How to get the most out of attending tech conferences
How to negotiate travel costs as a speaker
What to wear as a woman when speaking at developer conferences
What I see here in Silicon Valley is that there are technical women out here but they’re not submitting talks. This is also true of men I’ve met who grew up developing on Java but now want to learn node.js and cloud technologies.
After our panel, we mentored women to help them brainstorm and select a topic. I mentored Shiney, a female developer of 15 years who has been building native iOS apps for the last four years. I sat down with her to brainstorm aspects of her job she was passionate about and we narrowed it down to bandwidth management awareness for mobile developers and building iOS apps with Appcode instead of Xcode. Both of these were fantastic topics I told her and we narrowed it down to the first one because Smiley had a lot more to say about it. I helped her identify target groups that would want to see her talk (developers, telecom providers like AT&T and Verizon plus smart phone users), why they should see her talk (build apps that work better by consuming less resources and battery power) and then include a concrete example in her CFP submission (developers should take advantage of caching so their app doesn’t have to constantly poll for new data for each user request). In fifteen minutes we had her talk ready to go and she recorded a video with O’Reilly for the submission.
I get it because I’ve lived it. Women and underrepresented groups need encouragement and coaching to get started but we have just as many good ideas, solutions and the ability to execute successfully. Eric Ries and Sarah Milstein did something phenomenally different this year in finding speakers for The Lean Startup Conference and I look forward to more organizers taking the same approach. We must fill the pipeline by raising awareness of the opportunity, making explicit asks for women and minorities to participate and be aware of our subconscious biases.
If you have suggestions for women submitting technical talks or how you ended up doing your first tech talk, please share your experience in the comments.
Excited to share I will be giving a talk at TEDx BayArea Global Women Entrepreneur event on Saturday!
My Talk: Women Building Careers With Code
Summary: I will share the stories of three women who have changed from careers in finance, education and economics to development and programming. We’ll look at how society has valued individuals with the ability to create. I will highlight contributions made by different countries such as the technique of extracting Tyrian purple from sea snails, the process for creating parchment from animal skins and the Gutenberg printing press which made literacy accessible. I’ll round up with obstacles new programmers face in getting started and wrap up with actionable items.
On December 1st, 2012, TEDxBayArea will convene our third annual Global Women Entrepreneurs event at LinkedIn headquarters to celebrate women leaders around the world. Speakers come from diverse backgrounds in the Bay Area and beyond, spanning half way across the globe. Our goal is to highlight a broad spectrum of ideas, thought leadership and business models, addressing a select Silicon Valley audience, while providing an engaging day full of presentations, entertainment and conversation in the renowned TED style.
I was already registered to attend and received a last minute invitation to present this week. I heard there will be a livestream so I will post the link here and on Twitter once I get it. I’m for it and excited to get others inspired and thinking about their careers and life passions!
I’m excited to share that I will be presenting at the Lean Startup Conference here in San Francisco! Eric Ries is well known as the author of The Lean Startup, a book and now a movement on how to run a lean company, learn what works and deliver what customers want. It isn’t only for startup though and many companies have taken Eric’s advice to heart to transform their business and careers.
I will be giving an Ignite talk titled, Why Every Startup Employee Should Learn to Code, and will share examples and strategies that have worked from people learning to program, including myself. This year I’ve seen people learning everything from Ruby on Rails and mobile development for iOS and Android to building interactive experiences with augmented reality and predictive engines for discovery of local places to shop. I will take people through the mindset of someone new to programming, how the human mind learns new things, which programming languages are most popular and how you can get started learning to code.
In the talk, I will emphasize the importance of knowing your learning style according to VARK which stands for Visual, Aural, Reading and Kinesthetic. You can find your learning style by answering a few questions using this online quiz. I came across this resource and others a few years ago when I began teaching technology courses and would have the attendees take it before getting started. It provided useful insight on how to present the course materials I’d created and ensure high engagement and retention of the content.
