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Tech Conferences - why bother?

Feb 15 · 8 min read

 IT is a man’s world, but IT wouldn’t be nothing without a woman or a girl… Perhaps this is what James Brown would’ve said if he was still alive and working in the tech field. 

The Hidden Figures of the Tech Industry

In a male-dominated history, the full potential of women was not only belittled but also conveniently hidden from the common view. God bless the producers of “The Hidden Figures” for reminding us that the first “computer” and the first programmers were actually women.

We bet many could have been knocked down with a feather after hearing about the Women of ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer). Basically, they were the Coding Eves. The ones who gave in to the temptation of biting the wrong apple overturning the stereotypes about men having more abilities to carry the weight of formulas, numbers, and codes on their shoulders.

”There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women” — Madeleine Albright

And here we are in 2018, still dealing with gender inequality and boys’ clubs around most of the tech industries. This is where communities like Women in Tech enter the stage playing their role by the book. As part of this global movement, Women in Tech Cluj organize monthly meetups during which they discuss trending topics in Cluj, the so-called Silicon Valley of Transylvania.

“Our purpose is to make women’s work known, share our stories on how we keep up and spread opportunities to grow. “ - Women in Tech Cluj

To bother, or not to bother: this is the question

With a lot of tech events coming up this fall, this September’s meetup was a “get in shape” event for the following ‘tech conferences’ season. The question we wanted to answer was simple: Why should we bother about tech conferences? Are you asking yourself why was this so important to discuss? Well, numbers are showing that the female/male presence gap at some of the local tech conferences is almost as wide as the sky. Stats show that only 20% of all attendees at Codiax were women, amongst all attendees at Techsylvania 32% were females and 12–15% at JSHeroes.

More and more, both men and women in the tech community want to hear a female perspective. After all, introducing diverse viewpoints into any conversation adds a depth that helps us better understand and resolve the problems we all face. Still, when it comes to women speakers, locally, things tend to vary from event to event with 27% female speakers at JSHeroes and only 13% at Techsylvania, the gap between male and female speakers remaining an issue that’s worth our attention. Although the number of female presenters has been increasing year-over-year and the inclusion efforts are also on the rise, finding accomplished female entrepreneurs, authors, and tech professionals that are willing to step forward as speakers is not an easy job. Our thoughts? Dear Houston, we definitely have a problem, or maybe two if we are to be more realistic:

1. The gap between females and male attending tech conferences

2. The gap between female and male speakers at tech conferences

With this in mind, the event organizers, Oana Șipoș, Georgina Lupu Florian and Melania Moldovan, the Women in Tech founders, invited everybody to a panel discussion with three members from the community which portrayed the attendee, the volunteer, and the speaker at a conference. Cristina Dănulețiu, Scrum Master and Product Owner at Wolfpack Digital, was invited to share her experience as a participant, while Eliza Nițoi, React Native Developer at Evozon, brought to light the importance of volunteering and taking part in the process of organizing a conference. The topic about how crucial it is to become a speaker was successfully attacked with wittiness and wisdom by Ioana Chiorean, Community and Q&A Lead at Softvision.

This way, they covered up all aspects and guests had at least someone to empathize with and learn about the importance of networking, public speaking, career advancement and broadening your horizons through showing up at conferences.

Each participant/attendee opened up about the real challenges they face as #womenintech and came up with additional comments and questions which made the gathering very interactive, with plenty of giggles, laughs and a great bunch of women sharing empowering stories.

How do we choose the right tech events to attend?

We can all agree that in the tech field, whether we love being on a constant learning curve or not, we have to always be at the forefront of technology, or we end up falling behind. Of course, there are many ways to keep up with all the changes in the tech community. Reading blogs, stalking your tech idol on social media or simply reading a great book can easily become a go-to solution on a rainy evening. The questions come, should we really attend tech conferences, taking into consideration all the alternatives and how do we choose the right tech events to attend?

Quick tip, don’t Google what “the best tech Conferences” are.

Why? Simply because if you don’t know anything about Ruby on Rails or you simply don’t have any interest in Ruby on Rails, it would not be beneficial nor fun for you to attend a Ruby on Rails Meetup. Whether you should or not attend a tech event should be a decision based on the outcome you want to get out of it. Don’t just attend tech conferences. Set a clear mission and go there with the intent of accomplishing something, whether it is about meeting new people in the field, networking with one of your favorite speakers or boosting some skill sets.

So, tech conferences, should I bother? The answer is:  it depends on your goal. It ’s a hell of a hard job to network from your couch and being amongst people that share the same interests as you, might very well energize you for the next following weeks.

Not only that we found out how to choose the conferences we want to attend, what are the perks of all volunteering, speaking or simply attending a conference, but also whether they help us to advance in our careers or not.

Talk the talk and walk the walk: getting to conferences and becoming a speaker

Getting back to our aim of seeing more female speakers on the tech conferences stage, the question that pops up is, how do you actually embark on the journey to becoming a good elocutionist? First steps to becoming a speaker are going to make you feel like you are walking through hell on high-heels with an ice-cream in one hand and the microphone in another. It may be messy, frightening, but, oh, so rewarding in the end. Practice it! Reach out and become part of different local communities. Start by speaking in front of smaller crowds, try the lightning talks as a simulation and when you feel like you’ve mastered it and you found your voice, go make yourself known and apply for the conference’s open calls. It’s all about starting small and gaining confidence along the way.

If you’re one of the ones thinking you’d jump on being a speaker right away but lack the skills, another way of getting to master the art of oratory is by actually attending conferences and identifying the ways other speakers do it and how they manage to connect with their audience. That’s why, when choosing a conference, it’s quite important to also do some good research on speakers, organizers, sponsors, and topics ahead of time. When it comes to buying the actual ticket, take into consideration the discounts which can be found on their websites, the chance to be sponsored by the organisation you are part of, or just by sending a well-written email to the organisers showing you got ants in your pants about joining the conference, but can’t due to the financial reasons. Conferences shouldn’t be a financial burden, so go ahead and ask about all the discounts that you can access. Tech events should be all about people wanting to elevate each other. Nobody is going to bite you for wanting to improve.

During the event, there were few mentions of some pretty cool tech conferences that are right around the corner. So, here are some options to choose from the harvest season:

Droidcon- 21–22 September- http://www.droidcon.ro

Codiax — 15–17 November- https://codiax.co/

Codecamp- 24 November — https://codecamp.ro/

Many more Technical Meetups which can be found on https://www.meetup.com/


Food, glorious food

It all ended on a very positive note with a pitching session and a giveaway contest for 5 tickets to Codiax Conference and with participants socializing around a table with delicious raw&vegan food, smoothies, and wine. The atmosphere was defined by a mesmerizing backyard decorated with strings of light. It was almost as good as Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” painting. This is how Wolfpack Digital usually likes to host events and to treat its guests, especially if they are bright, strong and #WomenInTech.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a button for a collective mindset reboot and we should all, and by all we mean leaders regardless of their gender, focus on a culture shift. Through such events, we are normalizing the idea of successful women in the technical field, creating female role models and encouraging women to explore their own ideas. Whoever you may be, you can hang out with Women in Tech during our next gathering, all you have to do is just join the Women in Tech Cluj Meetup group and prepare your enthusiasm.
After all, IT is not a man’s world, it’s just a playground for curious minds. Thank you for being part of the story! ❤

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