As comfortable traveling the world as she is nurturing at home, Lexley Bender is bringing a sense of enthusiasm to the Aberdeen Chapter as it continues to grow in part as the result of BRAC 2005. Bender truly can be called a renaissance woman as she develops business opportunities for Data Systems Analysts as a career, golfs and plays piano for enjoyment, travels often to Europe to visit family, and cares for Millie and Belle, the two rescue dogs her family adopted. On the AFCEA front, she's handled everything from publicity to programs, helping raise thousands of dollars along the way.
Currently in her second year as the vice president of programs for the Aberdeen Chapter, Bender has experienced firsthand one of the ripple effects of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure decision. The shift in personnel caused a rapid increase in chapter membership—a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless. In addition to precipitating the need for a larger meeting venue, the chapter had to revamp its processes to ensure events ran smoothly and professionally, Bender shares.
"We developed an online registration system that enables attendees and sponsors to register quickly and efficiently, and we switched locations to the Officers Club at Aberdeen Proving Ground [APG] to make it easier for government and military members to participate in our events, either as attendees or as speakers," she relates.
"One challenge was arranging access on post for attendees without the appropriate credentials. Working closely with Morale, Welfare and Recreation [MWR], we were able to arrange for a preregistration list to be available at a specific lane of the visitors gate 45 minutes prior to the event." As a result, attendees did not have to stop in the visitors center to register. The new process encouraged attendees to register online in advance, rather than registering on-site, which helped the chapter provide a more accurate headcount to MWR as well as controlled costs.
"Relocating our events to the Officers Club also increased military and government personnel attendance and enabled us to attract popular—and busy—military speakers, who did not have to travel far to the event or take time away from mission-critical tasks. Since we moved on post, attendance has more than doubled on average at events, and our events are among the best attended in the APG area," Bender adds.
In addition, after joining AFCEA as a member of the Belvoir Chapter in 2007, Bender's efforts helped that chapter raise more than $600,000 in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related grants and scholarships since 2008. "Extremely impressive for a chapter with 300 members," she says proudly.
As a member of the Aberdeen Chapter, Bender also has been instrumental in assisting with community activities. The Aberdeen Chapter partners closely with other organizations in the community—including AUSA, AAAA, AOC and WID—to host events throughout the year at APG (formerly Fort Monmouth) culminating in the Annual Support our Heroes Gala. This professional association partnership has raised more than $1.5 million during the last eight years for the Fisher House Foundation and is the largest single continuous event supporting this program she explains.
Bender credits networking for much of her professional success but also advises young information technology professionals to take advantage of the networking opportunities that technology offers as well. For example, joining professional networking sites such as LinkedIn not only enables them to meet others but also allows them to connect people searching for answers to the people who have them, which is a good reputation builder. A word of warning, though: "Remember that everything you post, tweet or blog in the public domain may be used to evaluate you for that great position you always wanted," she says.To those about to enter the work force, she offers the same advice. "Join associations and industry groups that focus on your major or your targeted industry. Attend their functions, strike up conversations with fellow members and join a committee. Not only will you build valuable connections but also you will gain skills and experience that will strengthen your resume.”