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Wild, Wonderful and WITI October 4, 2011

Posted by dreanotes in Personal, Work-Related.
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I’m having an amazing experience.

I’m at the WITI (Women in Technology International) “Women Powering Technology Summit” this week in San Jose, CA.  It’s a multi-day conference that provides multiple forums (panels, discussions, lectures) by women in the technology industry and is a way to hear about the amazing stories and successes women in technology have.  This is my first year being here and as I mentioned in my intro line, I’m amazed.

It’s not just that there are approximately 300 women leaders from around the world here. It’s not just that all of us are geeks in our right. It’s not even that the experiences and information shared here includes information about our challenges and experiences as women.

Is it the connections, the comraderie, the sharing of information? Is it about our collective experiences as humans? Just what about this conferences is really hitting home?

I know I can’t cover it all in one post, yet I feel an intrinsic need to blog about this experience.  I hope I’ll do multiple posts while I’m here, but for now, let me tell you a little bit about what I’ve learned so far and what I’ve experienced and maybe we can go from there.

Women Young and Old

The conference started Sunday afternoon with a viewing of LeeAnn Erickson’s latest documentary, “Top Secret Rosies, The Female Computers of WWII“, an amazing story of women who were called to action during WWII for a different purpose and who were the human calculators responsible for solving the differential equations of ballistics and missile trajectories that helped to win the war.

These women would become the first computer programmers EVER and yet they were women who were all but written out of history and not included in the “Rosies” acknowledgments of the time.  Their tale is amazing and sad at the same time and absolutely made me rethink all I knew about women’s role in early technology and America’s acceptance of it.  I heard information that has changed WWII history for me and I can only hope that everyone learns of their important role.

The second speaker from yesterday was Marissa Mayer, VP of product management and engineering at Google.  Rather than talk about her experiences as Google’s 20th employee and how she made it to where she is, she focused on Google as a company and how they work.  Interesting stuff, but I wanted to know..did she accomplish all this while married?  with a kid? with a life? (I’m inferring that the answer to all those is no) I was also interested to find out that while Google’s atmosphere is definitely more open and innovative than many fortune-x companies out there, they really aren’t all that different either. They use similar rating systems for employees, force curves on performance, have metrics for objectives and generally are more “corporate” than they think. Perhaps the grass is not so much greener on the “other side”!  😉

Don’t get me wrong though – her story is certainly inspirational and I enjoyed her speech. She’s accomplished so much in such a short period of time and most certainly goes after what she believes in. She’s dynamic and focused and certainly a role model for what can happen when you set your mind to something and invest in it wholeheartedly.  Having said that, I didn’t get much out of it that was relevant to me.

You’re Never Alone

All in all, I met some amazing women last night during the sessions and the cocktail reception afterward. We were all challenged by Carolyn Leighton, WITI’s founder and CEO to introduce ourselves to anyone and not leave any woman standing alone and I took her words to heart. I introduced myself to many women, listened to their words and shared my own information and experiences. I learned a lot, felt a lot and generally found myself lucky to be able to join these amazing women for a few short days.

Monday – well – Monday I found even more.  But..that may have to wait until later.