NeuAnalytics is excited to be sponsoring the insideARM Women in Consumer Finance conference for the 3rd year in a row.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have attended since its inception in 2018. 

If you’re not familiar with the conference, let me provide you with a little background. It was the brainchild of Amy Perkins and Stephanie Eidelman at insideARM. The idea was to bring women together to discuss women’s topics. But not just topics about women at work, also work/life balance, personal growth, and most importantly – hearing from others and their experiences. You can visit to their site here: insideARM

While this blog post isn’t meant to be an advertisement for the conference, it’s hard not to rave about it, and explain why it’s a ‘must attend’ for me and many others.  

One thing that makes it so special is the sharing of experiences. It’s a safe place to tell your story, listen to other’s stories, comment openly on topics, and feel free to let your emotions show (something a lot of women feel they cannot do in a business environment).  

For me, personally, the conference has allowed me to understand some of my peers better.  Their path/journey to where they are today. Many of these women I have been friends and acquaintances with for decades, but because of this conference, I’ve been able to hear their background stories, and grow to appreciate and understand them even more.  

This conference also allows us to all dig a little deeper into understanding ourselves better.  I’ll admit – some of the topics are tough, uncomfortable, and emotional.  But by committing to the conference, and jumping in with both feet, I’ve come away with a smile on my face, a bounce in my step, and the courage to face difficult situations at work.  

For me the 2018 conference was pivotal in my professional journey.  I was struggling to have hard conversations with my manager.  Before I even left the hotel after the conference ended, I sat down in a quiet place, gathered my thoughts, called my manager, and had that hard conversation.  Within a couple of weeks, I started seeing change.   What I learned at that conference by discussing my situation with others, is that my work environment wasn’t typical, and if it was causing me stress, I should speak up, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable the conversation may be.    Footnote – I left that company in 2019.  And a new job change so late in my career was also spurred by the courage I gleaned from this conference.  

Another thing that I found very refreshing right from the very first happy hour back in 2018 –was that everyone is open to talking to everyone else at this conference.  OK – now I know you’re saying – what? Why wouldn’t someone want to talk to someone else? At most conferences there are ‘vendors’ and ‘attendees’.  And as a vendor (which I have been for the past 20+ years), if you don’t have an existing relationship with an attendee, or if that attendee isn’t looking for a vendor that does what your company does, then to be honest, most attendees avoid vendors like the plague.  

However, even though company names are on the name tags, it is not used to exclude anyone from conversations. In fact, most conversations surround conference topics such as personal stories, and discovering what is unique about each person you talk to. While there may be business talk going on, it isn’t the focus of this conference.  

I had one past attendee reach out to me in the past few weeks to ask if I was attending this year.  She and I were on the same ‘team’ at the conference (more about teams in a minute).   She reminded me of a great conversation she and I had while walking to dinner one evening.  We both had parents with Alzheimer’s, and we were both going through similar situations with them.  It was great to talk it out with another person, share our stories, and share some advice.  And for both of us, to know that we were not alone in the situation was comforting.  These conversations stay with us.  You never know when sharing an experience with someone else will be just the thing they need to get them over a rough spot.  

In fact, I think that is one of the most powerful parts of this conference.  Listening to others stories and finding that you are not alone.  That others have gone through many similar situations you have gone through or are currently going through, either professionally or personally.  Hearing how they responded, or made it through a certain situation, brings comfort and gives strength to the rest of us.  

The “teams” concept I mentioned earlier is a great idea that started at the first conference and has continued each year, even last year when the conference was virtual.  Each conference attendee is assigned to be on a team with about 10 or so other attendees.  The first night, you find and meet your team during happy hour.  Then throughout the conference, your team engages in a scavenger hunt.  This is a great way to get to know a group of people better and have some fun.  The teams compete to fulfill each of the tasks in the hunt, and along the way make new friends, and have a great deal of fun.  

I found that having a team helped with that awkward part of many conferences where you may not know a lot of people.  In this conference you always have your team.  People to have meals with or hang out with during breaks.  For any of the introverts in the group, it was a nice way to have an instant group of new friends.  

I very clearly remember my first group, and our final session together.  We sat around a table together, and the task was to go around the table, and tell each other what you learned about them over the few days you were together.  The outpouring of love and kindness was beautiful.  It’s amazing how much you can learn about someone in just a few short days.    It was a half hour of lifting up, patting on the back, supporting, caring, complementing, and getting a view of the good qualities each of us showed each other during the conference.  

Overall, the conference is just plain good for your soul. It’s an opportunity to do something a lot of us have a hard time doing, and that is to set aside a few days to dedicate to yourself.  To grow both personally and professionally. To meet new people in your industry that you may not otherwise meet.  To learn new skills and brush up on some that may be lacking.  

For you employers out there, who are sponsoring employees to attend this conference.  You are giving a gift that will not be forgotten.  A gift that will show your employees that you care about them personally, and that you are invested in their success.  You will find that your employees come back to work with a fresh outlook, perhaps a new attitude, and a renewed focus.  

I look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones at the conference in December!