It really does take a village to make SMW a success. Our global team of 7, (yes, we’re a small group) work with local organizations and businesses in each of our host cities to run SMW twice a year (yes, we have 2 global conferences with each city hosting only once a year). The local organizations put in their valuable time and resources to add a local flair to our global theme and work with the community to make our vision come to life. It’s truly inspiring. But these organizations couldn’t do it alone. We have countless volunteers who put in their energy and time to work alongside them- and we’re often impressed when we finally get to meet one of them.
For example, this September, I visited our team in Berlin during SMW. Our local partner, DeskWanted does a phenomenal job every year of putting together a truly creative and fun week. While there, I learned about Amelia Shroyer. Amelia was an incredible force for the SMW Berlin team, so much so, that she now helps lead other SMW Berlin volunteers. We loved getting to know her- and we think you will too.
I was born in Oklahoma City but raised in Dallas, TX. I went to Southwestern University in Georgetown, TX and graduated with a degree in Political Science and a minor in French. I graduated and moved back to Dallas and worked in marketing and administration. After spending most of my life in Texas, I decided at the end of 2011 to make a change and move abroad. I did so by becoming an au pair for a family in rural France. I spent 8 months caring for three boys and was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I had a week’s vacation so I visited my high school sweetheart (we had remained friends) who was living in Berlin. The flame was rekindled and I ended up moving to Berlin at the end of my au pair contract.
I got involved with SMW Berlin because I responded to a job posting for an event coordinator position. I didn’t have a work visa, and because the position was temporary, there was really no way to work it out. I really liked everything they were doing so I offered to volunteer. At first, it was just going to be for the event itself, but the more involved I got, the more committed I was to making SMW Berlin as great as possible. I started coming in most weekdays and asked to head up the volunteer effort as volunteer coordinator.
The highlight of the SMW12 experience for me were the friendships I made throughout the experience. We put out a call for volunteers, and we recruited some of the most dedicated, selfless, amazing people I’ve ever met. Going to volunteer every day felt like just going to hang out with friends and discuss shared passions. It was great for me to meet and connect with so many like-minded people. I’d say overall that the friendships I made were the best part of volunteering.
I learned so much about the tech scene, startups, social media, and marketing. I got to help a lot with the online content, and it gave me tons of experience. I’ve used a lot of that knowledge going forward in my professional life in Berlin. We had a pretty amazing line-up of speakers, panels, and events that made every day a new opportunity to learn and grow professionally.
The thing that was really special about my experience with SMW Berlin was that it happened at a time when I was a new expat, living in a country where I didn’t speak the language. The Deskwanted team and, more generally, the SMW Berlin team made me feel included. Being an expat can be really isolating, especially when you’re looking for work and not really finding much. They made me feel valued and a part of something bigger than myself. I had been in the country since July looking for work. It gave me an escape from feeling like I wasn’t making any progress. That alone is priceless to me.
As a volunteer for SMW Berlin, I got to network like crazy. I got to meet all the speakers, and even introduced a panel discussion! I felt important when I was the go-to person to answer questions, direct people to where they needed to go, and set the schedule for all the volunteers. I was also able to sit-in on the presentations that were most interesting to me. It’s insane how much access you get as a volunteer to everything that’s going on behind the scenes. That was really the biggest perk.
From the next SMW Berlin, I’d just love to see more people get involved. We had amazing volunteers this year- they were all incredible. Very generous with their time and so committed to making the event great. I’d love to see more sponsorships. Some of our sponsors like Etsy, Wooga and Nokia were able to make some really compelling, fun events. It would be great to see more startups and tech companies lend their knowledge and expertise to the event. We just had so many cool events- it’s hard to imagine it getting better. The Tweetfiti event was probably the coolest for me- a grafitti artist created a piece based on people’s #SMWBerlin tweets and we had a time-lapse video of it. It was pretty amazing stuff! I just have so many interests- art, music, marketing, social media, film, writing- and SMW Berlin really does a great job to tie all these different themes together. I loved it, and I can’t wait to be involved again next year.
A big thanks to Amelia from our global team and SMW Berlin! You can learn more about her on her LinkedIn.