Attending conferences, workshops gives you a pause in the middle of your work, helps you develop soft skills, make connections and listen to a variety of ideas that you would not have thought of – and get inspired ! Women Transforming Technology was founded by VMware and it is in it’s 3rd year. It strives to inspire, support, and connect women in all areas and levels of technology in Silicon Valley and beyond. This was my first time attending it, I got to learn loads, meet top leaders and get inspired. Thanks to the entire WT2 planning team for envisioning this event and executing it so well. Some of my learning and recollections below:
- ‘Do not let anyone tell you that you cannot do something’ ! – Laila Ali. On similar lines, Megan Smith quoted Grace Hopper ‘ Don’t let them tell you you are wrong if you are not.’
- Tell yourself – ‘It’s my story – I will write the ending‘ By Pattie Vargas. It is such a great way to get away from victim mentality and get your power back. It reminded me of Amy Purdy who lost both her legs to meningitis and she made a turnaround when she thought ‘If my life were a book, and I were the author, how would I want the story to go’.
- ‘The way to right wrong is to shine the light of truth upon it‘ – Megan Smith quoted Ida B Wells, one of the first data scientists from 1890s, who used data to call attention to lynching.
- ‘The further you look back, the further forward you will see ‘- Megan Smith quoted Winston Churchill.
Keynote Speech By Laila Ali – The fighter spirit
A very inspiring speach. Laila is an American former professional undefeated boxer and a daughter of Muhammad Ali. She narrated her story and unlike what most will assume, she got into boxing at a very late age when she found out that even girls can do boxing. Her father tried to talk her out of it. But no one tell Laila not to do something ! She said that you have to make what you are working on bigger than yourself. When she fought, she thought she is fighting social issues and her opponent had no idea ! She highlighted that even to date there are only 3 weight classes for women and 10 for men, tha HBO did not show women boxing till this year. She decided to quit boxing as she had achieved all that she could and there was no further scope. She got into something she is also passionate about. She said you realize it when you start doing something passionately without thinking about the money. She asked everyone to fire up your inner warrior and also do something you are not comfortable with.
Keynote Speech by Megan Smith gives hope and inspires to be part of the momentum:
An awesome awesome keynote speech ! We know that the news is filled with bad news, Megan Smith talk focussed on what is good in our society and gave everyone hope of what we are capable of doing and inspired everyone to be part of the momentum. She spoke about Unlocking the Collective Genius of Community, how people across the world are solving their problems. She gave umpteen examples of projects across the globe. You could see her passion for technology, and how she stayed back and connected with people on one to one basis. Some of the projects she sighted:
- Hokule’a – dream of reviving the legacy of exploration, courage, and ingenuity Hawaiʻi; sailing using old traditional methods.
- Alexa could figure out that there was domestic violence and asked if it should call 911.
- 2nd Grade Girls developed a Page turning Robot. When Obama met them and asked them how they did it, they said they brainstormed and prototyped !
- Plogging – Cleaning while Jogging
- Fighting bias in Algorithms – ajlunited.org
- Invent for tomorrow – Inventing tomorrow movie follows six young scientists as they tackle some of the most complex environmental issues facing humanity today – right in their own backyards.
- How Uber and Lyft can integrate with Restaurants to pickup and deliver food for the needy.
- The ground breaking work done by Grace Hopper, Ada B Wells, Ada Lovelace. Many of the historical innovators have already done what we are also doing now.
- We need to stop disappearing people’s history, the original photo of Apple had a women and a baby. Steve insisted that there was someone with a family in the team and insisted on him going back at 6 pm.
- We need to learn in context and make learning a lifelong pursuit.
- If we can include everyone, we can fix everything !
Navigating your career:
- Don’t accept the Narratives. Check if they match with what’s really going on. (Connie Guglielmo)
- Call for the elephant in the room. We need to speak about it, so that it can be addressed. (Bask Iyer)
- Navigating Politics for Impact a) Go for material impact b) Choose a teachable moment – there are times when people are willing to hear, use that timing c) Get buy-in from peers and seniors. (Barbara Adey).
- Fastrack your career using these – a) Identify your super power. You may think it is natural, but others may view it as your super power. Ask people. b) Build your brand – Update your LinkedIn Profile, Write blogs, Contribute to Open Source Projects, Volunteering Opportunities. Let people know what you stand for. 3) Investing in yourself – Build your leadership presence. 4) Finding a sponsor (much more important than mentors). 5) Practicing Mindful Leadership 6 Making sure you are heard – even when you are sitting up for someone. Sit for standing up. 7) Learning how to network. Find common grounds. (Rashim Mogha)
- How to change with the climate 1) Read the tea leaves 2) Start with a clean state. 3) Burn the boats 4) Rethink everything 5) Be Transparent. (Ashley Still – sharing lessons learned from Adobe’s successful transformation to the cloud)
Thoughts on Diversity, Inclusion, Inequality:
- Inclusion is not just appreciating others, it is realizing that the sum total is more than the individuals (Lori Nishiura Mackenzie)
- Shouldn’t we treat Diversity is the outcome ? The focus should be on ‘equity’ rather than ‘Inclusion’. Put your money where your mouth is (someone in audience)
- Rather than focussing on Women’s issues alone, how about focussing on everyone’s issue ? Connie Guglielmo said I was asked to lead a women’s group and I said “why would I want to lead that to talk about how disempowered we are? We already know that.” So we renamed it “This is Now” – and it’s about talking about issues that affect everyone. It means that everyone’s now is different, you may have challenges being a mother, father, single, senior, junior.
- Bias Exists – More for women in Color ! It was shocking to hear Caroline Hubbard’s story on how her boss at where she was interning told her that the reason she is not going an offer is because she is a minority !
- We need social reforms in order to see changes. A great initiatives by VMware for investing in New Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab at Stanford University. The government and the industry needs to diligently invest in this to bring about changes.
Some References mentioned:
- Puncturing the pipeline: Do technology companies alienate women in recruiting sessions?
- Book – Reach – Finding Strength, Spirit and Personal Power, a book by Laila Ali. A book on how she was already a fighter before she became a fighter.
- Movie – Imitation Game
- Movie – Inventing tomorrow
In addition to all of these, it was great to network with talented women with a zeal to learn and bring about a change !
As a closing note, Amber Boyle, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at VMware called everyone to take one action. There is a lots of inspirational stuff out there, but the reason we fail to make any changes is because we fail to take action. I am taking one now – writing about something I am passionate about!