It's been two years since I networked and have been with my industry friends at AEE world. We had meetings and social gatherings virtually for the past few AEE conferences, but I felt extra excited when I was able to see them in person at AEE World in New Orleans. It was my first time taking a flight and attending an in-person conference since the pandemic's start. I took extra measures like wearing a mask whenever I was indoors. The conference center was well prepared: seats were 6-foot apart, and the staff followed local public health guidelines. I felt relieved and comfortable during the visit.
The Opening Session was the highlight of my experience at the conference. We first heard a homecoming message from Mr. Bill Kent, the Executive Director from AEE. It was a reminder that AEE is beyond an organization where we learn cutting-edge technology or pursue professional training: it has become a family where we meet fantastic people who inspire us to grow and become the better version of ourselves. Mr. Bear Grylls was a big surprise for me personally. As an outdoor lover, I resonated with his speech on learning from failures, becoming resilient, embracing fears, and "knowing the fire that makes you do a little more extra beyond ordinary." I believe it was a great lesson for everyone in the current business environment. Additionally, Ms. Deanna Rodriguez, the only female keynote speaker at the Opening Session, illustrated that a good leader has a genuine interest in the customers her company serves. For example, when she was narrating the aftermath of Hurricane Ida in the local community, she pointed out that the winds ripped off the roof of many buildings, and now they were covered by a blue canvas layer. It was stunning to see the blue layer during my short trip around the city. At that moment, I appreciated her reminding us what the city went through and the good work Entergy did for the community.
As a young professional, I constantly look for role models, learn from their experience, and hopefully, I can be like them one day. AEE and CWEEL never turned me down: the women leaders I met there showed me a clear pathway on how the organizations can help me grow in my career and give back and support others. They motivated me to think outside the box; they encouraged me to do things I didn't know I was capable of, and they pushed me to step outside my comfort zone. They are my mentors and friends.