Connecting Women in Technology 2009

The chatter is deafening… I’m in the company of about 300 women (and maybe 3 men) who work in technology and we’re connecting. Someone alluded it to walking into a ‘tsunami of women’ and they were spot on!

Today is International Women’s Day and it’s very apt that I’m at Connecting Women in Technology 2009, participating in a light-hearted speed networking competition in the extended tea-break and meeting lots of women who work in technology in various roles. I’m the only BBC person here and yes I’m the only one wearing a geek t-shirt and I can’t help noting only a couple of us are dressed casually ie not in smart attire – so somewhat different to my usual experience of tech events. The event, hosted at Microsoft today, is a meet up of a partnership representing the women of 7 top tech companies: Microsoft, Google, Intel, Nortel, IBM, Cisco and Dell. Everyone has a clutch of dots, each company has their own colour so there’s much smiling and swapping going on as ladies attempt to get as many as poss and at least one from every company. After the exercise there are a clutch of ladies who stand up when we’re asked who got all 7 company dots and the two ladies who had collected the most dots had over 20 each and receive a big round of applause.

This event is all about “aiming to retain, inspire and empower women and grow their contribution in IT by developing a community and Network”. There’s lots of talk about career development and tips. I giggled at a cartoon shown by one of the speakers that related to how you can ruin your career with Facebook – I guess I’m not as corporate as some, but it’s a reminder to be careful about what you say which is obvious, but I guess sometimes it might be worth considering after a night out or a particuarly frustrating day 😉

I’m presently listening to a Q&A panel and the questions are interesting, they’re centered around networking and some of the more interesting thoughts concern how women and men network differently – there’s lots of varied thoughts and I feel a bit sorry for the two guys on the panel who are definately treading carefully 😉

At the centre of today’s proceedings is the lovely Eileen Brown, IT Evangalism Lead at Microsoft. Eileen set up Connecting Women in Technology, she’s a master at the art of networking and also a proper geek – she grew up tinkering and wanted a career at sea, so became a systems engineer on oil tankers.

Today I’ve met interesting women who I wouldn’t usually meet which is great, especially meeting women who work in other areas of technology who aren’t on the sharp end of developing – in fact I’ve only met one female developer today and it was genuinely interesting to share what systems and coding languages we used in our work and particular companies.

I really enjoyed the speed networking, the competition element was a cool way of getting people to get over their shyness or social ettiquette worries and barge right into a conversation and say hello – think I’m going to tweak & reuse this idea at the next BarCamp or BeeBCamp I attend 🙂

The takeaway thought for today is to be confident and genuine with your networking foo and don’t do it for the sake of ticking boxes!