Write/Speak/Code: the conference highlights

Last week I attended Write/Speak/Code for the first time. Now, I’ve attended a good amount of conferences. I find most of them pretty interesting, I always learn something, but I was blown away at how much I was able to take home from this conference. From the pedagogical approaches to the actual content to the awesome women I met, this is a conference to keep your eyes open for in the future.

I took a grand total of 20 PAGES OF NOTES, so this is going to be my attempt to recap what went on. I want to start by saying that I’ve never been to an all-female conference and honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. I have a lot of male friends and so it wasn’t really until I entered this industry that my “otherness” of being a women became a thing. I have to say that it was actually really awesome. It is so rare that you’re in an entire room with smart, technical women respecting one another. I think, as a result, this conference had a very different vibe and the interactions I had with everyone were just lovely.

The sessions were quite interesting. I decided to participate in the alumna track since I’ve already done a fair bit of conference speaking. The alumna track was focused on leadership development, self care, and personal realizations that can be put to use in personal and work settings.  Some of the highlights included K Wu’s session on ask vs. guess culture. I’d never heard these terms before. She did a great job describing both cultures and also giving tips for interacting with colleagues, managers, and direct reports who might come from the opposite culture as you. From there, we looked at leadership and conflict styles looking at the Hippocrates four temperaments as behavior preferences and different conflict styles and how we interact with our team as a collection of individuals who might have very similar or very different conflict styles. Examining our conflicts styles really made me think a lot about processes in tech and how some processes might give an advantage or disadvantage to folks with a specific conflict style.

One really interesting point was that over and over again, there was a clarification made in sessions to think about your responses, personality, and style in the context of how you are at WORK. This was interesting to me because women often are expected to act differently at work than in their personal lives and often many of us feel like we can’t bring our whole selves to work. I would be curious if men also feel this way and if there would have needed to be such an emphasis on “are we talking about our overall selves or our work selves in this scenario?”

There were a couple of interesting talks that had really tangible, actionable steps. For example, Annyces talk on creating videos and Neha’s talk on branding yourself were two of the best I’ve seen in those areas and really provided great, easy steps anyone could take and work towards in a thoughtful productive way.

There were also some tough sessions… one about self-care which really magnified the pressure many of us feel in the industry and put forth some coping solutions and some very real- talk about whistleblowing, being taken seriously in the industry, and how to give and receive advice.

There was a FASCINATING talk by Liz on algorithmic accountability and algorithm biases which taught me about how the ways in which a human develops an algorithm, especially a learning algorithm. can introduce biases. That’s definitely a topic I want to learn more about and found the examples incredibly interesting.

One major accomplishment for me was contributing to open source. I helped build a gem years ago to open source but have basically been scared of OSS ever since. I don’t have a ton of time and Ive heard some really scary stories about getting involved in projects. As part of write/speak/code though you actually get time to work on OSS. This is a big deal for me because I basically have no unspoken for time in my life. I looked over a bunch of projects and ended up working on the callback women rails app (a twitter handle that I rely on to find out about conferences and LOVE). It was a great experience and by the end of the day, I had a PR that was merged in. I’m hoping to keep up with the community and the project and contribute more in the future.

Finally, the last day was self-care day. It was great. There were really interesting talks about burnout, personal journeys, wellness, and salary negotiations. Overall, the conference was fantastic. You could tell the organizers put an incredible amount of thought and effort into the event. The speakers presenting thoughtful, intelligent, actionable presentations. The fellow participants were engaged, respectful, and kind. And, of course, the swag bag was awesome.


For a full least of speakers, the schedule and the slides, check out: https://2016.writespeakcode.com/pages/schedule
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