Did you know that Pablo Picasso was a lean entrepreneur? During his “Blue Period” using a single color of paint saved money before he became famous and well known. Very similar to today’s Silicon Valley startups on a ramen budget sleeping on futons.
Finally I will explore how employees who gain new skills for work like programming are more valuable because their cross functional experience overlaps multiple teams increasing their ability to directly contribute to the company’s bottom line.
Wednesday morning I was interviewed by Ramit Sethi about becoming a more effective communicator. This broke down into two camps: Introductions and talking in a group. We met at a local studio here in San Francisco for the interview and I’m happy to say that I walked away with a lot of valuable information and actionable items!
Like many people, I’ve done a lot of things in my life so when I meet someone new, I think about what to share. In fact, I over think it — Should I introduce myself by title and the company I work for, something that I recently accomplished or tell them how others see me? Maybe it’s my nerdy nature but I usually end up juggling a list of items in my head and then share a few random things as I try to give the person a picture of who I am. I find this frustrating because I want to connect with others but it’s not always clear how to do so.
The second issue I struggle with is being heard. I’m an introvert by nature (Meyers-Briggs INTP) and when I’m having conversations one on one I do very well but as the size of people involved in the conversation grow, I become quiet even though I still have ideas and thoughts. This happens even with a group of friends. I find it hard to pick the right time to speak up and make my point. Afterwards, I often followup with people one on one and share my ideas then or by email. It turns out that many women experience this as well. A study published in the American Political Science Review found that when women were in groups with men and that asked them to collaborate and solve a problem, women spoke up less. Much less in fact that their proportional share amounting to less than 75 percent of the time that men spoke.
Funny thing is, when I talk to friends about this, they tell me they have no idea that this is a hard thing for me. They see me as social, outgoing, curious, helpful and friendly. How does one begin to repair the internal agony of awkwardness with the desire to feel comfortable in any situation talking to anyone?
That’s why when I got an email from Ramit about coming in to get advice, I quickly replied to express my interest. I signed up for Ramit’s Dream Job course earlier this year because a friend had recommended I check out his website where he writes about strategies to be successful, increase your income and find the job you love. In case you haven’t heard of him, Ramit Sethi (@ramit) is a New York Times best selling author of the book, I Will Teach You To Be Rich.
So what can I do to change this so I feel confident about my introductions to others and my participation in groups? Here are my take aways from the interview with Ramit.
Increase confidence when introducing myself and speaking up in groups.
When presented with these situations, I feel physically uncomfortable and awkward. I fidget and am hyper aware of my body posture. I’m unsure what to share with new people I meet because I want them to understand who I am, what I stand for and what drives me in life. Plus on the technical side, I want to ensure they understand my level of experience and ability. Then there is the context and relevance of us meeting — What event are we at? Who do we know in common? This is especially frustrating when I see others speaking up on a topic even though they have less experience than I do on it but they speak up and present themselves in a way to advertise and promote the topic. I at times find myself minimizing my accomplishments.
I want to connect better with new people I meet.
I want to own my accomplishments yet not seem like I’m bragging.
I want to make myself heard because I have valuable information to contribute.
Ramit’s Tips On Connecting In A Conversation
Don’t list things when meeting people – Rather than rattle off a long list of things, pick three things that I can share that will invite the other person to ask questions, position myself in the conversation and something I’m working on or looking forward do.
Don’t bombard people with information – We all know the term TMI for Too Much Information. Use less words and use body language like raising my eyebrows to deliver. Watch tv interviews like 60 Minutes for tips on how this works. Be brief and don’t rush through it.
Empathize with what they say – When others share something, take the time to acknowledge it. Share a story of your own that shows you get what they’re saying. Don’t try to “fix” their problem (My inner nerd struggles with this).
SMILE! even in business settings – Ramit interestingly enough told me while we were doing the role-play introductions that I had a very serious face on and wasn’t smiling. Now that’s contrary to how most people think of me (including myself!) but I do have a habit of when I’m focusing on information, I tend to become very serious looking. You can see this whenever I’m doing a presentation in front of others on a stage. I’m so glad he caught this so now I can become more aware of how I deliver and not just what I say.
