Women Techmakers Summit 2017

On Friday I had the honour of attending the Women Techmakers Summit held at the Google Sydney office, which was in celebration of International Womens Day. There are summits being held around the world. I had to fill in an application, which was later approved, and I was very thrilled to have been selected. I was also pleasantly surprised to see that many women I already know from meetups or the community were there too. 🤗

Women in the room at Women Techmakers Summit

Upon arrival we were given mimosas! Wow. 🍹 Definitely one of the nicer drinks I’ve had. I usually don’t like citrusy drinks but this mimosa was amazing. What a way to start the day. We were also given a tote bag and a bit of swag – a lovely Women Techmakers notebook and pen (with a stylus nib on the top), as well as a lunch box of food to last us for the afternoon.

Anna Emmerson served as our emcee for the day and introduced Head of Global Programs, Natalie Villalobos, who got us in a very empowering mood. Everyone is welcome here was printed on the presentation screens to reflect the attitude Google has towards accepting people regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, religious background or otherwise. She shared with us the amount of women in tech who were united around the globe thanks to Women Techmakers. A whopping 17,000 from 50 different countries. And in that room on Friday were probably about a hundred of us.

Sabrina Farmer, engineering director at Google, was an example of someone who followed her passion from a very young age. She was interested in tech and played with various gadgets that were available. In her family, she was doubted. She surprised everyone when she was the first female in the family to graduate from college. Her love for problem solving got her to where she is today, but even she suffers from impostor syndrome (a topic that came up several times during the day) and found herself downplaying her own accomplishments.

Visibility of your work is critical to your success —Sabrina Farmer

After Sabrina’s keynote there was a panel of three amazing women: Emily Olson, Julie Demsey, and Joanne Jacobs, who all had wonderful stories to tell and inspiring experiences to share. The panel was run by Anna, who asked the questions and also grabbed a few questions from the audience. Joanne was definitely the most amusing – her sense of humour really shone through! After finding out that she was an ex-ballerina like me, I was very happy to know that we had something in common.

Emily brought up a great point (again with the impostor syndrome theme) that women do not realise that their story is more inspirational than they think. Everyone has a story, and everyone has something to share. Women tend to downplay their achievements and what it took for them to get where they are. But their stories are all important and inspiring in their own way. ⭐️

A question came up from the audience about career and family, and whether any of the women on the panel had children or found it hard to maintain a balance between career and kids (if at all). None of the women could speak from experience but there were many women in the audience who did have children. I have to admit… it’s a thought that’s crossed my mind, and many women have sacrificed their work for their career. It’s sad, and I don’t know how things will progress in my own version of the future, but I love my career, and at the same time, I do want to have a family at some point.

I won’t really know until I get there, I guess. Your career can be so rewarding, but I’ve had both men and women tell me that having a child is one of the most rewarding feelings. :)

When asked about their plans for the future, Joanne was undoubtedly very passionate about her knowledge and background in information technology. She has no plans to retire, but would love to work on emerging technology to be able to help older generations adapt to it quicker.

Julie said, “I am living my future right now”. I couldn’t agree more with the feeling she must have had in saying that. It’s very possible. :) She said that she has a job she loves and is following her passion. She gave a bit of solid advice to do what is in line with your values… and that may not necessarily be a high-paying job.

Another tip that Joanne gave regarding public speaking was very similar to some advice I received from a colleague at some point: when you are presenting, the audience is on your side. They don’t want you to fail. They want you to succeed. They don’t sit there for a presentation and hope it’s going to be bad and that you will do a shitty job. They want to listen and want you to do well and they think it’s going to be great.

After a break, we split into two groups. One was on Tensorflow, which was fairly technical, and the other – which I chose – was called Develop Your Story: An Interactive Workshop. A friend suggested that Tensorflow could be learned quite easily using resources on the internet, so she chose the story workshop, and I sort of kept that in mind when I made my choice too.

It was a great workshop, with Sammy from Speechless running the workshop. We broke out of our comfort zones, told funny stories, made funny noises as we stretched our mouth muscles, and all got to make new friends. I somehow made a really good superhero pose and gave my name as Supergeorgie, which got me a drizzle of recognition as I met new people. 😆

After the workshop we had another quick break, then got to tune in on a fireside chat with Pia Waugh, project manager at AUSTRAC. With a huge following and awarded as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Women in Australia for 2014, Pia was an inspiration to everyone in the room. She left us feeling not just hopeful, but so inspired and encouraged to do our best. I found it interesting that she made a note of working together with your partner, whomever that may be, because working together in a relationship is important. No one should overpower the other, and both should support each other. I thoroughly agree! 👏

Her final words before she had to unfortunately dash home for her child was to not be afraid of reaching out and networking. Bouncing ideas off people can be really useful and it’s OK to reach out to others.

Cecilia Herbert, Diversity and Inclusion manager at Google, closed the summit. She knew she was “standing between you and drinks”… and said there were blue cocktails. 💙 I love blue cocktails! There was no way I was missing those! Cecilia again addressed impostor syndrome and assured us that we are all amazing women with great potential.

It was a fantastic and inspirational day, and I am so glad I got the opportunity. ✨

Natalie shows us the impact of WTM around the world

There were some professional photos taken on the day, and I might update this post with them later on when they are available, but for now, I just wanted to share my story of the day. :)

I have created a Twitter moment with all my tweets and a few others! I was going to embed it into my post here, but it’s quite large.

Comments on this post

Oh impostor syndrome… I can see how that would pop up quite a bit during the summit! It makes sense that a lot of women would feel it in a men-dominated field, as sad as that is. I think it’s also cool that you’re able to attend all these awesome events and meet people who are passionate about the field that they work in. I think it’s very inspiring to talk to people who are really invested and passionate about what they do. It also sounds like you learned a lot!

In my cohort, I know some who are full-time moms, part-time students, and full-time workers. I am always amazed at their workload and yet they still manage to stay above that required minimum 2.7 GPA. It’s difficult but I think it’s definitely possible to juggle both a family and a career if you really wanted to.

What an awesome experience! It sounds so inspiring! And a lot of what you shared could be applied to nearly anything!

The Women Techmakers Summit sounds like a really interesting event. It’s so inspiring to hear stories of people succeeding in their career, and also get advice about the struggles that come with it. I’m sure it’s amazing to get to be around such influential people for the day too.

I think the kids vs. career thing is something a lot of people have to face. I have no idea what I’d do. I love working, and I can’t imagine having a life without it. But I suppose your opinions change once you’ve had a child so who knows. It’s a really difficult decision.

I’ve never thought about public speaking like that. I always feel so intimidated when I have to speak in front of an audience, and I’ve never considered what they’re thinking. It’s definitely encouraging!

Glad you had a great time at the event! And glad you got some awesome drinks too – the cocktail sounds amazing!

This is sooo cool! I wish I get to attend it too some day!

Ah! Is there where you met my doppelganger?

This summit sounds amazing! I love the fact that they had “Everyone is welcome” displayed. This is exactly what we need especially in today’s climate.

“Women tend to downplay their achievements and what it took for them to get where they are. But their stories are all important and inspiring in their own way.” – AGREED! I get sad when this happens, but I kind of see why especially if they’ve been told not to do this and that because they’re a woman. BUT we definitely need more uplifting and pushing women into the spotlight and shouting about their achievements from the rooftops!

This looks like an amazing experience and I’m so glad you got to go! So inspiring <3