ASAE12: Are you ready?

As I type this, I’m 2 days away from getting together with 13,000+ psychologists and students in the land of Mickey. My presentations are ready. I’m pretty much packed and my schedule will actually allow me to eat at some point. However, that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about my other conference. The one where I’ll be getting together with 5,000+ association professionals in the land of Cowboys.

ASAE12 is less than two weeks away and I’m so excited. It’s the one chance I get every year to see the majority of my association friends outside the DC area. I mean where else can I get to see old coworkers, twitter buddies and my DELPers in one city at the same time? Whether you’re a newbie or a veteran, this conference can be a wonderful yet overwhelming experience. So how do you manage?

1. Have a Plan A, and B, and possibly C: By now, you should have a good sense of your conference schedule. However, sessions can be cancelled or not what you expected.  Always have an alternative.

2. Expect the convention center wi-fi to have issues: We all want free wi-fi.  However, we all know what happens when you have a lot of people trying to use the same signal. If you have a mobile hotspot device, use that instead.

3. Learn something new: Yes, there will be sessions geared towards your content area. However, take the time to attend a session about a subject you’re not familiar with. A good association professional is a well-rounded one.

4. Visit the various lounges: ASAE will have lounges for the following constituencies – CAE, CEO Network Center, International, Small Staff, Innovation Exchange Forum, and DELP. Please take advantage of them. For those interested in learning about DELP or meeting DELP scholars, our lounge will be in room D221 of the Dallas convention center.

5. Attend the Awards and Recognition breakfast: I know 7 am is early when you’ve been out networking the night before. However, show your support for your colleagues who have worked so hard to become CAEs, DELPers and Fellows.

6. Be social: If you’ve been waiting for the right time to dive into Twitter or to start blogging, this is it. With so much content over four days, the conversation online is just as robust as it will be in person. I started this blog the day after I returned from ASAE10 in Los Angeles.

7. Have fun, seriously: There’s nothing in the rule book that says you can’t have fun at a conference. You’ll learn better when you’re enjoying the experience. ASAE attendees are a pretty friendly bunch. If you’re not the most forward person, trust me, someone will say hello to you first.

I hope ASAE12 is a great experience for you. Safe travels to everyone attending and I’ll see you in Dallas!

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Can I have it all as a female lobbyist?

By now, you’ve all heard about Anne-Marie Slaughter’s piece in the Atlantic about the difficulty of women who desire both a high-powered career and a family. Much have been made about the arguments for and against the notion of “having it all”. National Journal, a publication covering politics, recently did its take on that issue from the perspective of women working in Washington. In short, while we’re doing better than ever in high-level positions, we still lag in pay and opportunity compared to our male counterparts. We also find ourselves having to make the same tough decisions about family. All the debates and discussions have forced me to take a look at my own career and life.

My career path to lobbying is atypical. I’m a native Washingtonian whereas most of my colleagues came here for college or work. I never worked on Capitol Hill. I’m a 38 year-old african-american woman in a field that is dominated by 50 year-old caucasian men. Yet, I find myself as a senior lobbyist for a large professional association. Did my career benefit from the fact that I’m a single woman with no children? Honestly, it probably did. Being single and childless meant that I could work late and go to evening networking events and fundraisers. I could schedule committee meetings over the weekend and not worry about soccer games and date nights. I have a good life: a career I love, a great immediate family, and a circle of friends people would kill for. Yet and still, this isn’t exactly where I’d thought I would be. By 30, I thought I would have all of that plus a husband and two kids.

Do I still want a family of my own?  Yes. Do I still want the career I have?  Yes. Can I do both? That’s the question I can’t answer. Some of my friends who have the spouse, kids and the career seem to make it. Others are truly struggling. I think the best we can do is determine our definition of a successful, fulfilling life and go from there.