Saturday, November 07, 2015

Coder[xx] - a resounding splash in a rather still and brackish pond...

It's been about two weeks since the inaugural CodeChix hyper-technical conference (Coder[xx]).  And I'm still recovering from it.  To all the nay-sayers (both companies and individuals) who thought this is something that is not needed given the plethora of existing (mostly male) conferences - take a look, learn and rethink.  The data is very clear that this is an absolute need and so is the enthusiasm and response.

What an absolute pleasure to see such a huge demand from women engineers in industry (and a few students from SoCal and Sonoma) all over the bay area as well as some global travelers who happened to be in the bay area and joined us.   We were sold out and pulled off a conference full of technical content spanning programming languages, tools, technologies, maker-ism and a panel session on how to get ahead which was packed and electric.  All in 6 weeks.  With no prior experience in this sort of thing.  With almost no funding.

I set the tone of the conference in the beginning by welcoming everyone to a safe space, one that is open to women and all who identify as women (of which there were several attendees) and the supportive men who were there to help us succeed and to share their knowledge with us.  And that we were all there to learn, share and learn about each other and what we work on.

I also made myself abundantly clear on my take on recruiting at the conference - not allowed in any way, shape or form.  Including a promise of immediate, impolite and very firm ousting should I see this happen or hear of it happening.

It was, I thought, exactly the right size at almost a 100 headcount for what I had envisioned and made it easier for everyone to have a chance to actually meet/chat with a number of new people and establish connections.

Mary Lou Jepsen's keynote was absolutely fantastic and everyone who was able to find standing space (yes, we only had one large room so people had to stand) was inspired and she was mobbed for several hours afterwards answering questions and responding to a crowd of eager women surrounding her until I rescued her :).

The panel discussion on growing in your career took an absolutely candid look at the state of things as they stand from different perspectives (industry, some academia and freelancing) and hearing from an interested and engaged audience that started participating within the first 5 minutes or so.
No recording or social media allowed - this was a safe space panel and I wanted to have everyone speak freely with no chance of retaliation of any sort.  At least, that was my hope.

I couldn't have done it without the fantastic volunteers - both the core, dedicated team who helped with getting the conference organized and presented in 6 weeks to the day volunteers who stepped up to handle any minor hiccups and were there when we needed them !

Our surveys show an overwhelmingly positive response to our hyper-technical conference and we have already been bombarded with questions about when the next one will be.

Some of the survey comments:

" I think the conference was amazing! Hats off to the panel discussion!"

"i am so glad i decided to go to this event, although i didn't get to meet anyone new (introvert thing), i walked out feeling so humbled, and yet so inspired! both the codechix team and all the speakers are just amazing! a big thank you! i am looking forward to coder[xx] 2016 already!"

"Good talks and qualified, dedicated and passionate speakers, strong keynote Candid discussions, open career advice Good turnout for Sunday and possibilities of networking within engineers Helpful and dedicated organizers and volunteers Professional demeanor of speakers ,attendees , organizers and volunteers Overall very smoothly run conference- no major confusion or hoopla"

At present, we're trying to get all the videos wrapped up and posted on our CodeChix YouTube channel...

Stay tuned for 2016 events and the next hyper-technical conference from CodeChix - we've set the trailhead and cleared some of the route for others to follow...

For the first time running a conference (the first of it's kind),  the feedback is clear - women engineers need this, want this, will flock to it and this could be the catalyst for much-needed change.

The question remains - will the companies, who are mired in their introverted, ethnocentric outlook and bottom-lines, look up from their myopic viewpoints and see this?  And, will they support it?

We'll see how this plays out over time...