Story and photos by Kae Lani Kennedy
It was 8:30 on a rainy Saturday morning, and while many would spend this time sleeping in, the Ullyot Meeting Hall of the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Old City Philadelphia quickly filled with women (and even some men) eager for a day of learning and connecting at the Women in Tech Summit.
The events for the day kicked off with an opening keynote address from Grace Killelea, author of The Confidence Effect. Killelea, in a humorous and vulnerable way, touched on several themes that reverberated throughout the Women in Tech Summit: personal growth and empowerment, collaborating with and supporting other women, building networks and “crushing myths about women in the workplace,” as she puts it.
“Imagine what we could accomplish if we all put our talents in the middle of the room,” said Killelea in a powerful visualization of just how much can be done when we collaborate. With several hundred attendees who were willing to show up and dedicate a whole Saturday toward professional development and supporting women in tech, there is no doubt that the potential for accomplishment is plentiful.
To Kaya Casper, an attendee who works for the Navy, Killelea’s comments on collaboration resonated most with her. “Whether you’re talking about differences in race or age or gender,” says Casper, “having all those different groups represented can make a difference in the direction of where a project can go.”
After Killelea set the motivational tone for the day, attendees went to their breakout sessions that consisted of four tracks: Innovate Yourself, two separate tracks for Tech Trends, and an interactive, hands-on workshop.
Tania Philip, the Vice President of Product at Shutterstock, facilitated a Tech Trends session called “Future Proofing: Designing for the Needs of a New Audience.” Even though the room held women from a wide range of industries (everything from cyber security to library science) the topic was something that could apply to anyone, since, if you think about it, everything is a product. The importance of knowing who you are targeting was the biggest takeaway from Philip’s session, where she discussed strategies on how to use empathy and human-centered design to create solutions.
Along with courses about the building blocks of tech, there were courses geared more toward creativity. A social media branding workshop run by Angie Hilem of Heighten Social focused on how to market yourself and build your personal brand online. For anyone who is entrepreneurial, social media can be both daunting and time-consuming. Hilem summed it up quite nicely, though. “Your personal brand,” she said, “is the expression of strategy.”
Creativity and collaboration are two skills necessary for any team, but what if your team works remotely? According to Audrey Troutt, Senior Software Engineer at Tune, 43 percent of employees in America work remotely, and Gallup polls are showing that working remotely can increase employee engagement.
In her session titled “Working Remotely Together,” she discussed the challenges she faces managing a team in Seattle while she works out of Philadelphia, and shared the tools and secrets she uses to lead her team. “66 percent of communication is cut out if you are only using text,” says Troutt. She recommends trying to have face time with her team as much as possible using tools like Skype and Bluejeans.
Thinking of the world in terms of “and” rather than “or” was the mantra of Sandra Lopez’s session, titled “The New Face in Engineering.” As the vice president and general manager of wearables at Intel, Lopez is at the forefront of a new frontier where fashion meets functionality: a new area of tech that Lopez calls “Fashioneer”. By blending art and science, Lopez encouraged attendees that we can uphold “both the standards of user experience and the standards of tech” in a holistic approach to technology.
The day ended with a closing keynote by Kelly Hoey, author of Build Your Dream Network. Hoey urged the importance of a strong network, but she also encouraged attendees to look for networks in unlikely places. “Suddenly the women in your ‘Mommy and Me’ group aren’t just other moms, but business opportunities,” Hoey said.
— kristina chang (@ksiechang) June 9, 2016
“I am so proud of Comcast for sponsoring the Philadelphia Women in Tech Summit, a sign of commitment to a diverse workforce and a testament that companies are stronger when fueled by women and men working together to innovate and build new capabilities through technology,” said Gabriella Vacca, Vice President of Systems Engineering at Comcast.
“When I look at the new Comcast Technology Tower rising to the sky, a beautiful landmark and commitment to technology and the city of Philadelphia, I can’t stop thinking how this vertical campus creates opportunities for thousands of women who can help us change how we work to create more and better services for our customers.”
The summit, made possible by sponsors like Comcast and Chariot Solutions, is proof that building strong relationships between women in technology and community resources is essential to creating successful workplaces at any organization.