Held at the Google Chicago office, the Women Techmakers 2016 event in Chicago on April 9, 2016 was incredible.

Time: 10am-5:30pm

Event hashtag: #WTM16

The awesome:

  • Seeing old friends.
  • Meeting new people.
  • The speaker lineup. Not only were the people top notch but the speeches given were spot on.
  • The food. Lunch in particular was sooooooooo good.
  • Swag that is functional and will last. Women Techmakers Chicago 2016 Swag
  • The Progressive Web App (PWA) Code Lab. I didn’t know what PWAs were, how to make one, or that Firebase offers a free development hosting option.

The needs improvement: 

  • I counted 90 women participants in the afternoon speaker session. 90 might seem like a lot, especially for a woman in tech event, but most people I know didn’t even know about the event. While as an organizer I understand event constraints very well, I was sad there weren’t more people there.
  • The Progressive Web App (PWA) Code Lab. At first I was like: this was written for women/this is so accessible, then I was like this is glossing over so much, then I was like I can’t tell if the audience is beginners or advanced people. It felt like a weird amalgamation of making it too easy and assuming people know nothing and making it too hard and assuming people know everything. I filed a github issue about the most obvious, concrete thing I noticed but that’s just one note.

The advice from the speakers and in the audience share out:

  • Do no evil. Do KNOW evil. – @laparisa
  • Things you do and discover that you hate are good learning experiences on what to avoid in the future.
  • Five year plans (or long term plans) are good for some, but they make others anxious.
  • If you find yourself getting too comfortable, challenge yourself.
  • Always be meeting new people. Find the good ones and keep them around.
  • Breaking can be fun.
  • You have to invest time in order to get better.
  • There will always be new things to learn and learning new things will always lead to insecurity. Optimize for learning not success. Learn from failure.
  • Seek out good council.
  • Ask for mentorship. The worst they can do is say no and that’s not that bad.
  • Put yourself out there.
  • Use every possible tool you have available to you.
  • Knowledge sharing is the most powerful way of learning.
  • How to avoid burn out:
    • remember your core belief system
    • find something else to create that isn’t technical
    • remember to take care of yourself
    • #just-say-no
    • No guilt for should or could.
    • First, take care of yourself. Prioritize yourself.
    • JOMO – Joy of Missing Out
    • Take time each day for your mental health.
    • Get a dog. The responsibility of taking care of it makes you leave work.
    • Don’t email/contact work colleagues on the weekend.
    • Find your own definition of balance.
  • Make education work for you. The alternative paths are great.
  • “Exposure is the world’s greatest professor.”
  • What single word defines your attitude towards your career?
    • Share
    • Grow
    • Evolve
    • Vision
    • Joy

Challenges that came up (either from speakers and panelists or in individual conversations):

  • Figuring out what’s next? How to navigate the industry.
  • Getting affirmation/encouragement. (i.e. “Yeah, you should do it.)
  • Family and friends don’t understand technology and/or entrepreneurship.
  • Impostor Syndrome
  • Not having a prepared, understood path. The need to think for yourself and be creative and confident.
  • Answering: Is this the investment in people that I want to make?
  • Not giving up on your vision. Persistence.
  • Advocating for yourself.
  • Finding groups of peers. Finding people with more experience than you.
  • Avoiding Burnout.
  • A Ph.D. advisor on maternity leave and then sabbatical while the student is trying to graduate.
  • Having to communicate the same thing to lots and lots of people all asking at different times.

The theme I noticed:

Women will admit what they don’t know or didn’t know at the time they started. Even senior and supremely accomplished women admin what they don’t know. This is something men don’t do. It’s amazing. It’s powerful. I made sure to remark on it in the share out lessons from the audience at the end of the event.

  • “I don’t know why, but it is.” – @laparisa on the abbreviation of Cross Site Scripting to XSS.
  • “[I didn’t know how, but I did it anyway. And was successful.]”

I’m looking forward to next year!

Reflection on Women Techmakers 2016 Chicago event
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