Woohoo! I’m so excited! Last year I spoke at AltConf in San Francisco during Apple’s WWDC week. I’m really proud of the talk I gave—I had refined it a bunch, tested it in front of different audiences, and poured a lot of my soul into it. (And yes, a lot of emojis.)
It’s a little bit about how to feel OK having a corporate job. It’s a little bit about diversity in tech. It’s a little bit about why online dating sucks. If any of that sounds interesting to you, please watch it!
(And feel free to let me know what you think, but you know, be gentle with your constructive criticism. I’ve literally never given a talk at a conference before.) <3!
Sell Out and Save the World – AltConf 2016 (best viewed on a bigger screen so you can follow the slides. And none of the videos or animations play in this slide processing, but if you’re DYING to see the Taylor Swift Apple Music ad, go here.)
I just wrote up a trip report for my team at Microsoft, highlighting at least one takeaway from each session I attended at Grace Hopper 2016. It occurs to me that I should share that with the rest of the world, too. Here they are!
“Growth and comfort never coexist.” –Ginni Rometty, Chairwoman, President and CEO of IBM during the Day One keynote.
This stuck with me; feels profound as we attempt to shift to a growth mindset as a company. Time to embrace discomfort. :)
Solitude matters to think creatively; all of us are in too many meetings! From Susan Cain’s talk on the Quiet Revolution.
We need to carve out alone time when we’re thinking big (especially for those who are more introverted). I know I’ll be blocking out time on my calendar to get into the right brain space for certain projects moving forward.
Some other impactful points from this talk!
Introverts should speak up early in meetings to make sure they’re heard.
Brainstorming works better alone as opposed to a group activity.
Lead the meeting if you need to make sure you get recognition. From an Intuit panel about women’s career development.
If you’re concerned that you’re not getting seen for the work you’re doing, take charge and set the meeting yourself and guide it through. It’s a guaranteed way to be seen and also drive progress/outcome.
Everyone benefits from accessible design. From a powerful Microsoft panel on inclusive design.
If you’ve ever dictated into your phone, pulled luggage through a curb cutout, or walked through an automatic door, you’ve benefitted from accessibility designs. When we design inclusively, it makes things better for ALL users.
“We need to make technology cool for girls to study.” –Rebecca Minkoff, Tech-Thinking Fashion Designer, from a panel on closing the gender gap in STEM.
This immediately made me think of IoT and the enormous opportunity we have to do cool work that centers and celebrates women enjoying technology.
Email your manager and say “I’m moving forward with X on Y date unless I hear otherwise from you.” From a panel about women negotiating.
Instead of waiting for express permission, sometimes it’s best to just propose what you think needs to happen and make it happen. That way your initiative doesn’t get stuck in waiting-for-permission purgatory or email delay, and you can show what you’re capable of without red tape holding you back.
Of course, you need to make clear that your manager has the opportunity to weigh in, but that’s where setting clear dates and expectations in your email comes in.
Do this immediately after every interesting hallway or coffee machine discussion with your manager; that way you can deliver on those chats instead of just having them fade away (and then revisit the evidence of your bias for action come review time.)
Influence isn’t about you or your rising titles; helping other people is what grows your influence. From a panel about the Art & Science of Influence Management.
Great point that makes it less about the self and more about the team/company/project!
Line length in a slide should never be more than 13-15 words.
Enough said! :)
And for what it’s worth, some of the most engaging connections I had were from randomly putting myself out there. This was a scary tweet to post (and I actually only connected with people that I chatted up in person), but I consistently find it worth it to do stuff like this!
Grace Hopper Celebration was a fantastic experience. I learned so much and met so many fascinating people, and when you get in that conference groove mindset you really connect! There’s something about a female-centric space that’s so special and supportive in its energy–it’s something I realize now that I didn’t fully appreciate while I was attending Bryn Mawr for my undergraduate. But I get it now. (And it’s what we work to provide in App Camp for Girls.)
The highlight of the conference was probably the networking. Not because I felt the need to go out of my way and meet people, but because the person-to-person discussions I ended up having were often more profound and relevant than even the most helpful sessions. There’s something about connecting with people in a more intimate number (introvert alert!) that’s far more satisfying than a killer 1:many lecture.