Pay attention to how others react to what you say – I gravitate to extroverts for this very reason; it’s easier to read them. Reading social cues has always been a challenge for me. A few years ago I bought a book on body language which helped immensely to pick up on this but reading faces and gauging the other person is still a work in progress.
Role Play Exercises
We did roleplaying where we each “led” the introductions and conversations with each other. I found this very valuable to be able to act out and then discuss what happened. Having someone to bounce my experience off of and get instant feedback about the interactions gave me time to process it and try again. It was a bit uncomfortable but hey, I always say that in order to grow, you have to step out of your comfort zone!
We crafted two introductions: one for business and one for personal. I focused on the power of three and for the business introduction I shared where I was from, what type of company I worked for and something I was working on, learning or a place I just traveled to. For the personal one, we made that one a bit more fun and I still shared where I came from but then admitted that I was a big nerd and made a lot of YouTube videos. In both cases, there was enough information for the other person to get a sense of who I was and form questions to engage in the ever popular, yet often elusive art of small talk. Gasp!
Now it was time to talk about groups and having my voice heard. I gave Ramit the example of the two pronged problem I faced: Getting the attention of the group and once I had the floor, what did I say to make it count? I’m sure we’ve all been there in a group where you are listening and then have a great idea and you’re waiting patiently to speak up on your turn but then it seems like the conversation is moving to a new topic and you feel a sense of panic. Or maybe by the time your turn comes you forgot what you were going to say? I had a new insight after the interview with Ramit on this — The reason it seems my turn never would come is because I had been quiet in the group thus there was not a “placeholder” for my turn. So people, speak up early and often! Even if you just say you agree with someone else’s point. My homework for this was to commit to speak up three times in each group setting I’m in going forward and start with getting the floor and then asking a question. That engages the group to respond and acknowledge me. Once I feel comfortable, then I can share my thoughts.
Summary and Next Steps
I am so glad that I took the time to reach out to Ramit on this opportunity because talking with him in person made a huge difference in how much I got out of the interview and exercises.
Going forward, I’m going to look into enrolling in a local Improv course because I’ve been wanting to do that for over a year now. I did a six week Improve course at Comedy Sportz back in Minneapolis around 2005 and it was truly a life changer in terms of being able to have fast comebacks and use humor in conversation. People actually began to tell me I was funny! I have friends like Scott Hanselman who attribute their success at public speaking being attributed to their experience doing stand up comedy or improv.
The other thing I’m going to look into is media training. I have heard about this as something political folks do because they are frequently interviewed about hot button issues and need to be able to think on their feet. The need also arises because they may be interviewed by people who have a different view which can result in hostile or baited questions. A catchphrase for this would be mental agility.
The video captured will be used in the second edition of the Dream Job course due out early next year in January 2013.
Have you struggled with promoting your talents and experience when meeting new people?
I’m here in Redmond for the Microsoft BUILD conference this week where attendees will learn exactly what they can do with Windows 8 on mobile, in the workplace and at home. I will be doing demos at our booth to show off SendGrid’s integration with the Microsoft Azure cloud hosting platform.
If you’re a developer building your app in node.js, Python, .NET, php, Java or mobile, sign up for a free 90 day trial of Azure hosting. Once you’ve done that, check out one of these guides to get started:
I will be interviewed Thursday afternoon by Scott Hanselman for the Channel 9 Live at Build 2012 segment, “Talking with Azure Developers”. I’m looking forward to catching up with my good friend Scott and sharing how developers can leverage the cloud to get their apps to market faster with solutions like SendGrid that allow developers to easily send transactional email via our API.
There will be a live stream of the conference and all sessions will be posted to Channel 9, Microsoft’s MSDN community portal. You can follow the news and announcements on Twitter at the Microsoft BUILD account @bldwin and the hashtag #bldwin.
Are you looking for an awesome job at a Startup or do you know someone who is?
