Last weekend, we had the awesome opportunity to attend the ACT-W (Advancing the Careers of Technical Women) conference in Portland and we had a great time! As I wrote about fairly recently, the gender gap in tech is pervasive, and ACT-W is doing its part to help support women entering into and working in tech positions. Now in its third year, the conference is growing rapidly, as the Portland tech industry continues to flourish. Here’s a run down of what happened this past weekend!
Friday Night was the kickoff to the event, and featured a rad kick off party at Smarsh – with awesome catered food from Nicholas’ Restaurant, an open bar and plenty of engaged conversation. I arrived fairly late to the game, but still got a chance to sample some fine food, have a relaxing beer and check out the new Smarsh headquarters while reconnecting with friends who were also attending the conference.
Saturday began bright and early at 8:30am – (but not as early as the conference organizers, who were up and running at 7!). We made it downtown for the limited seating breakfast keynote, which touched on being a minority in big tech companies, strategies to interrupt sexism and work, and encouraging diversity in a homogenous industry. The main floor keynote, delivered by Kristin Toth Smith, CEO of Code Fellows, was a great talk on how unconscious biases come in to play in tech workplaces, and offered ideas about how we can all make tech more inclusive!
After the keynote, it was time for the lightning talks – a series of 5 minute mini talks on different topics. The talks ranged from UX design to transphobia at work, and were all super compelling, and quite diverse. I was excited to be presenting a lightning talk myself – a short introduction to the 1960’s, which was the era when my mother got into tech, as a computer operator on an IBM 360/30 mainframe with no prior experience in tech. The audience was super supportive, and I got a ton of great feedback after my presentation!
The rest of the day featured a ton of great workshops on leadership, freelancing, Open Source, and more, as well as a popular tabling/booth area complete staffed by companies such as CDK global, Simple and Appnexus, as well as organizations like Chicktech, and Lesbians Who Tech with mock interviews. This is the area where Sarah spent most of her Saturday, as Upswept Creative was on hand to offer free headshots to conference attendees!
After Saturdays’ jam-packed schedule, Esri hosted a limited space after party – unfortunately I was unable to attend this or the Sunday workshops, but I am sure they were an awesome experience!
Overall, the conference was a great way to spend a weekend and an important resource for women and girls to be exposed to tech, as well as fostering diversity in a collaborative and meaningful way. Until next year!