I also have to laugh at how many times someone proclaimed that I was “PMing” something throughout the trip. Sometimes it was chaos in a busy bathroom with no toilet paper in one stall* or a clear meal plan during the lunch rush**. It reminds me why I really am a great hire for the role I’m in, and why I’m always a natural MC even if it exhausts me internally. I can just turn on the “get shit done” mode and, well, get shit done, even in a large group that’s a challenge to wrangle. A young new PM hire at Microsoft told me she aspires to PM things as effectively as I did at one lunch break, which I consider a great compliment!
On that note, It’s been gratifying to move into an era of my career when I can start to mentor other women in tech. I’m not sure when that transition happened, exactly, but I suddenly (?) feel like I’ve got this fountain of guidance that a) other, mostly younger women seek, and b) actually provides them real value. I don’t mean to devalue my own worth by seeming so surprised, but I guess I’ve felt for so many years that I myself was seeking answers, that it’s gratifying to notice when I now seem to be experienced enough to provide them in this context. Hooray for aging!
Ooh, that reminds me: let’s have some props!
Props to the gal who pushed back on a panelist who had claimed she was “dating herself” by saying how many years she’d been in an industry. The attendee at the Q&A mic said “please don’t feel like that’s something you ever need to apologize for; we’re all here because of your wisdom and experience!” Hell yes.
Props to the stamina of everyone who worked booth duty on that expo floor. That shit is exhausting.
Props to all the event staff, janitorial–that was a LOT y’all were dealing with.
Props to the men who were graceful about many of their bathrooms becoming gender-neutral bathrooms this week. That can be a jarring transition and I appreciate that you didn’t make a fuss. (We all know it’s rare for you to feel that particular type of marginalization, but I still have empathy for ya because again, we 15k women are a lot to deal with when you’re accustomed to being the most represented group!)
Props to the gal who knew I was craving one of those free ice cream bars and went and got me (and several others) one once we had secured our seats at a busy session! So thoughtful and sweet (har har not like that).
Props to all the interesting note-takers! I loved seeing how people visually and verbally represented the info we were drinking up all week.
Props to the bartenders. I hope enough people tipped really well to make it worth your massive efforts.
Props to Peggy for letting me store my luggage in her hotel room <3
Props to everyone who rolled with it when I roped them into impromptu networking, conversations, drinks, meals, Ubers, etc. Some great connections happened from my forced situational extroversion, but I know it can catch you off guard when a tall blonde lady yells at you to come fill this four-top or whatever. Thanks for rolling with the punches; I hope it enriched your conference experience as that was always the intention; I know it enriched mine.
Props again to Microsoft for sending me, as well as 800+ other women, and for sponsoring so many activities within the conference. I’m continually impressed, thrilled, and grateful to work for this kind of employer. (And this is my personal blog so I’m ignoring your style guide handling of the Oxford comma, haha. Take that!)
Props to the oxford comma ;)
A few non-props:
To the gal who mistook me for pregnant on the very first day: we both know that was kind of shitty. But I’ve put my foot in my mouth that very same way with other women, and it sucked and I felt terrible about it like forever. You probably still feel terrible about it, or did for a while. In case you have been carrying it around, it’s OK. I’m over it now. You have my permission to let it go, as long as you try to remember not to do it again, and I will too. :)
To the event staff we were all pushy and frustrated with at the Toyota Center: I’m sorry some of us were rude (myself included) in our moments of frustration. It’s not a fair excuse, but we were a horde of logic-driven beings being confronted by illogical constraints, which I realize you had no authority to escape. We shouldn’t have been rude even though it’s OK for us to be pushy/ask for what we need/question things that seem like they need questioning. There’s a line in how this sort of thing is done, and a lot of nuance around gendered behavior, but some of us were snappier than we probably needed to be and I felt and still feel bad. I know you were just doing your job. I’m sorry.
To the staff at so many hotels, restaurants, and bars near the conference: I got the feeling y’all weren’t quite prepared for the volume and intensity of GHC attendees this year. I really hope that changes in future years; it’s a killer opportunity to really bring it and show what the hospitality and service industries can do even in times of chaos, especially when you’re charging premium rates and doing great business. I strongly encourage you to bring on more staff during this conference if it’s held in Houston again so you aren’t stretched noticeably thin by the sudden influx of guests with needs and appetites. We’ll appreciate it, and we’ll all tip well especially when our generous employers are footing the bill.