The Foundry Group (aka Brad Feld and crew) will be holding a job mixer in San Francisco this Friday night for companies in their portfolio to find new talent!
Nine companies in the investor’s portfolio will be there (including SendGrid who I work for) and we’re looking for everything from developers to designers, product and sales plus people who are passionately interested in working at fantastic startups! I’ll be there reppin’ for SendGrid along with one of our awesome HR people, Jessy Rozitis.
Note: You must be 21+ to attend as there will be alcohol served.
On Friday, October 5th, 2012 from 6pm-8pm you have the opportunity to come eat, drink, and mingle with some of Foundry’s hottest tech startups in the Bay Area.
Foundry Group is a leading VC firm investing in outstanding early-stage companies across some of the most exciting themes in technology. The following Foundry Group portfolio companies will be showcasing their current and upcoming career opportunities and looking for exceptional individuals to join their teams:
• Authentic8 – Bringing control to web apps by putting the browser in the cloud. Jobs
• awe.sm – awe.sm’s platform helps customers from startups to the Fortune 500 harness their social data. Jobs
• Datahero – Analyze, visualize and understand the data that matters to you! Jobs
• MongoLab– Provides scalable cloud-hosted MongoDB-as-a-service to application developers. Jobs
• Pantheon – Delivers web content management as a service, with the flexibility and power of open-source. Jobs
• Sifteo – A totally new game system. Sifteo cubes are wireless blocks with full color screens that interact with each other and respond to motion, unleashing a whole new world of games. Jobs
• Memeo – Controlling your access of digital content: anywhere, anytime, any device Jobs
My Testimonial for Working At SendGrid
If we’re friends on Facebook and I know you live in the Bay Area, I sent you a message today along with my testimonial of working at SendGrid and what I think. In case we’re not Facebook friends, read what I shared below:
It’s amazing! My co-workers are friendly, brilliant, honest, hard working and yet they also make time to have fun. They also hang out after work with each other and do really cool stuff to team build including CrossFit exercise challenges!
Our customers love our product and we work hard to keep innovating. It’s a complete breath of fresh air to work with such awesome folks!
I work as a Developer Evangelist which means I help to grow the adoption of our email API with developers through events, hackathons, documentation, partnerships and community building. I wake up every single day excited to get started! I work remotely from San Francisco but stay in touch with my coworkers through email, phone calls, Skype, 37Signals Basecamp and GroupMe.
What does SendGrid do? We help companies get emails delivered to the inbox and provide analytics to app developers. Specifically we focus on transactional email which is considered to be new user welcome emails, receipts, invoices, alerts, password resets and the like. Our customers include Pinterest, foursquare, AirBnb, Uber, Spotify, Hubspot, Path, TaskRabbit, SlideShare (acquired by LinkedIN), Dribble, Zaarly, Quora, GetSatisfaction, Flipboard and more!
If you know someone who’s looking to work at a company that is making big steps to innovate and disrupt technology, tell them to come tomorrow night to this event. It’s a social mixer + job fair. I’ll be there reppin’ for SendGrid so stop by and say hello.
It’s been a blast working at SendGrid and I’m more than happy to encourage you to attend this event. I truly can’t say enough good things about working there at SendGrid. The people, the product, the culture – It’s all pretty awesome plus I get to do what I love which is help people feel empowered through technology.
This morning 20 women woke up early on a Saturday to learn how to code and create websites using HTML and CSS. Pamela Fox, an experienced programmer who used to work for Google, is their instructor today.
These women are from a variety of backgrounds and by a show of hands, most are new to programming but are ready to add new skills to their toolbox. Today’s workshop is part of a growing movement called Girl Develop It which provides educational opportunities for women who want to learn how to code.
After grabbing coffee, the students sit down benches, three to a table facing the instructor and a big screen. Training content before lunch includes an essential introduction to the web: Tim Berners-Lee, browsers, text editors and the basics of HTML tags like headers, text formatting, lists, tables, form and button elements.
