What is ETC?
It has been a whirlwind of a week for me! I did not realize just how massive this conference would be. The conference has served two purposes. Over summer I was in Belize working with TIDE (Toledo Institute for Development and Environment). To become more financially independent, TIDE has recently launched an expeditions program to create revenue to be directed back into their conservation efforts, as well as their ongoing research projects. TIDE obtained a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for marketing efforts. Part of this funding went to ETC in Boston (which was by no means cheap- the registration alone was a few thousand dollars for two of us). The point of attending was to find new clients for their expeditions program.
I was recruited to help as I am involved with TIDE and located just a few hours north of Boston. This is where the second purpose comes in. My entrance to this event meant exclusive access to top notch NGOs and U.S./foreign travel operators that work directly with NGOs on the ground throughout all of Latin America (and the world). For those of you that do not know, the next handful of years my goal is to work in the Latin American environmental NGO sector.
As this is a travel conference, between my duties to TIDE, Tuesday through Thursday I spent networking like crazy, and Friday is when I zeroed in. Spending a week in Boston sounds fun, right? There was so much going on it was more work than play. After a full day of seminars and networking, Tuesday night included a social which was overwhelming with hundreds of people to sort, pin down, and meet. Wednesday was a full day of one-on-one meetings including The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, Global Wildlife Conservation, and more. That evening at dinner I spent time with MIT, Harvard, Dartmouth, Johns Hopkins, Syracuse, and UVirginia. This was also the day I acquired a bad cold and felt horrible the rest of the week.
Thursday was much the same routine, and at dinner on the 52nd floor of the Prudential Tower I spent time with a few big U.S. travel operators, and a company that works with National Geographic. Also in attendance as a guest speaker was Pico Iyer, known for his book Video Night in Kathmandu, former writer for Time magazine, current writer for New York Times, and many publications. In my entire academic career, I have never witnessed a speaker at seminars and presentations who is more eloquent. This writer had no visuals, just his voice. And he was mesmerizing to listen to. I will admit, I was a little too intimidated to go up and speak with him at the social events.
Thursday night dinner I had ONE big goal. Find The Nature Conservancy and finish what I started. Unfortunately between the hundreds of people I was never able to track them down. But I was not returning to Maine until I had completed that goal. On Friday between my networking and meetings for TIDE, I spent my time circling the venue like a hawk waiting for the people I wanted to speak with. While waiting, I ran into the rep for Smithsonian. Had a wonderful conversation with her and made a solid connection.
Finally I spotted The Nature Conservancy group in the crowd and made my move. While their organization has lots of job opportunities, it is difficult to get in without some sort of connection. And a connection I made. Success also happened in the afternoon when I made good connections with the company that works with National Geographic, some operators who work throughout Latin America, and a couple others.
Aside from learning a great deal about the travel industry and being able to help out TIDE, I would say this conference was well worth it for all the networking both personally, and for TIDE. I might be exhausted, cold, and sick, but I am content with how the week turned out.