To Donald Trump, you’re a terrible human and I get physical anxiety every time I see your face or hear you begin to talk because I’ve been conditioned to expect the fucking worst which you consistently deliver. The only way I was able to stomach your hateful bullshit during that last debate was to surround myself with powerful women and drink and eat candy and deride your constant misogyny and malevolence together. I look forward to your impending self-immolation. You are one of the rare humans who makes me truly wish harm upon another human because it’s clear you’ll eagerly cause harm to so many more if you’re given even a drop of power.
A closing note:
Are you wondering how you can capture this energy and be part of the wonder that is Grace Hopper? Here are some actionable steps!
If you’re a manager, support women who want to go to GHC, and work to get them sponsored to attend by your company. If that’s not possible, at least support them attending on their own and/or streaming the talks, and be supportive of their other commitments taking a backseat while they soak up the learning and empowerment.
If someone on your team comes back from GHC and surprises you with bolder questions or pushy seeming negotiations, roll with it. Don’t punish them or poke fun at them. Let them try out their newly learned skills, and respect them for it, and listen to what they have to say!
Consider attending yourself. We had over one thousand male allies in this year’s audience. It can be humbling and intimidating to suddenly become a minority if you’re a man in tech, but it’s a great firsthand experience at empathy and your eyes will be opened to a whole world you didn’t know about regarding the challenges women face in the workplace, the sheer number of amazing talented female technologists, and the many permutations of what an engineer (or PM, or designer, etc.) actually looks like. Or talks like. Or thinks like. You should totally come.
Get involved! Volunteer at a local nonprofit that helps get women into tech! Ask your local community what you can do to help more actively! Sponsor programs and students that are tied to diversity initiatives! Make connections with programs that can feed diverse talent into your organization! Make a commitment to working harder at improving your company’s diversity! Read other blog posts with other opinions about what you can do to help! The ideas and suggestions are out there if you make it a priority to find them.
Thanks for reading! <3
* Take the countertop Kleenex box and stick it in the stall that’s missing toilet paper.
** Scan OpenTable for nearby locations and your desired reservation time, accounting for travel time including conference congestion. Book a reservation (4-6 is the largest that will usually still allow you to find quick options) so you don’t end up slammed during the lunch rush with no food options for an hour. Claim your space using technology!
I’m on my way to Grace Hopper right now, which I’ve never been to before. My employer is actually paying to send me. Paying for my hotel and my flight (and the Wi-Fi which allows me to write this post) and paying me for the time I spend enriching myself here.
I’m so honored and privileged to work for a company that actually invests in me as an employee, that sees me as an asset, that wants to grow me so I can flourish for them. Maybe it’s a sign of not having found the right career direction before, or not being picky enough with my prior employers and positions, or me successfully escaping impostor syndrome or maximizing my networking, or me needing time to grow into the seasoned pro that is finally an obvious hire at a big tech company like Microsoft.* Whatever the cocktail of reasons is, I’ll take it!
I’ll get to connect with colleagues from App Camp for Girls, and from my current and past jobs. I’ll connect with fellow Bryn Mawr graduates who have pursued careers in tech. I’ll meet new people and compliment a thousand cute smartwatch bands and sensible but snappy pairs of shoes. I’ll take on loads of swag I don’t really need and regret it later, and give away fewer of my beautifully letterpressed business cards than I hoped because nobody wants to carry around more *stuff*. I’ll get buttons caught on my lanyard; I’ll snag my necklace with my badge; I’ll get blisters and sweat and my brain and heart and contacts will be completely full. I’ll lose literally every pen I bring including the one I swipe from the hotel. I’ll take notes in three different apps and only collate them on the plane home when I re-read Liz’s blog post and type up my own post-conference post.
I’ll chat freely, comfortable that this audience won’t judge uptalk or complain about the word “just” or dole out creepy-toned compliments or judge my bubbly effervescence as technical incompetence, because I’ll be surrounded by my peers who deal with that all the time, and by allies who know that sexism in tech is a problem and are determined to find a way to improve this culture.
