I did a full wrap up post earlier this week, but realized when writing it that if I tried to include all the things I learned that blog post would’ve been a very long read. As it is, this post ended up super long too!
This is still just a fraction of the copious notes I took during all the sessions I went to, and for those that can’t make it to the event it will give you a good idea of what can be learned, discussed, suggested and imagined during the super packed days of SXSW interactive.
Trying to absorb all the information being shared at a SXSW event is a bit like trying to fill a water glass with a geyser.
This year, there were so many diversity and women-in-tech sessions and meet-ups scheduled that I was able to create 6 days of focusing solely on those topics and attending more sessions than I have in previous years.
The sheer number of diversity sessions scheduled, added to the fact that many of them were panels allowed for a lot of usually marginalized voices to have many options to speak.
I take a lot of notes during sessions and have found my iPad along with my Logitech keyboard have become invaluable to extending the usefulness of attending conferences. I try to look back through my event notes at least once or twice a year. Sometimes the advice or ideas don’t fully resonate until later, and then I’m glad I captured them in Evernote.
Super Women Anonymous: Cut Your Cape and Live! – Ber-Henda Williams
This two hour workshop/class was the first I attended and it set an uplifting tone. My favorite two suggestions she made were
- Take at least 90 minutes a week that is solely dedicated to YOU!
- Do a T chart – on one side write your wants, on the other side write what’s keeping you back (no matter how small or large)
These two ideas touch on concepts I believe are deeply important for personal growth; self care & self assessment. It’s so easy to get busy and prioritize everyone and everything else, so learning to see time to yourself as vital is a major self care move. Whether it’s to pursue a new hobby, read, go for walks or just sit quietly.
And taking the time to really think and write down your goals and desires is the only way you can achieve them.
Un-articulated goals are just wispy dreams. Write it down!
Diversity in Tech: Building Inclusive – Maxine Williams
“Rather than staying “blind” (color blind, gender blind) instead see the person for their whole self and see the fact that they are underrepresented as a strength” – Maxine Williams
“When all we ever talk about is how bad it is, minorities can feel like it will never get better. We need to talk about the way forward.” – Maxine Williams
If we want to make a product that connects the world we must assemble a team w/as many perspectives as possible – Maxine Williams @facebook
— aubrey bach (@aubreybach) March 11, 2016
How Shattering a Stereotype Will Save Tech – Cedric Brown, Robin Hauser Reynolds, Blake Irving, Jane Margolis
“If we can get past the idea of what makes an ideal man or an ideal woman & start considering what makes the ideal human or person” – Cedric Brown
— Kali Williams (@Kali_Williams_) March 12, 2016
“I used to think the show Silicon Valley was a parody then I realized it’s just a show that perpetuates stereotypes.” – Robin H Reynolds
Intelligence is treated like it’s a fixed or innate characteristic instead of something that can be learned
Recommended Reading Why doesn’t Silicon Valley Hire Black Coders
“Are there possibilities in other growing tech communities (not just Silicon Valley) who are benefiting from all these conversations and can build these communities based on how diversity creates champions.” – Cedric Brown
“I’m getting more and more impatient, we’ve been having these conversations for a long time, when is there going to be a change?” – Jane Margolis
“It’s critical mass that helps to change culture, not one by one, but we need a bold action to bring in groups of women & POC at a time.” – Jane Margolis
“It’s not to say a group of solely men can be successful (obviously) but how much MORE successful would they be if they were more diverse.” – Robin Hauser Reynolds
“The most important thing we can give our daughters is confidence. Let them know that they CAN do this. Letting POC know that they CAN do this even if they don’t see others like themselves.” – Robin Hauser Reynolds
Austin Women In Tech Social hosted by Chick Tech Austin
This was a sponsored meetup with lots of food and yummy ice cream & chatting with people.
Next year I want to get more creative in my networking, because even though it’s a nice little elevator pitch experience, it doesn’t necessarily spur the kind of connections that are possible at SXSW.
The meetup itself was great, all the sponsors were on target and super friendly and all the delicious goodies were helpful since I hadn’t had lunch that day. It’s easy to miss food with so much going on!
