I was invited to speak on a panel for women in tech at Chic Geek's Geeky Summit conference. I got to sit with two other amazingly talented and accomplished women. Some of the topics I addressed included advising women to speak up at meetings and contribute bravely. I also talked about promoting yourself, and not holding back on your accomplishments. I also mentioned the importance of finding an amazing and diverse team to work with.
Geeky Summit was the first women-focused tech conference to take place in Alberta. There was lots of great conversation around being brave as a woman, a feature not generally associated with femininity. Chic Geek promotes three values:
- Be brave
- Stay curious
- Support others
The conference featured a lot of great women talking about being brave, encouraging attendees to stay curious and to seek mentorship to grow. Geeky Summit also talked about supporting others, especially other women, and especially in male-dominated fields.
Claim your space
One of the things I talked about at the panel was about making a space for yourself as a woman. Unlike on a panel, there is no taking turns in real-world meetings, and no one will grant you the time and space to speak—you need to claim that space for yourself. In male-dominated fields, the opinions of women can sometimes be dismissed and disregarded, where comparatively the opinions of men can sometimes be looked at more seriously. This is not the case at every workplace or on every team, but it does occur. These negative experiences can sometimes discourage women from contributing at meetings. You have something valuable to contribute—don't wait for a pause. Opportunities do not happen for us, we need to claim them for ourselves.
You need to be your own hero, your best advocate, and you need to toot that horn! As women we tend to be modest and downplay our accomplishments out of fear of sounding cocky. We are very self-aware beings, which is great, but it can lead to us downplaying our achievements. Don't hold back, don't be modest. Talk about everything you do. Choose projects that you will be proud to show off, otherwise don't bother working on them. Share everything you do in a portfolio, on Github, and on social media. Some things may not seem like much to you, but people will be impressed! We are often our own worst critic, which can hold us back from promoting ourselves. Be brave and support yourself.
Find a great, diverse team
Surround yourself with a team of amazingly smart and diverse individuals you can share knowledge with. Whether this is at work, or on a side project, it's important to surround yourself with a diverse group of people. Even though Geeky Summit was about being a woman in tech, there's more to diversity than being a woman. Working with people of all genders, ethnicities, cultures, and religions is important and valuable, to develop yourself professionally but also personally as an individual. People who are self-taught think differently than those that studied computer science or engineering. People that have worked at startups think differently than those that have worked at large corporations with a lot of red tape. Young individuals see the world differently than those who started in the tech industry 10 to 20 years ago. And imagine the intersectionality of all those diversities and how they multiply a person's experiences. A team that can think in a number of different ways can apply that much more experience to a problem, and come up with solutions from all angles. Sometimes it's easy to think when we're in a room with a bunch of smart people that we don't have much to offer, but that's not true! Your experiences are valuable, and you've done things others haven't done.
Speaking on the panel at Geeky Summit was a great experience, and I look forward to many more experiences like this in the future. Check out what you missed at Geeky Summit on Twitter. I am available for speaking at tech conferences about web and application development. Contact me if you're interested in having me speak at your conference.