I’ll learn about new technologies and ways of thinking. I’ll have “aha” moments when I realize something someone said makes me see the solution to a problem I didn’t know I was solving for, or makes me realize I’m asking the wrong questions to get the answers I need. I’ll write my first few lines of code since App Camp. I’ll have a deeper appreciation for the roles my colleagues perform, and I’ll brainstorm ways for us to work better together. I’ll learn to automate something I previously did manually. I’ll focus on eradicating some habit that’s been holding me back in my meetings or my slide decks. I’ll hit that “connect” button SO many times on LinkedIn. I’ll forget to change my Twitter display name back to its usual form for like a week. And I’ll have a freaking BLAST.
I love conferences! Eeeeee!
*Yes, I shamelessly put in the Careers section link. No, I’m not kidding. At least throw your hat in the ring; this place is amazing! :)
I know I’ve been posting videos galore lately, but all the links are coming to me at once! :) Here’s my run-through of the talk I eventually gave at AltConf, for the Seattle Xcoders Meetup.
Three things of note (at least to me):
I know this shirt didn’t read great on camera. I had to rush from work, it sucked. I won’t make this mistake again!
Also in the vanity field, though, I have no idea why this camera is SO unflattering! I feel like it widened me by like 30%, haha. Just watch the slides, OK?
It went over better than you can hear; we didn’t have the audience audio captured so it’s hard to tell when my jokes actually get laughs but I swear they do. However, I gained stage presence and improved and changed the talk A LOT for AltConf, so when I do eventually post that version you should watch it too or just trust that it’s better, haha.
When I spoke at AltConf back in June, Udacity asked to interview me and I was lucky enough to get paired with my pal Kate Rotondo as my interviewer. Hooray for networking! Hooray for connections! Hooray for women in tech! :)
You can read about the interview here, or just cut to watching the video below.
This was a ton of fun, and we covered a lot of different topics including App Camp for Girls. Thanks to Udacity and Kate for the opportunity!
I’m speaking at two upcoming events—I’d love it if you came!
First we have Donut.js, a casual gathering that is so very Portland. “A fun night of code and donuts” is the slogan, and your entry includes a donut, come on! I’ll be presenting on Tuesday, May 30th, talking about online dating (but more from a UX perspective than a dating advice perspective). Tickets are $10 atCup & Bar, I’d love it if you came to join us!
Then on June 15th at 1 PM, I’m speaking at AltConf in San Francisco. AltConf is a free conference that runs parallel to Apple’s WWDC; I’d be honored if you came to hear me, but the session will also be recorded if you miss it. This talk will be more about my transition from The Heartographer to working at Microsoft, why online dating is kind of a garbage fire these days, why I made the shift away from entrepreneurship, and partly about App Camp too. It’ll be a longer time slot and a much more robust discussion, plus I think you’ll find my slides funny. :)
My friends and acquaintances in the tech industry constantly impress me. It’s inspiring and humbling to know so many people who are determined to help change tech by making sure it’s a welcoming community for marginalized people.
My pals Doug, Jeff, and Ashley over at SoundOff are in Round Two of fundraising, this time for live captioning at UIKonf in Berlin in May. Live captioning for UIKonf is not only going to open up the conference to the deaf community and the hard of hearing, but will be indispensable for many of the attendees for whom English is not their first language. Like all conferences SoundOff works with, UIKonf features a strong Code of Conduct to set expectations for attendees, speakers, and sponsors.
Captioning for the two days of talks will cost $3,000. They’re nearly there now, but they need your (and my) support to meet their goal! Donate now to help SoundOff make UIKonf accessible to as many people as possible! I’m off to make my contribution now. If you’re one of those wonderful allies who’s always wondering how you personally can help make a difference in our broken industry, this is a great way to start!
Hey y’all! In case you missed the tweet, I worked my old Apple Watch band blog post into a piece for iMore this week. Enjoy! (Or rage-comment, if that’s your thing! I employed my good husband to filter the useful constructive criticism so I don’t have to read the parts that make me want to bury the entire internet under a little stone cairn in the backyard and never look back.) Cheers!
This picture makes me mad all over again every dang time I see it, heh. But hey, it prompted me to add the category “feminism” which I’ve apparently never done before. So thanks Apple, I guess? :)