Pamela is explaining things progressively, connecting the technical content to real-live examples that students can relate to. The students are responding well – they’re fully engaged, asking questions and completing the hands-on exercises.
After lunch attendees will be creating layouts in CSS, iframes, working with the Chrome inspector and customizing the sites even more.
What can the students expect after completing this workshop?
They will have the basic skills to build a website plus and understanding of how the web infrastructure works when it comes to servers, files, server side scripts, the internet, domain names and browsers. They can then continue to improve their skills once they leave the workshop through working in study groups, working on side projects and taking on tasks at work that call for these new skills.
Have you always wanted to learn how to program?
Or maybe you want to become a programmer and develop in languages like Ruby and Python plus master new frameworks like Rails and Django. Love the thought of creating useful apps but on a smaller scale?
Smartphone application development is a mix of both design and development and you can build on the two most popular mobile platforms using Objective-C to create iOS apps or Java for Android development. Sounding good so far?
If you answered “yes” reading the last paragraph, I have two more questions for you -
What if there were affordable classes and workshops, focused on beginner to intermediate levels for these topics?
Have you felt intimidated, overwhelmed or unsure of your next steps in learning to code?
There are currently six locations in the United States including New York City, San Francisco, Austin, Columbus and Cincinnati plus two international chapters in Australia and Ottawa. Pamela Fox, today’s instructor, started the chapter’s in Australia and San Francisco.
The company I work for, SendGrid, is sponsoring this event for the second time this year. Woohoo! We sponsored the first event back in April shortly after I had joined the company. I had been following the Girl Develop It Meetup group in NYC for several months and saw that there would be a new chapter in San Francisco. I asked SendGrid if they’d be interested in sponsoring the event and got a yes! I contacted Pamela and discussed sponsorship opportunities. Disqus hosted the space and SendGrid sponsored lunch that time. Today Twilio is sponsoring the space and we’re covering lunch.
I really like working for a company that supports professional development and skill building both internally and in the developer community.
Best Programming Language To Learn?
Try different types of learning tools including books, videos, hands-one exercises on the web and meeting with others who are also learning. This will help to clarify your learning style and what type of technology interests you.
40 years ago it was unimaginable that you would leave your job and change careers but these days it’s common.
We’re all in a constant state of learning. As I write this, I am learning Ruby on Rails and made a Youtube video this week about my thoughts on why it’s important, especially at a startup, for all employees to understand how to code:
If you’ve decided this is the right step for you to take, give yourself a pat on the back for being brave! I know what it’s like to step outside your comfort zone. I know what it’s like to be unsure of your future. The flip side of the unknown is that yes, it could be awful but it could also be really awesome.
It’s up to you to take that first step. The reward is knowing what it’s like to solve problems that stump others. It’s also a great feeling when you receive praise for your solutions!
How To Get Involved
After tweeting today about the workshop, several people replied asking how they could be a part of the next event so I’m listing a few ways you can make a difference:
Join your local chapter and take classes – Head over to the main Girl Develop It website. Even if there isn’t a chapter in your area, join the main NYC meetup group and get familiar with the classes being offered, who’s teaching, who’s attending and what other meetup groups they belong to plus announcements for new chapters.
Sponsor your local chapter – Join SendGrid, Twilio, Disqus, Mozilla, O’Reilly and others in showing your support for technology and learning initiatives. There’s a huge shortage of developers. We can help turn that around by supporting initiatives like these.
Start a new chapter – Would you like to see workshops like this held in your city? First thing you’ll want to do is contact the founders of GirlDevelopIt and discuss your interest. Then talk to people in the community to see if there is a demand, find instructors and a place to hold your event.
Promote events like these - While I hope you join the newsletter, follow them on Twitter @girldevelopit, friend them up on Facebook and share their events, remember as well there are women + technology focused events all over! A few good ones out here in San Francisco include Women Who Code, Code Chix, PyLadies and many more. Women Who Tech is a yearly virtual conference and were responsible for me joining Twitter in 2008. A great starting place is to go to Meetup.com and search your zipcode for those keywords.
