experiences.

These sessions were some of the ones that were presented to the delegates who attended the Professional Development stream. For more details about the content of any Professional Development session, please contact Alan Huang, Rachel Malevich, or Emma Xie.

Team Management, presented by Wellness Coordinator at Western University Dr. Julia Dalphy
This session starts off by differentiating Leaders from Managers. Leaders have a more abstract vision of the goal, while Managers are more concerned with the logistics and how they can guide the team towards the goal. Effective team management ensures clear and efficient use of resources, a harmonious work environment, and an increase in overall productivity. To facilitate effective team management, develop the team and its individuals (e.g. the manager can arrange short, one-on-one meetings with each team member to know them better), and allocate sufficient resources to each member (e.g. relevant transition documents, sufficient financial resources, a flexible check-in structure with members, using project management tools); and, finally, recognize and reward a job well done (e.g. this can be as simple as saying “thank you”, or you can go to the extent of acknowledging the achievement publicly).

Preventing Burnout, presented by CFES President Julie Tseng
This session provided information on symptoms of burnout and how to cope with it, in addition to helping your team cope. There are two types of burnout; commonly in student leaders we see frenetic burnout (overloading ourselves). In cases of burnout, people usually endure a lack of acknowledgment, support, unhealthy team dynamics, and perhaps repeated failures. Prevention strategies include allotting time instead of “making time”, to-do lists, knowing when to treat yourself, and boundaries. To cope, ensure that your team is aware of how you are feeling and that you need time and/or support. As a team member to someone who is enduring burnout, it is important to be the person who can connect them to resources (e.g. counseling, support groups).

Successful Internships, presented by CFES National Councillor Allyson Francis and CFES Ontario Ambassador Amir Kiassat
This session focused on how to turn a co-op into a full-time job and how to make the most out of a co-op position. To maximize your chances of getting a full-time job out of co-op positions, Allyson and Amir advised delegates to rise to challenges and take on jobs that highlight your strengths. Taking on challenging and impressive tasks is a trait that all employers look for in their full-time hires. In particular, meeting colleagues from different teams and upper management in the company increases your potential of getting hired by any team. Act like you are a full-time hire (i.e. be accountable and professional, take ownership of your work) to convince management to perceive you as a full-time employee. Making the most out of a co-op includes all these areas, in addition to asking your supervisor to expand or refocus your role, if you find yourself in an unideal project or team; and look for learning opportunities any and everywhere, as requesting work that may be out of your current comfort zone can earn you both hard and soft skills—a huge asset in landing future co-op or full-time positions.

The VP External (VP Ex) Stream

This conference stream gathered the VP Externals and VP Communications from all the Engineering Societies across Canada for Plenary. In Plenary, delegates debate and discuss various motions that are brought forth to the Canadian Federation of Engineering Students. It was very exciting to watch; I felt as though I was witnessing United Nations calibre proceedings unfold before me!

For more details about the motions that were brought forth during Congress, please contact VP Communications-A Steven Jia or VP Communications-B Melissa Buckley.

Congress is a fantastic conference where you learn about what other Engineering Societies across Canada are up to, network with fellow engineering students, and open your mind to fresh ideas and perspectives.

If you are more of a visual person, I highly recommend you to check out this video of our Congress experience, made by A-Soc’s VP Communications Steven Jia: https://tinyurl.com/uw-engsoc-attend-conferences.

B-Soc’s VP Communications also made an awesome new conference website, with all the conferences that the Waterloo Engineering Society attends and so much more: http://www.uwengconferences.ca/.

For full coverage of all conference sessions that we attended, please refer to this document: https://tinyurl.com/congress-2017-all-sessions.

If any content from any conference session has piqued your interest, keep in mind that you do not have to currently be the most involved individual in Waterloo’s Engineering Society: all you need is to take the initiative to begin your involvement and apply to future conferences!