My First Professional Conference…
By: Nicole Panella
With the AESP Spring Conference being my first professional conference, I had no idea what to expect, but I was excited. Getting off the plane in Philadelphia, five of my colleagues and I were eager to explore the history rich city of brotherly love, eat some cheese steak, widen our knowledge of the energy industry and make some great connections.
After a long day of walking the cobblestone streets of Old Philadelphia, stopping at Independence Hall, The Liberty Bell, and Reading Terminal Market for some authentic Philly cheesesteaks, we made our way to the kick-off reception preceding the New Member Event. The first few steps into the hall were slightly overwhelming, but that feeling quickly faded as other professionals started introducing themselves to us. It felt great to be in a room filled with so many industry leaders.
The conference kicked off with a keynote address on the topic of change from motivational speaker Steve Gilliland. Steve’s compelling stories and energetic, whimsical demeanor elevated our excitement to a whole new level. After the opening remarks we attended a blend of implementation and evaluation sessions. It was exciting to learn about cutting edge initiatives in these two branches of the energy efficiency industry, as well as opportunities for better collaboration among the two. One thing that really stuck with me was AESP President John Hargrove’s speech about how this is one of the only industries where if we are performing well in our careers, the world is doing well, too. Another main point I took away was how crucial it is for the industry as a whole to work together. Many sessions reiterated the fact that implementers and evaluators, although they have very different short term goals, must share a main objective of making the world more energy efficient.
In between sessions we had time to visit the various booths in the reception hall and learn about what different firms are doing to advance energy efficiency. To break the ice, we were encouraged to play a game where we would need to collect stickers by visiting booths. This was a great idea and I am happy to say I collected all 25 stickers, but even beyond that, I made tons of new networking connections. I was amazed at how many firms and facets there are in the industry. Although I did not win any of the prizes from the raffle, what I gained from meeting and conversing with so many professionals was a win in and of itself.
It’s amazing how fast the conference came and went. There really is no rest for the wicked when you are in a brand new city for only 52 hours, but the knowledge and connections I acquired will stick with me for years to come. I am already anticipating the next AESP Conference I’ll be able to attend. On behalf of the REDA Program and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I want to thank AESP for this wonderful opportunity, and all of the sponsors and firms that helped shape this fantastic event. We cannot wait to bring our acquired skills to the industry, and who knows, maybe someday there will be a few REDA alumni speaking about their work at an AESP conference.