ISEEESA stands for the Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment, and Economy Students' Association (though they expect to change their name soon depending on the status of the parent organization, ISEEE). For the past eight years they have been holding a networking dinner and speaker event that all students can attend for a nominal fee, which covers dinner, drinks (yes, alcoholic drinks), and a "gift", which this year was a solar-powered phone charger(!). While most of the ISEEESA students tend to be from either Haskayne (Business) or Schulich (Engineering), there is a huge diversity in the disciplines of those students who just participate in these events. There is slightly less diversity in the corporate side of the event: companies pay around $600 to have a table at the event, and most of the companies that are represented are Oil & Gas (the platinum sponsor of the event is Total E & P).
This is probably why I felt so lucky that the table I was randomly assigned to was that of Eco Canada, the "environmental careers organization". While my field - sustainability - lends itself fairly easily to most sectors (especially at a sustainability networking event) and certainly to oil & gas/energy, I find it more comfortable to speak to people from companies who are more clearly focused on the environment. Funnily enough, I had applied to get my Environmental Professional in training certificate from Eco Canada and had actually spoken to one of the people from the table on the phone just a few weeks before (we recognized each others' names). It just goes to show you that you need to make sure you respect the faceless voices on the other side of the phone as you never know when you might see them in real life!
It was also pleasing to know that despite the dress being business formal, a style which I understand but do not necessarily feel comfortable in, the professionals at my table were wearing dark jeans with stylish collared shirts, which immediately puts me more at ease since it is the dress I'm accustomed to wearing at my own job. I was also pleased that I had opted for the vegetarian meal as most of the table was also eating vegetarian or vegan, and it always helps when the servers ensure that your glass is always full of wine (even if you have to hold back because of, you know, networking professionalism or whatever). The meal itself was incredible and it was evident why this is own of the most successfully-run student events at the University of Calgary.
The guest speaker for the night was Alex Steffen, whom I had never even heard of before that night, which I was surprised about after reading his fairly illustrious biography. He was extremely engaging and spoke to the night's theme: how to be a world changer. He provided a series of tips on surviving in our rapidly changing world and how to keep abreast with the changing technology and create a world that is sustainable in all aspects. His thoughts were clear and even with a strawberry & chocolate cheesecake in front of me, I paid utmost attention (the true sign of a great speaker is their ability to hold attention even when there is CHEESECAKE present). A co-worker of mine coincidentally has his World Changer 2.0 book at the office so I've asked to read it and find out more.
One of the greatest parts of the night was reconnecting, not networking. One man whose children I used to babysit was representing the Faculty of Environmental Design at Mount Royal University, and I got the chance to tell him that he was a major inspiration for my interest in sustainability and I had even taken an Environmental Design course because of him. I also saw a friend I've known since I was very young but who I often don't see because we are both fairly busy with co-op work terms and extra-curriculars. Another friend from high school told me that he had always thought that I was one of the smartest people in our graduating class and wasn't surprised to see me at this event, though I can say I was certainly surprised to hear him say that!
All in all, the night was amazing and I was extremely happy that I chose to go despite almost backing out at the last second because I was slightly anxious as to what to expect. If only I had known earlier - I would have gone every year!