Being in a big room with other female technologists gave me a feeling of belonging and in a way, safety. I felt like I was surrounded by “my people” and I had a posse of compadres that “get” me and my experiences. (Writers are also my peeps, but there’s no one conference for women-computer-scientists-who-are-also-writers… yet.)
One of the day’s highlights (there were many) was getting introduced to the Python programming language by my friend and neighbor Dana Bauer, a cartographer who uses Python in her data-map-making consultancy. Plugging my way through the CodeAcademy lessons in Python, I noticed CodeAcademy is touchy; I use my Terminal window on my MacbookPro to make sure my code would work in a less-strict environment. My 1st impression of Python: It + looks + like + this + with + lots + of + spaces. Spaces? In programming languages? Not sure how I feel about that right now. We’ll see if my brain can pull away from the cold, hard efficiency of the Unix command line and adapt to the almost-font-centered/writerly environment of Python.
The LadyHackathon of several weeks ago had many of the same faces I saw at WITS13, but there were also quite a few new faces I haven’t encountered at any Philly tech events. Word-of-mouth goodness about this WITS conference will spread and it will need a larger space next year. Wharton hosted last year but the organizers ran into a snafu there and pushed it over to Philadelphia University. The DEC building at PhilaU was lovely. New and tech oriented. But the classrooms were small and some last-minute rearranging had to occur. Many of the rooms were packed to standing-room only capacity.
One of the great subtleties about the WITS13 was that almost 100% of the speakers were women. There was one or two incidents of male speakers, but women instructors held the majority. The panel at the end of the day was probably the most informative panel I’ve ever been lucky enough to attend. The panel, moderated by tech powerhouse Sue Grinius-Hill, COO of ApprenNet, LLC, included these fantastic business leaders:
- Tracey Welson-Rossman, Founder of Techgirlz and Chief Marketing Officer at WITS13 sponsor Chariot Solutions
- Yasmine Mustafa, Leader at GirlDevelopIt Philly and Product Marketing Manager at Netline Corporation
- Rosemary Fulton, President of Network of Women in Computer Technology and IT Manager at Aramark
- Kristen Lamoreaux, Founder SIM Women (Society for Information Management vertical for women), and President, Lamoreaux Search, LLC
- Nicole Kline, Founder, Girl Geek Dinners Philadelphia, and Senior Editor at Warp Zoned
These women talked frankly about everything from finding mentors to job hopping to “leaning in” and coming to terms with the knowledge that we all knew enough technology to apply for the web dev jobs we see piling up. It made me realize that we don’t put enough stock in our ability to learn and learn quickly. The ability to adapt, synthesize. and apply new knowledge is truly what will get you a web development or any job in tech today. Men seem, on average, to have no issue applying for jobs that have requirements outside their current skillset. They tend to just show up and say, “Yeah, but I’ll learn it. No problem.” We tend to want to learn everything first, become an expert, then apply. We’re getting the order all wrong. We’ve learned enough to get by. Get a job first. Learn everything. Become an expert. Move on and up to the next job.
At the end of the session, the panel took questions. Jessica Ivins, a senior User Experience/Design Specialist at AWeber Communications, Inc., a WITS13 instructor and general Philly area UX promoter extraordinaire, stood up to address the audience. She encourage the women in the room to get into public speaking. Her own path to becoming the speaker she is today was at first met with reluctance, but now she is traveling to speak all over the country and outside the US’s borders. Public speaking, Ivins says, gets women “out there” and helps us to be seen as tech leaders. She said if she can learn to get up in front of an audience, we all can too.
This event was part of Philly Tech Week, which is going on now. Check out the schedule and come to at least one of the 80+ events. Philly has a vibrant tech/start-up/arts community and you should really get to know us.
Next event I’m definitely hitting up: BarCampNewsInnovation + Content Camp. See you there!