Insights From the Women in Tech Global Conference 2022: Part Two

In part one, I shared advice and insight on the topics of learning and implementing with intent. It’s been a while since the event, and I’m still marinating on the words of the lovely speakers from the Women in Tech Global Conference 2022. Today, I want to discuss more of this advice and insight for careers and dig into a few of the technical topics covered in the sessions I attended.

Non-Linear Paths

“Not every path to the summit takes the most obvious route.” Angela Robertson

You may remember I had a non-traditional path into tech, and I’ve spoken before with others who’ve come into tech from varied backgrounds. I believe this only enhances our ability to make good tech and better support our users while also improving ourselves and deepening our ability to empathize. In the last year or two, I’ve seen an uptick in transitions from other industries into tech; teachers, truck drivers, oil field workers, and more have worked on upskilling to make the leap. In support of that, there were several sessions providing advice, sharing their own stories, and encouraging and promoting non-linear paths during the conference.

“If you can see her, you can be her.” Desiree Young

As I mentioned in part one, Desiree not only promoted learning and embracing challenges—no matter your field—but she also talked about ways we can help others through allyship, mentorship, and sponsorship. These are relationships we can use to improve ourselves, but they can also be built to assist those looking to break into tech or improve themselves. Whether your intent (or theirs) isn’t to stay in tech, Ewa Balazinska emphasized the point: one year in tech is like five in a different industry because everything moves so fast.

There was copious advice for transitioning to tech, so I’ve compiled a list of ones I particularly like:

  • Ensure your title reflects what you actually This helps your resume get past recruiters.
  • Use a bio to describe what you want and not merely what you do.
  • Look for opportunities adjacent to what you currently do to expand your skillset towards what you want.
  • Change is hard. Be prepared.
  • Network (the people kind) and make your network work for you.
  • Soft skills are equally as essential as hard skills.
  • Be honest with yourself and others about your limits and boundaries.
  • Learn on the job.
  • Practice interviewing.
  • Credit to Angela Friend, Dana Liebowitz, Zainab Khan, Darlene Miranda, Alison Weingarten, Patricia Torbolds, KC Lathrop, Shilpa Arora, and Preethi Natarajan.

As you can see, much of this advice can apply to anyone, even if you’re not looking to transition to a different field but want to stand out to recruiters or move up in your current organization. I won’t harp on these points too long, but I want to emphasize this: Be honest with yourself and others about your limits and boundaries. This is incredibly important in so many ways, and if you recently started a new job, start with this honesty on day one, and if you’re interviewing, apply it during the interview process. When your potential new boss asks, “Do you have any questions for me/us,” use this opportunity to ask questions about those boundaries you need. During my interview process for Head Geek, I was concerned about the potential amount of travel. It’s important to me not to travel more than I consider a reasonable amount and to work some semblance of “normal” business hours and not work nights and weekends (mostly, as there are exceptions). These were concerns I brought up during the interview process and continue to ensure I bring up in the two-plus years since.

The Technical

This being a Women in Tech conference, there were also plenty of conversations around technology. I spent some time learning about ethical AI, access control, and digital transformation challenges. This being a global conference, it runs pretty much non-stop for 48 hours (with breaks). So, there were so many sessions I missed on quantum computing, UX research, autonomous driving, sustainability, radar satellites, product management, crypto, NFTs, data privacy, the metaverse, blockchain, Web3, and more on the first day alone! Here’s what stuck with me to share with you.

The discussions on ethical AI were impactful and interesting. Patricia Scanlon brought to our attention the current bias in AI needing to be addressed. I believe this assessment of bias in AI should be done regularly and addressed continually. The points she brought up about how AI makes different assumptions between children and adults were eye-opening. She also pointed out a 30% inaccuracy regarding Black speakers versus white speakers. This is more of a known point, as we’ve already seen AI cause issues over race, but no less important to discuss. Even when we don’t work directly with AI, as I don’t, keeping updated on things we can make a ruckus about when needed will only help the technology we use to improve. Dipanwita Das continued the discussion on creating and maintaining transparent and ethical AI. “AI is only as good as the data it’s based on.” During THWACKcamp in The Future of AIOps, Karlo said something similar—it’s crucial to remember the data must be accurate, and there must be checks and balances between humans and AI for it to be effective.

Ruchira Pokhriyal gave a great talk on access control. She broke it down to be relatable for all levels, which I admire, comparing digital access control to physical access control. Using your house as an example with physical doors and locks (even multiple locks). She emphasized the importance of digital and physical access control across our work and home environments. I also appreciated how she detailed the many different types of attacks which can be mitigated with appropriate access control. I wish I could share this talk with everyone I know in tech and those who aren’t!

I’ve been talking about digital access control and privacy a lot lately with non-technical people in my life, and I can’t say enough how little understanding they have around using technology to protect themselves. It's easy for us to forget when we live in tech every day. I’ve included a list of the different access control attacks she went through, as it was an educational experience:

Then, we got to a discussion around the digital transformation challenge. Puja Mittal gave an informative talk citing the key benefits of going through digital transformation as engaged customers, transformed processes, empowered employees, and optimized operations. Unfortunately, digital transformation isn’t without its challenges presented by risk-averse cultures, siloed strategies, inadequate funding, gaps in core digital skills, and the digital dexterity (or lack thereof) of existing employees. With the push for digital transformation rapidly increasing over the past few years, it’s essential to recognize it’s an iterative journey. What your organization put in place as a short-term solution to meet the demands at the start of the pandemic may not be an optimal long-term solution. It’s vital to celebrate learning and continue to leverage learning to improve over time. There will be mistakes and missteps, but in the end, we’ll grow and improve.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed going on this journey of reflection and learning with me. The conference was fantastic and an exceptional experience to share with others. We had a chat in Teams going during and immediately after the conference, sharing our perceptions, favorite sessions, encouraging each other, and ensuring we all got the full experience. If you ever get the chance to attend the Women in Tech Conference, I wholeheartedly recommend embracing the opportunity.

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