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HerConference 2019 Recap

Her Campus hosted the 2019 HerConference networking event in Brooklyn, NYC last month and the empowerment and inspiration still lingers even long after. This year, Her Campus Hofstra went with a larger group of girls from the Hofstra chapter to experience all that the conference has to offer and see how much Her Campus has grown, as this year marks the tenth anniversary of HerCampus.

When I went to Her Conference this time last year, it changed my life and helped me grow more confident in my own abilities as well as my own future. A month later, I reflect on not only the amazing experience that I gained this year (as well as the amazing goodies), but the substantial impact it had on me afterward.

June was a strange month - I was home from school, I had just started my internship and was still adjusting to living back home for the summer. My grandfather was visiting from Germany, my brother had just graduated high school, and I was working full-time for the very first time - everything seemed out of order and a bit overwhelming. I felt like a newborn deer - confused and excited, still learning how to walk but confident about what lies ahead.

"What we think about ourselves, say about ourselves, let our friends and family say about us, and how we treat ourselves is how you'll feel about yourself." - Michelle Carter, 2016 Olympic World Champion

After the second week of my internship and the day after my brother’s graduation, I headed on the hour-long train ride to Penn Station. Luckily one of my friends, Madie, Hofstra’s Her Campus co-President, also lives in New Jersey, and I met her at Penn to take the subway to Brooklyn (a relief since I’m still trying to figure out public transportation and I am definitely not the most confident in my subway-navigating abilities).

Immediately walking into the venue in City Point, I was filled with a sort of giddy glow in my chest. There were women everywhere, dressed to the nines, and they looked and carried themselves like absolute badasses. It’s like walking into a room of people you know you’re going to be friends with, people you know have the same passions and drive as you do.

We got in line to get our tote bags and I was immediately in awe when I saw a girl in a powder-blue suit, her purse matching her outfit with the perfectly exact hue. I wanted to tell her I adored her outfit, but at first I didn’t want to, but Madie urged me to. She, Brianna, was so kind and open and immediately complimented me back. We exchanged our information quickly as the line moved alone and parted ways, and I could feel the optimism welling up inside of me.

I found me seat by the other Hofstra chapter girls and took a moment to look around the room. Behind me was a table piled high with books, next to it a small but very aesthetically pleasing Her Campus popup shop. As I panned around the room, I saw a headshot station from Bumble, makeup station, at least three different vastly decorated photoshoot stations fully equipped with luminescent ring lights, a Mary Kay makeup palette monogramming station and a t-shirt designing station. I made a mental note to go to every single one as I turned my attention to the Her Campus founders, Windsor Hanger Western, Stephanie Kaplan Lewis and Annie Wang, dressed each in a different shade of pink power suits, as they welcomed us and introduced the first keynote.

First up was Michelle Carter, 2016 Gold Medal Olympic Athlete and American shot-put record holder, who discussed body image, societal expectations (of women and athletes), childhood, how she conquers challenges in her life and how she dealt with multiple injuries and health problems prior to winning the gold and becoming the global shot put champion in 2016.

Next, we heard from Cara Santana, Actress and Activist who played Eva in Santa Clarita Diet. She discussed finding a work-life balance and how for her, work is her life, something that I could really relate to.

"Life is a journey - your future is unfathomable," says Santana. "Focus on what you're passionate about but stay open; there are really amazing gifts in the unknown."

Author, Actress and Director Amber Tamblyn spoke to us about being a working woman in today's society with today's political climate. She emphasized that while women have to work twice as hard as men to get the same job, "black and brown people have it five times as hard - and for trans and nonbinary people this amount is unfathomable." Tamblyn spoke about her book and her experiences, but made a point of keeping an eye on the freedom of other women - even when you get to the top, to always hold the door open so that others can have a seat at the table as well.

"Rational thought is not the only valid thought - emotional is too," said Tamblyn. "Women have been taught to confuse their emotions for anxiety."

Lastly but certainly not least, actress Jessica Marie Garcia from Netflix’s ‘On My Block’ and Disney's 'Liv and Maddie' discussed what life was like before she made a name for herself. Not only was she hilarious and relatable, she spoke about her eyebrows, her journey of self love and the large importance of self care. "Surround yourself with other females who make you happy to be you!" Garcia mentions how vital it is to keep only good people around you, and that these vibes can have a major impact on your life.

"Just know it's going to be tough - embrace it. Do the work, there is SO much positivity on the other side." - Jessica Marie Garcia

Aside from the Keynote speakers that shared their journeys with us, inspiring panelists graced the audience with their own knowledge and expertise on a variety of topics in three panel ‘blocks’ throughout the day. Attendees could choose to go to one of the three panels for each of the three panel blocks, which I loved because I know that my interests certainly aren’t entirely synonymous with everyone else's.