As you read this, remember to think of people who you know who would benefit from attending a workshop and send them a link when you see something awesome. It may just be the spark they need to get going on their dream.
Last week I attended my first DEF CON. It was epic and you should add it to your list of annual conferences to attend. I’ll post more about my DefCon experience in a later on. As I continue my travels as a Developer Evangelist for SendGrid meeting customers, attending hackathons and speaking at conferences, my next stop is New York City!
I have full schedule during my New York trip which includes a hacknight and BlogHer events.
Here’s a list of events I will be attending, speaking at and participating in while in NYC for the week –
BlogHer -It’s time again for this great conference and I’m speaking! The panel is title is: Streamline Your Technical Toolkit: How to Do More with Less and you can see it Friday, August 3rd at 2:45pm - It’s moderated by Carley Knobloch and Lara Galloway will also be on the panel. We will share concepts, workflows and tools to be more productive and improve your focus on what’s important. BlogHer is now in their 8th year and last year’s attendees surpassing 3,000. This is my 4th year attending and 3rd year speaking so I look forward to seeing all of you
Women Innovate Mobile (WIM) Accelerator – This event is Wednesday evening (sold out) and will have several speakers including Kass Lazerow, co-founder & COO of Buddy Media and the founders of BlogHer. Food is being provided by Katie Workman, author of The Mom 100 Cookbook.
Girls In Tech + Coffee Night Hack – This event is Wednesday night (sold out) and will host 60 women programmers to come together and work on their code, network and enjoy caffine.
eCommerce Hack Day – This weekend long hackathon, organized by Dwolla and Etsy will bring together developers to leverage commerce, communication and platform API’s, including SendGrid, to compete for prizes. I’ll be joining Swift from SendGrid at the event.
While in New York I’m also looking forward to meeting my future SXSW panelist Sasha Laundy from Codecademy. SXSW Panel Voting August 13. Expect to see a few SXSW post around then and reach out if you’re attending one of these events or live in NYC.
I arrived a few hours ago here in Las Vegas and checked in at the Rio for DEF CON 20. That’s right, this is a conference with a long history of community, coding, creativity, cracking and hacking! Like many other events that we know and love like SXSW and Burning Man (well some of us), this conference started out small with a group of committed people who spread the word and returned each year to not only attend but participate.
I have concerns around my own technology being hacked. Tonight I spent time looking through my options to secure my laptop like the ability to force all my apps to tunnel through my VPN connection. Do I always use one? No. I set it up a few weeks ago when I was in Scotland and couldn’t stream Netflix. I selected HideMyNet because it had good reviews and had easy setup options for Mac OSX that allowed my ip to appear as if it was from NYC and all in all took less than 10 minutes. I did find some discussions on Stackoverflow about a chrome extension that would force a vpn but abandoned that idea.
I also investigated firewalls to notify me not only when someone was probing my system but also to notify me of apps attempting to make outbound connections. I came across a site with useful links to Mac firewalls (thought we’d never need those, eh?) like LittleSnitch and WaterRoof.
I know I have to keep my phones (Android and iPhone) in airplane mode. A friend told me about his friend who’s phone got rooted last year at DEF CON after someone spoofed a cell phone tower and was able to see data and listen to conversations. Yes, people do that sort of stuff. So then I realized that I’ve never really looked into putting firewalls onto my phones because let’s face it; we trade speed for security every day.
No using wireless at DEF CON unless you want to appear front and center on the Wall of Sheep.
My friend told me that the wired connection at the hotel isn’t safe, tethering to my own phone isn’t safe. Good thing I brought a paper notebook along ^_^
In fact he said:
“turn your phone off. if you don’t, don’t click on links in SMS, don’t surf the web, don’t click on any upgrades of apps or os.”
Is it in my best interest to leave all my cards that contain NFC/RFID chips like my BART Clipper card in my room?
Were all those cool hacks I’d read about online or seen in YouTube videos all truly coming together under one roof to rage a holy hacker war?
The short answer is yes.
