My heartfelt thanks go out to all of the women and men who made the 2011 Grace Hopper Celebration Conference a resounding success. It’s amazing how one conference can be so energizing! I was fortunate to attend and participate in several of the conference events.
GHC 2011’s theme of “What If…” was timely – What if we asked for forgiveness instead of permission? What if we used our collective wisdom more collaboratively and effectively? Women make more than 70% of consumer buying decisions. What if we used our voices to influence the products we build and buy? What if we delivered the best products and the best user experience bar none? What if we used our collective buying power to influence what we won’t buy?
For those of you who have had the good fortune to attend GHC, take the professional development skills that you developed at the conference and put them to work. Practice your elevator speech, hone your brand, and bring your highest self to work every day. As Sheryl Sandberg put it, “Lean in.” Reach out across corporate and organizational boundaries. Pick up the phone instead of sending email. Build relationships and break down boundaries. Pay it forward, and reciprocate when someone reaches out to you. Use reward systems appropriately to thank those who have helped you hit a major milestone, blow past a roadblock, or facilitate collaboration. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
As you bask in your GHC experience, consider reflecting on the conversations and topics that you found most engaging. What sparks of interest were ignited? What would make next year’s conference even better? What new connections did you make? Now is the best time to jot down those ideas, and send a brief email to people you met that you’d like to collaborate with on a topic for next year, and get started. The 2012 GHC “Call for Participation” will go out in January 2012, and your proposal submission offers a tremendous opportunity to network, share your expertise, your passion and your career path with up-and-coming talent; talent we’d love to bring to our organizations. The theme for GHC 2012 is “Are We There Yet?” This too, will be an opportunity as a community of women in technology to consider what work still needs to be done. As technical thought leaders and change agents, we set the bar for generations to come. We can all put our unique experiences, perspectives and collaborative skills to work to make our companies more agile in a world that is ever-changing.
One more parting thought: If there was one person in your organization that you could bring with you next year, male or female, who would it be? In addition to female leaders like Patricia McDonald of Intel and Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, senior male leaders from many companies were present, visible and welcomed: Justin Rattner of Intel, Alan Eustace of Google, Gabriel Silberman from CA Labs, Mark Bregman of Neustar, Mike Shroepfer of Facebook, Tayloe Stansbury of Intuit and Bill Laing from Microsoft. Justin, Alan and Mark serve on AnitaB.org Board of Trustees. Gabriel and Bill participated as panelists for a plenary session, “Partnering with Executive Leaders for Shared Vision and Career Growth”; Mark, Alan, Mike and Tayloe participated as panelists for a session “What If… There Were More Women in Technology? The Business Case for Diversity.” To “get GHC”, you have to “go to GHC.” It’s an experience like no other – especially for men, who are in the overwhelming minority. It takes a strong male leader to move out of his comfort zone for three days of participation, having candid yet engaging conversations over a spectrum of topics, but the rewards are incomparable. Conference participation also creates an awareness of the challenges women still face and opens opportunities for real insights about what it is like to be a woman in technology. We are key to change in our companies, but we need more male leaders to step up and spend time listening to us and learning from us. We are on this journey together.