Why Diversity Can’t Be Built in a Day – Dominique DeGuzman, Joelle Emerson, Abby Maldonado, Rachel Williams
When faced with the statement “I don’t want to lower the bar in order to increase diversity, Joelle Emerson responds…
“It’s really RAISING the bar to seek out diversity”
— Laura Weidman Powers (@laurawp) March 12, 2016
“If you’re hiring through referrals and you don’t have diversity already, you’re going to get the same types of people.” – Joelle Emerson
“Inclusive leadership is empathy leadership.” – Rachel Williams
“Building diversity and inclusion into our organizations is going to make us all stronger. It’s not just going to affect people from marginalized backgrounds. Companies as a whole will be stronger.” – Abby Maldonado
— Kent Brewster (@kentbrew) March 12, 2016
Lesbians Who Tech (and Friends) Meet Up – with founder Leanne Pittsford
This awesome meetup originated in the Bay Area and has since grown to 21 cities (plus the one I attended as part of the SXSW programming.) Unsurprisingly it was a very fun group of women & I had a few enjoyable & thoughtful conversations, with a large group of us staying in the hallway to continue to discussions after the official group had to move out of the room for another meetup.
Elephant in the Valley – Michele Madansky, Megan Smith, Trae Vassallo, Laura Weidman Powers
Megan Smith has such a powerful and intelligent voice, I always enjoy seeing her speak. Listening to the two women who created the Elephant In The Valley survey was also enlightening. I was too busy being enraptured with the discussion to take notes during this session, so here’s some of my favorite tweets instead!
— FEM Inc. (@FEMInc) March 13, 2016
— Kali Williams (@Kali_Williams_) March 13, 2016
— karinbauer (@karinbauer) March 13, 2016
— Chloe Depiesse (@chloedepiesse) March 13, 2016
How to Ask for Money: Know Your Worth, Get Paid – Kimberly Bryant, Leah Chernikoff, Jane Park, Danae Ringelmann
“The most important thing when it comes to asking for a raise is focusing on your contribution.” – Jane Park
— Kali Williams (@Kali_Williams_) March 14, 2016
“The ninjas and the rock stars are also the ones always saying they’re “killing it” – it’s amazing anything is still alive in Silicon Valley.” – Jane Park
“If you think you’re “fully baked” it’s tough to receive feedback. If you believe that you’re always learning then there’s more opportunities to grow.” – Jane Park
— Kali Williams (@Kali_Williams_) March 14, 2016
Ignite SXSW: Behind the Curtain
I’ve been hearing about Ignite events for ages and had quite a few friends suggest I find one to speak at, but this was my first in-person exposure. Now I’m a fan! The format is super dynamic, each speaker gets 5 minutes with 20 slides (15 seconds a slide, which auto-forward to keep things moving) so it’s great for a quick, impactful message to be shared.
My favorites were Yiying Lu (who created the original Twitter #FailWhale) and Michelle Lam, founder of True & Co, a company addressing the horrible, outdated design of bra’s (which is something that is much needed!)
— Elisa Jo Harkness (@Eliservescent) March 14, 2016
Women Entrepreneur Meet Up & Mingle – Tania Haigh
The downside of the meetups is that there’s just never enough time to meet many people. You have to choose to either have lengthier chats with a few people or just bounce around without much connection collecting biz cards. I chose the lengthier chat and met a couple of innovative women from the UK offering training in response to social media attacks, something more and more companies are having to deal with as consumers have learned the power of viral complaints. Fascinating stuff!
What Works: Gender Equality by Design – Iris Bohnet
Gender bias is also a huge topic right now, as companies are coming face to face with the realities of implementing gender & diversity hires. One of the most quoted studies about gender bias has screens being used during auditions for an orchestra, which resulted in a 50% increase in women being hired.
Recommended Reading – How blind auditions help orchestras to eliminate gender bias
Don’t do panel interviews, because the panelists won’t be able to come up with independent assessment.
On SAT women are more likely to skip questions or not guess due to lack of confidence and being risk averse (not wanting to risk losing points for wrong answers they guessed on.)
— Akavit (@akavit) March 15, 2016
Diversity improves the outcome, but doesn’t necessarily make the job more fun, because diverse perspectives create tension, each person having to ‘fight’ for what they think is best. This is what makes better products/services, but is hard on the personnel.
— Women&PublicPolicy (@wapppHKS) March 15, 2016
Why Happiness is Hard and How to Make It Easier – Andy Puddicombe
The event closed for me with this keynote by Andy Puddicombe, a former monk who founded HeadSpace, a company that extols the benefits of meditation while working to make it accessible to people wanting to incorporate mediation into their lives. He certainly had some very smart things to say…
— Kali Williams (@Kali_Williams_) March 15, 2016
— Daniele Fiandaca (@yellif) March 15, 2016
…but I most appreciated when he guided a room full of passionate, often work-obsessed attendees to sit in silence for 10 minutes and turn inward. Which illustrated the most important take-away from SXSW of all…
Listen to the experts. Learn from every source you can. Be open to opportunity.
But most of all, learn and be open to what’s inside of YOU.