Who were these hackers trying to show how 1337 they were by compromising computers at DEF CON? This is their pride and joy. This is their lifeblood, their passion and their corner of the world they command and discover. While there are bad apples in every barrel, for the most part, people who claim the title “hacker” are explorers of the unknown and like those in our past, illuminate the path for the rest of us. Of course, the doesn’t mean I’m going to show up here to get pwned here like a n00b!
I decided to attend this year’s DEF CON after working for a client at the RSA conference. A friend of mine who is a security consultant (aka pen tester) was in San Francisco for the conf and we had time to catch up and talk about work, technology and life. He assured me I should go to this thing so I went ahead and reserved a room. I was going to cancel but then met a developer named Glyn in London a few weeks ago who works for Open Rights Group, an organization that seems to be a cross between Code For America and the EFF. ORG takes government data, cleans it up and then makes it accessible via API’s. He told me this was not a conference to miss and that I would gain value by attending.
Now I must admit that I’ve heard a lot of things about this conference, sort of like you hear about Burning Man and think, “Wow! That doesn’t sound like something I’d enjoy so I think I’ll pass” but then you have friends who insist on you going and you think, “Well, this person is pretty awesome. Do I trust them and that they know what I would like? How big is the risk here?”.
Besides all the hacking, it has come to my attention that some people’s bad behavior have made some women at DEF CON uncomfortable. Now I’ve been going to technology conferences, meetups and user groups for a long time – 10 years now and that hasn’t been without my share of weirdness from guys. I usually brush it off with humor or try to distance myself from them to make it clear I’m not on the same wavelength. Sometimes in the past, I’ve blamed myself for being too friendly. The important thing is to be clear, direct and firm. I’m here to learn from the wealth of knowledge and enjoy interacting with community so I’m going in just liked I did my first time in 2009 at BlogHer – with an open mind. At that conference, I thought I’d be ostracized for not having a baby. It seemed like all the bloggers were mommy bloggers. Not true. I met many women without children. Not everyone was suckling a baby (although some were!). With that said, I very much enjoy the conference and I’ll be attending for the fourth year in a row next week in NYC. Speaking for the third time. You can catch me on the Streamline Your Technical Toolkit: How to Do More with Less panel August 3rd at 2:45pm.
So then I have to look at what I’m losing and what I’m gaining.
One downside with all the social hacking going on is that I won’t have the ability to communicate with the outside world in “realtime” sending tweets and photos. I rarely have time during the day to step away and blog anyway; that happens after the conferences so that means I’ll have to spend time talking to people AT THE CONFERENCE! Seriously though, I have a story about that. Last year I lost my phone in San Diego during BlogHer (RIP Nexus S). It was held just one week after ComicCon in the same convention center. Since I didn’t root it, I wasn’t able to remotely toggle GPS. For the first time in three years I had to do something that I would have never done by choice – I had to go the entire conference without a phone. It actually turned out to be pretty interesting. I spent much more time talking with people, felt more connected to the speakers and socialized more often at the parties. In fact, I would look around and see others with their head down in their phones and realized that’s how others saw me. Not very approachable I guess. Violet Blue’s SXSW presentation explained how the geek culture of having a phone glued to one’s hand makes us seem less friendly. After a few days of withdrawal and detox, I actually began to enjoy that I wasn’t checking Twitter and my email. If I needed to send a tweet, I asked a friend to send it and put my handle in the tweet. Worked pretty well and I had a great time! I’m ready to do the same here.
That small downside of being a bit disconnected from the outside world isn’t so bad in exchange for the opportunity to be surrounded by folks passionate about changing the world; just like me.
With that said, I’m here, I’m excited to attend and am putting together my schedule for the next 4 days which I’ll post tomorrow!
Today I’m thinking a lot about the importance of honesty. Those who lie and deceive spend much of their time keeping their stories “straight”, hiding information and convincing themselves their version of the truth is shared by all.
“Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking.”
