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Three Things I Learned at the Women in Tech Mid-Atlantic Conference

What do I do when I discover a conference, with technical and professional development content, that also gives all profits to a non-profit which inspires middle school girls about the power of technology? I volunteer, of course!  Additionally, I had time for a few deep-dive conversations and quick networking opportunities where I met fascinating people. […]

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April 06, 2018

What do I do when I discover a conference, with technical and professional development content, that also gives all profits to a non-profit which inspires middle school girls about the power of technology? I volunteer, of course!  Additionally, I had time for a few deep-dive conversations and quick networking opportunities where I met fascinating people. Here are a few things I learned at the Women in Tech Mid-Atlantic Conference held March 23, 2018.

First, I learned that you can’t spell Artificial Intelligence without the “Art” from Swathi Young (organizer for DC Emerging Technologies). When creating intelligent machines, it’s important to remember to add the human touch involving psychology, linguistics, and philosophy. We must consider that even though something is technically possible, is it also ethically permissible and legally defensible. Apps are the cigarettes of this century! The implications of the Facebook data release to Cambridge Analytica for data mining will be discussed for many moons to come.

I must admit I’m drawn to the Professional Development sessions when the other choice is advanced level development in Javascript (which I don’t know). The next thing I learned are the Five People You Should have on your Personal Board of Directors (BoD). Cristina Greysman persuaded me that finding these people is not difficult and would be exponentially helpful. First and second, we need a Mentor and a Sponsor in our lives. These are active and purposeful relationships to help determine what our future could look like. A Role Model is someone who may not know us but serves as someone we admire and feel a connection to. We must actively build this relationship. Third, be a mentor, which is a Reverse Mentee. When you give to someone else you will inevitably learn something about yourself. Fourth, find a Pacing Partner, a peer whose skill and talents challenge us to be at our best. Finally, and optionally, we can find a Career or Executive Coach to help us plan to meet a specific goal. Ultimately, it is up to us to know ourselves (self-assessments), select and ensure we are visible to our BoD, be deliberate in having impactful moments with our BoD, and pay it forward by being on someone else’s personal board of directors!

Although I did go to one UX session, I’ll finish with one last PD skill we all need to learn. Lauren Hasson taught me how to become a NegotiatHer. It’s easy to be undervalued by an employer when no one in the US talks about salaries. Many times it’s not about how good you are – it’s your ability to communicate the value you bring to your role. First, ground yourself in data. Before any discussion find at least 10 sources to support your salary requirement, to give you leverage and to build confidence. Second, arm yourself with questions to handle any pushback – be prepared, as you would for any interview. Third, know when to walk away. You must be prepared to walk away, decline an offer, only accepting what you are worth.

I had previously given very little thought to any of these topics before this conference. I know they are important. Now I know I have the tools, the words, the structure on how to focus my thoughts and energy around these topics.

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