I attended my first (but not my last) She’s Geeky unconference this weekend, there are so many women focused events in the Bay Area I’ve been trying to make it to more of them. I didn’t used to be a fan of the unconference model, but it’s won me over. The opportunity to host group discussions (where anyone can pose a question to discuss, or facilitate a more guided conversation) along side more traditional presentations (with an expert at the front of the room) all mixed up with networking makes it a unique style of event.

The first discussion I joined was about launching a podcast. Since this is on my major goal list to achieve this year, I’m on a quest for as much helpful info on the topic as possible. It ended up being a small group & so a very personalized chat. That’s the thing about unconferences, one of the 4 major principles is that whoever shows up are the right people. We talked about the technology of podcasts a bit but mostly discussed our ideas for ‘themes’ and who would be our target audiences.

Next was a group discussion I facilitated called “Speaking Up at Work – Battling the Bitch Stigma” and once again the topic brought together an interesting mix of women all struggling with the sexist perception of assertive women. It’s an issue for women in nearly every industry, at every possible point of a career. We shared success stories as well as frustrations, every time I have this conversation with women it inspires me to keep making space to talk about it.

Even though I got to the next session a bit late, it thankfully had the talented One Squiggly Line doing visual notes of the discussion. Titled “How Do Others See You?” & presented by Ching Valdezco, it was my favorite of the day other than the Bitch Stigma discussion. Ching is generous with her know-how and we ended up in many of the same groups through-out the day.

One of the best things about getting out to these kinds of events is the chance to meet all kinds of extraordinary women who are kicking-ass and who share their expertise in honor of the sentiment expressed by Madeleine Albright:

“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

The “Womyn of Color & Allies” group was super interesting. The discussion of racism is a tough one, but understanding privilege as well as listening and respecting often marginalized voices is deeply critical, particularly at this point in history. As a person that is privileged in many ways, I believe it’s important to have these conversations, and to always remember that “being an ally” is a continuous process of learning, listening and doing what I can to help move our society forward.

After having a chat with the fabulous event co-coordinators, I ducked into the last session of the day a bit late, but with plenty of time to listen in. A round-table discussion about ‘Negotiating & Interviews’ had women experienced in HR sharing tips & strategies. Being self-employed for the majority of my life means I haven’t had to do many interviews, but any time you have to ‘think on your feet’ would benefit from the advice I chimed in with.

Take an improv class at your local continuing education venue to give you an edge anytime you’ll need to ‘think fast on your feet.’ The creativity & need for swift adaptability will teach your brain new ways to work that can be an asset during interviews, negotiations, investor pitches and many other kinds of interactions both professional and personal.

At the end of the day, the two founders Kas and Kaliya announced that Kas will be stepping down as one of the directors of She’s Geeky. They’ve impressively expanded it to multiple cities around the US since launching the event in 2007. To help the event keep happening, they’re looking for volunteers in the Bay Area and else where. Contact them if you’d like to get involved, I know I will be!