Henry Louis Mencken
Honesty is telling the truth to those who should have the information. Integrity is consistently telling the truth because it’s the right thing to do. There is also tact which is knowing the right time to tell the truth and how you deliver it. That last one I’ve been working on to ensure my communication is effective. Overall, I personally don’t struggle with personal honesty because it often seems illogical to lie. I saw that a man was charged over $6 million dollars by a computer repair shop to remove a virus from his computer, according to the article posted by the Consumerist and it felt like a perfect fit for this post.
“Honest hearts produce honest actions.”
Each night I go to bed knowing I’ve done my best that day to make the world a better place. In spots I’ve fallen short, it’s never been due to a lack of honesty on my part. When I’ve discovered others have been untruthful with me, it pains my heart but I know they must own their deception each day of their lives; in fact, each of us is responsible for controlling our moral compass in life. Just because you have the ability to take advantage of someone else, doesn’t mean you should.
“Honesty: The best of all the lost arts.”
I always go out of my way to help others without the expectation of the same being done in return. This is known as altruism. I experience great joy in helping others discover, develop and embrace their inner strength. In one word: empowerment. Sometimes I know these people but often I don’t. Empathy is the ability to identify with someone else’s experience, situation and often emotional status. This awareness often causes us to take action to ease the discomfort of that person because we know we wouldn’t want to be experiencing that sort of pain.
“To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful.”
Edward R. Murrow
When others reach out to help me, I am grateful for their help even if I wasn’t aware I needed it. One recent story that comes to mind is the woman in Scotland. She must have been able to see that I was trying to catch the bus but was confused about bus stops. She asked and then told me she was catching the bus as well. I could see the kindness in her eyes and followed. We walked over together and caught the bus. I struggled to pull out the correct change (in Euros, not pounds) to pay the driver, dropping some of my change. She was right behind me and picked up my coins. I smiled sheepishly, thanked her and sat down. I realized that her small act of kindness made me feel welcomed in this new country I’d never been to before.
“Your conscience is the measure of the honesty of your selfishness. Listen to it carefully.”
Sometimes when people aren’t straight with me, I wonder if there is something I’ve done to cause it. Of course, people who choose to discard integrity and honesty do so of their own free will.
“Honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty.”
I remind myself that my family tree is dotted with perseverance, resilience and courage because I’m Black and Jewish. Both sides of my lineage have overcome phenomenal challenges. Despite slavery, genocide, laws prohibiting participation in society based on race and all the small things that happen between people regardless of institutionalized discrimination, they kept their heads and kept moving forward. I will do the same.
“An honest man can feel no pleasure in the exercise of power over his fellow citizens.”
When I feel anger towards those who choose to be dishonest in their lifestyle, I look to my friends who embrace faith, God and prayer to overcome the challenges of life. Back in 2006 and 2007, I used to pray on a daily basis for guidance, protection and opportunities to enter into my life. Those were especially hard years for me and I felt like there was more than I could handle and like many, I looked outside myself for help. God seemed like a good starting point. Now I pray rarely and it’s usually to check in with a progress update or to ask for strength around a particular event going on or to help someone I know who is experiencing pain or health issues.
“My responsibility to myself, my neighbors, my family and the human family is to try to tell the truth.”
Toni Cade Bambara
This weekend I spent the night at the house of a good friend. Faith and God are important to her. She has just moved from her home state to work for a prestigious technology company in her dream role. As we settled down Friday night to go to sleep, she said her prayers over both of us: Psalm 23
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
I realized again how lucky I was to have several, friends in my life who keep God and faith close to ensure they stay on track with their goals and morality. I’ve also had technology clients who have emphasized the importance faith based decisions in how they do business. At first, before I strengthened my connection with God, I found this a bit strange but as I saw how values drove business decisions, I was a believer. Whenever I travel and stay with these friends, I always attend church with them because it’s beautiful to see how faith transforms and uplifts the soul. By attending, I acknowledge and support their values and our friendship, regardless of denomination.
Rather than focusing on the burden of liars, I enjoy the company of truth tellers who’s moral compass is aligned properly.