Tuan Nguyen (pictured below) was the first-ever recipient of a travel grant from the ChE GSA. Through this, he attended the Beyond Academia 2019 Conference. When asked about his experience, here is what he said:
Overall, I found the UCSB Beyond Academia Conference to be a PhD-specific pep talk for starting and thinking through the non-academic job search process. One of the key themes throughout the talks was to consider the generality of your research expertise to other areas of work, which is presented as a subject of "transferrable skills". This includes not only the technical skills you have used in your PhD, but also the interpersonal skills. This could include things like TA-ing, mentoring undergrads, or being a part of a collaborative research team. Recognizing that your PhD experience is more than just the methods you have used is, I think, a helpful shift in mindset when looking beyond academia.
Networking and specific job prospects are definitely not the focus of the conference, but if any of the speakers or panelists happen to be employed at relevant companies, it is a prime opportunity to speak with them in a setting in which they are receptive to you as an interested applicant.
I attended all the main stage workshops (which were essentially just seminars) and the R&D, Startups, and Data Science panels. While the quality of panels will vary depending on the participants, at the very least it is useful to expand your horizons and see the extent to which PhD employees fit into an industrial setting, with a wide variety of roles. In terms of value, I think $10 is more than reasonable for the quality of talks, as well as the meals, snacks, and coffee provided throughout the two days.
Given that the normative time for our program is 5.5 years, I would say that it is most relevant for 4th years, followed by 5th years.