Rose and shone early this morning for a breakfast reception courtesy of Yahoo! One of the Yahoo! engineers spoke about her work developing gaming platforms; her enthusiasm (especially at 7 am!) was incredibly evident and I really enjoyed hearing about how her job has allowed her to focus on an area she’s passionate about.
Afterwards was the Keynote speech delivered by Nora Denzel, which I found to be absolutely phenomenal. Despite speaking to an audience of thousands, she seemed very personable and engaging, and I really enjoyed hearing her speak about her personal experiences working in industry.
I attended two different talks, the first on “Creativty, Learning, and Social Software” by Lily Cheng (Microsoft Research) and the second on “From Engineer to Executive: the Path Forward” by Susan Zwinger (Oracle). I was surprised but impressed to learn about the scope of Microsoft’s research projects, and I especially appreciated the second talk. After reading about Sheryl Sandberg and “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” by Anne-Marie Slaughter over the summer, I was very interested in learning how successful women balance top-notch careers with family and personal life, so this topic was great as it touched upon her work-life balance, though I was a little surprised that she also talked fairly extensively about understanding one’s personality type. She talked about a friend who had planned out her life (from her career and even salary to her marriage and family) back in college – and actually achieved it all; of course, this isn’t the norm for many people, but it was still fascinating to hear.
I then had an interview with a company that I had arranged prior to the interview, and attended a session on “Six Reasons Male Influencers Advocate for Technical Women”. This one presented some research findings that sought to understand what motivated technical men to support technical women. Two of the panelists were male leaders from large tech companies, and it was pretty inspirational to hear them talk about how they tried to understand and improve the gender ratios on their teams. Even though the focus of the conference is on bringing together a community of women, I’m really glad that the organizers decided to bring in a male perspective since I was personally quite curious about the extent to which men might support the technical women’s agenda.
The evening involved another interview, followed by “heavy hors d’oeuvres” (read: dinner) – the pasta was delicious, by the way! Then was the awards ceremony, which was very exciting. I found the speeches by the Change Agents and Social Impact award winners to be especially inspirational, since these women are literally effecting change and improving lives around the world. What an amazing group of women!