Since starting my first full-time job in July, I've experienced a slew of "firsts." I've gone to Dave & Buster's with fellow CapTech college hires. I've gotten a taste of Richmond's arts and culture scene at the street festivals that seem to occur every weekend. I've even done outdoor yoga and become friends with complete strangers.
Chief among the "firsts" was attending the RVATech/Women conference on October 6, 2016. Not only did the conference welcome me into Richmond's tech community, it also introduced me to the world of tech conferences at large. Over 400 women, men, and young girls gathered in the "basement" of the Science Museum of Virginia for the 8-hour event. The schedule called for a total of 6 keynote speaker presentations throughout the day, interlaced with 2 breakout sessions.
Although it was early in the morning, the room was abuzz with energy as people chatted with one another at round tables. Company booths were set up around the room and conference-goers interacted with the firms' representatives. I even saw a virtual reality headset or two floating around at one of the booths, which definitely elicited some excited discussion.
Tech plays a supporting role to Women
"Inspiration for women in tech" seemed to be the theme of the conference, with "tech" itself as an undercurrent. Courtney Ferrell's opening talk discussed the importance of creativity and building a community within tech for women. Joey Rosenberg, the Global Leadership Director of Women Who Code, emphasized that the tech industry needs women. Yvonne Wassenaar, the CIO of New Relic, talked about the impact of technologies such as Bitcoin and Waze, but her ultimate message was a motivational one: she wanted women to be confident and to reach for the stars in terms of their career goals.
I'm sure that the confidence-building was related to the fact that women are still marginalized in the tech industry, and because around half of women eventually drop out of their science, tech, and engineering careers. One way to keep women in the tech industry is to inspire them to stay in it-and that was where the speakers came in. I was able to receive career advice and life lessons from women who had made it to the top of their fields, which was great for someone like me who just started her career. A few of the lessons stuck with me:
- Cultivate your personal brand.
- Lead by example.
- Find value in all experiences.
Perhaps the most impactful talking point was the last one on the list: "Find value in all experiences." This piece of advice came from Jocelyn Mangan, the Chief Product and Marketing Officer of Snagajob. Mangan recalled how her experience as a waitress helped her when she was the head of product management at OpenTable. Serving customers allowed her to better understand customer experience-a driving force behind product design for restaurant-goers. Her message: Don't belittle any experiences, because they will help in some way, someday.
I definitely found value in this conference. Since starting at CapTech, I have barely had time to think about my long-term career goals. Getting caught up in day-to-day work is so easy, and this conference was a sweet reprise from that routine. It's invigorating to take a step back to just reflect, to re-energize ambitions that may have gotten lost.
All of the speakers banked on the fact that inspiration can go a long way. If anything, RVATech/Women has opened the floodgates and inspired me to attend more tech conferences in the future.
About the Author
Patricia Li is a Data Analyst in CapTech's Richmond office. She enjoys tackling business problems with data-driven solutions and aspires to learn more about data science, big data, and the analytics surrounding customer experience.