Yesterday, I spent the day at the 1st ever Girls in Tech Catalyst Conference. It was a full 9-5 packed chock-full of ridiculously successful women (and a handful of similar men) with moderated panels every half hour. The format was such that you didn’t really have time to get bored, and splitting the day into half hour segments, with the topic and panel changing each time, was a surprisingly brilliant move. I never wanted to get up and leave, except when I wanted to follow the panel out to chat and meet them. The vast majority of invited moderators and panelists were “founders” and “CEOs” of their respective companies. These women had so much spirit and pizzazz it was hard not to walk out of the conference completely inspired.
Some of the highlights of the conference for me were Eileen Gittins, the Founder and CEO of Blurb, that awesome company where you can publish your own soft or hardcover books (and be like, a REAL author) for the jaw-dropping price of about $13. She had such a quick wit and exuded so much friendly energy, you could tell the crowd was eating her up! It was unfortunate that the panel had only 30 minutes. The moderator had to keep telling Eileen to be “terse” when that’s the last thing the audience wanted. More Eileen, please!
Another great presentation I truly enjoyed was Katherine Barr’s mini-seminar on Negotiations. She is this tall, blonde, beautifully composed woman who led us through the key insights and background behind concepts of negotiation, which were first composed for the Harvard Negotiation Project and taught at business schools throughout the world. While our short exercise, in which we partnered up with other women in the crowd and role played through a scenario from two distinct negotiating perspectives, may have seemed silly from the outside (imagine a roomful of women pretending to be men and shaking hands on a deal or arguing about money) it was actually pretty insightful, and relayed a powerful message about how important it is to prepare in advance for a negotiation.
Information is power, huh? I went up to her afterwards to say thanks but also to ask for some personal advice– I figured she’d have the best, most objective opinion to share about a question that was bouncing around my head. It’s hard to ask questions about negotiating certain “life issues” to your mom, your friends– everyone thinks they know what’s best, and everyone is usually opposed in their thinking. Katherine Barr gave me some pointers about how to think through my question, and she did it without judgment (how could she judge, she knew me for about 2 minutes.) Anyway, I’m totally about to order the book she recommended, “Getting to Yes“– now to think if I’d rather get the Kindle version…
I enjoyed most of the workshops, and how they all centered on growing a business as well as growing yourself in tune with the developing trends of the market– how to deal with social media, how to market to niche groups, how to differentiate your brand, how to grow, how to fund your growth, and how to innovate. In hindsight, these high-level categories sound like lame marketing speak appropriate for ironic satire on a television show. But trust me, they were awesome.
The last workshop was about growth and the moderator was Dave McClure, of Founders Fund (and SlideShare, SimplyHired, Mint, PayPal, etc…) I twittered that I was going to approach him after his panel and wondered “aloud” if he’d chat. He did, and was a pretty nice dude. He even commented on my Twitter handle. Who knew people really dug papayas?
All in all, the day was supremely valuable and inspiring. I underestimated (by a long shot) just how engaging and thought-provoking the content and speakers were going to be. I am extremely appreciative for the opportunity to attend, and grateful to Adriana Gascoigne and all the Girls in Tech for putting on a wonderful show!
*All photos courtesy of Julie Michelle at femmefotographie.com Thanks!