SXSW 2015.

It's always a joy to have your dreams realized as an adult, no matter how large or small they are. For me, it was South by Southwest, a huge conference, music and film festival, wrapped up into three weeks of non-stop action. I heard about it for the first time as a teenager watching The Real World Philadelphia. As with each season, the cast members had to get a job to prove they were capable of being responsible adults. Even today, I can vividly remember Shavonda and Landon throwing footballs into a screaming crowd. How fun?

This being my only memory of SXSW, you can imagine how amped I was to hear that my boss was sending me and my teammates to this very conference! Being a semi-responsible adult myself, I knew that my experience would consist of more than free footballs and more partying in the beautiful Austin weather. I knew I was there to learn, network, grow, and, if I was lucky, spend much needed time with my little sister and big brother, both of whom I don't see often.

Before leaving for Austin, my coworker Melissa and I scrolled through nearly every single session on the schedule, cherrypicking the ones that caught our eye the most. We'd be attending the Interactive portion, which comes after Film and before Music. Interactive focuses on branding, marketing, social media, tech, and how to develop badass strategies for all of it, no matter your field. There were also considerable amounts of fashion sessions thrown in there, thanks in part to Cosmopolitan magazine, who set up a Cosmo Style Lab, equipped with makeup artists and non-stop intimate panel discussions with the top names in fashion.

Because my college roommate got married the day SXSW2015 kicked off, I arrived in Austin two days after my team, so the Cosmo Lab was the perfect session to get caught up to speed with the craziness that is SXSW. I attended a panel discussion that featured the fabulous Stacy London from "What Not To Wear" and even got to chat with her about my minimalist plans. She gave helpful advice, including "Every item in your closet should serve two purposes: use or joy."

Aside from the great sessions and networking, another highlight was the food. Keith's BBQ was served from a food truck and tasted like I was sitting in the backyard of an old Austin native as he smoked meat off his decades-old grill. I paired it with a Big Red (a soda I can only find in Texas), and a Mexican Martini, courtesy of Bungalow, a bar we stopped into to eat our food. I also got to reunite with my beloved Jeni's Ice Cream, which I hadn't had since my road trip last summer.

Other highlights:
  • We reunited with a coworker who left Girl Scouts a few months ago and settled in Austin. We caught up over delicious dinner  downtown.

  • Rainey street, which is basically a street that took old, run down houses, gutted them out, and turned them into beautiful, open bars.

  • My little sister!! I got to reconnect with my baby sister Jessica, who I admittedly don't see or talk to nearly enough. We got to bond, and I got to see how much of a beautiful young lady she's becoming. We went to dinner, walked around the park, toured the Austin suburbs, and got to lounge around her room while she played video games. It felt like we hadn't missed a beat, although we've really missed so many beats. I'm happy to reconnect with her.

(Everything's bigger in Texas!)

  • Bonding with my coworkers. It's always good to get out of the office for a few drinks with co-workers. It helps get to know them better, helps strengthen the bond so that maybe you're more effective in the office. Well, multiply that by 10. In our case, we slept in the same room, attended sessions, ate lunch and dinner together, everything. It was like bonding on speed, and I actually enjoyed having my personal space intruded on for those few days. We laughed...A LOT, and went drinking a few nights. (We even rode a mechanical bull!)

  • We went out with a BANG. My oldest brother Patrick and my wonderful sister in law Chastity met up with us for our last night out. Before Patrick got off work, Chas and I caught up over drinks, and bonded more than we'd ever bonded before. When Patrick joined the party, things got WILD. He has such great energy, a foul mouth, and more jokes than anyone I know. Of course my coworkers loved him, and I was so happy our trip ended on such a high note.

*For those interested in attending the conference for the sessions here are a few of the ones that caught my attention. Unfortunately, many of the good ones ran at the same time, so I couldn't attend them all. Nevertheless, here are some of my favorites:
  • What #BlackLivesMatter Teaches Us About Solidarity
  • Social Media: Balancing Data and Intuition
  • Content is King, But Expertise Rules
  • Build a Life, Not a Resume
  • Lean on is the New Lean In
  • Turning a Pilot into Success
  • Bloggers and Beyond: Brand Partnership & Influencers
  • Content is the Starting Line, Not the Finish Line

Overall, I'm forever grateful for my boss for seeing the value in sending our team to SXSW 2015. It not only helped us learn how we can grow our strategy and be more effective, but it allowed us to get closer and become a more cohesive unit. I'm excited to see where we go from here! 

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