Mar 08

7 Takeaways from WECode (Women Engineers Code) 2019

Pioneers in the software industry ranging from entrepreneurs to CEOs, research scientists and some badass women developers gathered from all around the country at the WECode(Women Engineers Code) Conference held at Harvard University, February 23 and 24th. I had the unique opportunity of attending this event and meeting some truly inspiring women. For two full days, we discussed life, dreams, coding and technology. It was definitely a celebration of women in the tech industry.

By writing this blog post and sharing what I learned, I hope to inspire at least one other person who did not have the privilege to attend the conference this year. Here's a look at my top take-aways from some very thought-provoking talks that I attended.

1. Set Your Value Proposition

To become the successful person you are setting out to be, you need to start at the beginning. You need to start by understanding yourself. Psychologists refer to this quality as ‘self-awareness’ and consider it one of the fundamental characteristics of an emotionally intelligent person. Start by answering these questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you do?
  • What is your superpower?

In one of the keynote addresses that I attended, Dara Treseder, CMO of Carbon, shared her personal experiences from conducting interviews for C-level positions. She mentioned that women often felt uncomfortable talking about themselves. This got me reading about this issue. I unearthed a study from 2012, where researchers from Yale University, demonstrated that women are not good at self-promotion or emphasizing their achievements. Instead, they point people to negative aspects of themselves or worse, add a negative flair to their achievements. I think this is a serious issue that needs addressing. So, invest time in yourself. Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses and do not be afraid to speak about them aloud.

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2. Build your network

We've all heard about the wonders and importance of networking. But what people often fail to understand is that networking is a two-way street. You need to give before you receive. Get out there, connect people, reconnect and know their skills. Know it is your duty to uplift others in the process. Create your own killer team with a diverse set of skills. Whose door would you knock to get some professional advice? Who is your security guy? Who would you want beside you when you are looking to pitch an idea to an investor?

3. Set a goal

What is the one thing that you are very passionate about? What is the one problem in this world that you want to find a solution for? The talk on Social Impact Technology by Joy Ming and Aliso Nguyen, developers at Google and Facebook, reminded me of the power of setting a goal that motivates you. As important as it is to define a goal, it is also vital to define an achievable goal. You have probably already heard about SMART goals. One example of a SMART goal is instead of saying 'I want to cultivate the habit of reading books', you would say 'I will read 2 books every month for the next one year'. Dream big, visualize your dreams, break them down to actionable SMART goals and then once you achieve them, find a bigger dream.

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4. Take risks

Carol Dweck, a world-renowned Stanford University psychologist came up with this theory called '2% mindset' in her book titled 'MindSet'. What she found out from her study, in a few words, is successful people fall into a meager two percent of the human population who venture out of their comfort zone, take chances and embrace change. The 98% of the population just stay where they are because of their fear of failure. I have this image of the two percent mindset set as my laptop wallpaper to constantly keep reminding me to take chances and push my limits. It is my reminder that I have a chance to be the two percent.

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“Keep saying ‘yes' to everything, till you can say 'no'“, Catarina Macedo said in her keynote address, as she shared with us how she became who she is today, by being strong-willed and going after her lifelong dream. She’s a gamer, 28, and a Program Manager at XBox.

5. Own your emotions

Humans are emotional beings. Numerous factors affect the mental state of a person and that state carries over to one’s workplace as well. Women, specifically, are more emotional than men because we are wired and built that way. Scientifically speaking, we have 60% more prolactin(the hormone which controls tears) than men and thus can get more emotional and cry more often (mystery explained!) than men. So yes, there'll be days you will feel angry, anxious, afraid, sad or helpless. You will cry at work. You will want to give up. Recognize those emotions. Talk about your emotions. Become their master. Our innate emotional intelligence and empathy is what gives us the edge and makes us more powerful.

6. Be passionately curious

I love this quote by Albert Einstein:

Einstein

Keep your mind active. Read a lot. Be audacious enough to stand up and ask questions. Ask the right questions and at the right time. Keep your mind open to everyone's opinions. Be humble enough to accept that you are not always right. “It is but a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view.” Listen, before you talk. Observe. Learn.

7. Do.

Lastly and most importantly! DO - Don't say, act. Quit complaining, find solutions. Commit to yourself, believe and honor your commitments. So there you go!

Those were my key take-aways from the WECode 2019 conference. If you attended the conference and feel I missed something important, let me know in the comments section. I would like to thank and give due credit to some of the amazing women whose thoughts I borrowed to write this article - Dara Treseder, CMO - Carbon, I loved your spirit and your bold voice, Catarina Macedo, Program Manager - Xbox, ‘Perseverance’ should be your middle name (😉), Pooja Sankar, CEO - Piazza, Sophia Dominguez, CEO and Co-Founder of SVRF, Joy Ming and Aliso Nguyen, Software Engineers at Google and Facebook, Minlan Yu, Research Scientist at Harvard, Jessica McKeller, CTO - Pilot.

I would like to conclude by saying the time for women in technology is right now. Although the computing world remains a place where women are highly underrepresented today, girls are showing an increasing interest in science and technology. So let’s empower each other, break the stereotypes, harness our unique strengths and change the world.

Kudos to the WECode 2019 team for putting up such an incredible event! I hope to meet some of you amazing ladies again, next year.

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Varshini Sampath

Full-Stack Engineer