Panel Block A: ‘Navigating the Media Industry: Where to Start and How to Work Your Way Up’

  • Kema Christian-Taylor, Content Strategist at Deutsch

  • Liana Gergely, Director of Branded Content and Digital Marketing at W Magazine and Conde Nast

  • Maya Allen, Digital Beauty Editor for Marie Clare

  • Meg Wagner, Breaking News Editor at CNN

  • Camille Laurent, CEO and Co-Founder of Hueman Group Media

Panel Block A: ‘Working With a Purpose: Careers In Government and Social Impact'

  • Ashley Womble, Head of Communications for the Crisis Text Line

  • Carri Twig, Producer, Host and Former White House (*&^@#%^&(WE*_)$*($_

  • Kimberly Hoyos, Digital Strategy Coordinator for MTV Social Impact

Panel Block A: ‘UX, UI, and More: How to Break into a Career in Tech’

  • Catherine Bousquet, Product Designer at Capital One

  • Elana Altman, Academic Tecnologist for Web and UX at Barnard College

  • Rosa McGee, Software Engineer, Adobe

  • Yujin Yong, Director of Digital at MZ Wallace

Panel Block B: ‘Side Hustle Life: How to Pursue Your Passions in Your Spare Time’

  • Imani Ellis, Communications Director at Bravo and NBC Universal and CEO/Founder of the Creative Collective NYC

  • Molly Longest, Creative Consultant and Co-Founder of the Lala

  • Lily Herman, Contributing Editor at Refinery29

  • Laura Little, Founder of That British Chick and Creator of Females in Social and Digital

Panel Block B: ‘Like, Snap, Tweet: How to Turn Your Social Media Obsession into a Full-Time Job’

  • Kiera Wright-Ruiz, Social Media Editor for NYT Cooking

  • Mandy Velez, Senior Social Media Editor at The Daily Beast

  • Marietta Alessi, Social Media Manager for Shape Magazine

  • Taylor Alston, Social Media Strategist at JP Morgan

Panel Block B: ‘Lights, Camera, ACTION: Careers in TV, Broadcast and Video’

  • Lucie Fink, Lifestyle Host and Producer at Refinery29

  • Taylor Dills, Production Accounting Clerk at Sesame Street

  • Elizabeth Wagmeister, Senior Correspondent, Variety and Co-Host of Page 6 TV

  • Nia Warfield, Associate Producer at CNBC

  • Sidnee Michelle Douyon, Writer, Anchor and Reporter

Panel Block C: ‘Be Your Own Boss: Young Entrepreneurs Share How You Can Make It Happen’

  • Katherine Crowley, Client Lead at The New York Times and Co-Founder of The Lala

  • Samantha Dong, Founder and CEO of Ally Shoes

  • Rachel Liverman, Co-Founder and CEO of Glowbar

  • Julie Schechter, Founder and CEO of Small Packages

  • Rana Argenio, Founder and CEO of 10 Grove

Panel Block C: ‘How to Write our First Book, According to the Authors Who’ve Been There’

  • NYT Bestelling Author Nicole Lapin

  • Author Andi Bartz

  • Hannah Orenstein, Author and Senior Dating Editor for Elite Daily

  • Tia Williams, Author and Copy Director of Bumble and Bumble

Panel Block C: ‘Insiders Spill: What’s a Career in Marketing + PR really like?’

  • Chanel Cathey, the Founder and CEO of CJC Insights

  • Margaret Jones, the Integrated Marketing Specialist at Mary Kay, Inc.

  • Sade Oyalowo, Marketing Associate for Penguin Random House

  • Go Daddy's Global VP and Brand Social Shannon Traux

I attended ‘Navigating the Media Industry: Where to Start and How to Work Your Way Up’ first, followed by ‘Lights, Camera, ACTION: Careers in TV, Broadcast and Video’, which I listened to while perusing the rest of the exciting amenities and giveaways, and lastly heard the brilliance behind startups in ‘Be Your Own Boss: Young Entrepreneurs Share How You Can Make It Happen’.

Some panels were repeats of last year, including the first two I went to as well as many of the others. This did not make it seem repetitive - after all, the panelists were an entirely new group of women working off of one another and sharing their own ideas and experiences. I did however opt to find a few new panels - ones which I regularly never would have sat in on. I had dismissed careers in broadcast early on as something I didn’t necessarily want to pursue, and being an entrepreneur seemed too analytical and, after all, it seemed that everyone has had the same ideas as I have at some point and something already existed for everything.

Strangely enough, on the train ride home ideas were being born left and right that I never normally would have had had I not stepped out of my comfort zone. I had heard women talk about their careers in broadcasting and video, and while it didn’t dramatically change the field I wanted to pursue, it did open my eyes to the importance and prevalence of video in nearly every context. It’s truly that important to have video along with what you do in any company, business or platform, something that was underscored heavily by this panel and group of women.

Along with this, I’d never considered business as something that could be part of my life. But until this panel, ‘business’ carried a very specific, almost undesirable connotation in my mind. The word itself was rebranded by hearing these women’s stories and tales of success, though often not smooth ones, and I considered that it might be something I could want to do in the future. I won’t tell you this idea now, but I will think it into existence and hopefully you’ll be seeing it in the future.

Aside from having networking opportunities with nearly every ambitious woman in the room, free makeup and products in every corner, women getting up on stage sharing their stories and motivating us to keep breaking barriers, there was the familiar, profound feeling of electricity that pulsed through the room.

To be surrounded in a room of people who aren’t competing is a powerful feeling. It is empowering to know that someone across the room could be the one to help you into your next opportunity, inspire your next move or collaborate with on a project in the future. It made all of my goals feel so much more attainable, giving me the confidence in myself again that I had been lacking for at least the past four months.

Events like these are important. It teaches us to hold the door open for each other, to bridge the gaps in the workforce and empower each other to be not only the best versions of ourselves for ourselves, but for everyone else too.

"There is always going to be someone better than you at what you want to do. Your power is that you are you, and no one else is." - Jessica Marie Garcia
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