By Abbi Leverton
"Hi I’m Abbi, I work with RecWorks on the Aspiring Women Speakers group."
Have you been invited to give your first lightning talk? Or participate in a panel discussion focusing on the challenges, culture, and career experiences of women in tech?
Firstly, congratulations, that in itself is an incredible achievement. And secondly, you are not alone.
It's completely normal to feel a mix of excitement and apprehension, especially when you're sharing the stage with experienced speakers. But remember, your unique perspective and passion are your strongest assets in this journey.
The tech industry benefits immensely from diverse voices, and your willingness to contribute to the conversation is truly commendable. To help ease your concerns, let's delve into the advice shared by seasoned women in tech following advice and guidance sought from a fellow AWS member that is currently in your shoes.
Expertise Through Experience
Angela Channer, Principal Software Craftsperson at Codurance, offered a reminder to the AWS member that “You are a woman in tech so remember you are an expert in this field”. She goes on to comment that drawing from your personal experiences, thoughts, and challenges will resonate with the audience. Angela's first external talk of 2023 was on resilience, and she found that sharing her insights and networking afterward created a rewarding experience. Angela goes on to say “Try to enjoy it, the time will fly by and it’s never as bad as we fear”.
The Power of Personal Stories
Abbi Leverton, Community Advocate and Events Host at RecWorks Ltd, echos Angela's sentiments, highlighting the value of personal stories, “If you have a couple of stories/anecdotes ready that fit in with the topic, no one will say "that didn't happen" or "that's not true" because no one can argue with something that has obviously happened.”
These stories are uniquely yours, and nobody can dispute your experiences. Preparing a couple of anecdotes related to the topic will lend authenticity to your talk. Remember, you're not striving to win arguments, but rather to share relatable experiences that foster understanding and connection.
Preparation is Key
Alex Radu, VP of Product Adoption and Marketing at JPMorgan Chase & Co., suggests thorough preparation as a confidence booster, “Try to get as much information to prepare for the event as possible, get the background information of the other speakers, the event, and the questions that will be asked”.
Gathering information about fellow speakers, the event, and potential questions will help you feel more at ease. Creating key talking points for possible questions will provide you with a structured foundation for your responses. As Alex rightly points out, preparation is a powerful tool that can alleviate the pressure.
Expertise in Your Identity
Alicja Ogonowska, Flutter Developer at Equiqo, iterated Angela’s sentiment in saying “If you are a woman and you work in tech, then you are already an expert in this field” further underscoring the fact that by being a woman working in tech, you already possess expertise in the subject matter and that your journey and insights hold immense value for others.
Alicja also shares a valuable resource—an engaging panel discussion by Flutteristas, a community of female and non-binary individuals interested in Flutter. This discussion delves into challenges faced in the tech industry and provides additional perspectives you can consider, you can find it here. It serves as a testament to the importance of sharing experiences and learning from one another, ultimately fostering a more inclusive and empowered tech industry.
Mindset and Preparation
Phillipa Rodney, Senior Engineering Manager at VEED.IO, offers some practical tips on mentally and physically preparing for the event. Watching similar panels to align yourself with the atmosphere and getting into a positive mindset can contribute to your confidence, and feeling good and comfortable in your chosen outfit will further enhance your confidence on stage.
Philli also encourages you to cherish and be proud of the opportunity, saying, "Make the most of this chance, and think about the people who will benefit from what you have to say." It's a wonderful reminder to think of the impact your words will have on those listening.
In a nutshell, your journey into the world of public speaking is a significant step toward promoting diversity in tech. Embrace your unique experiences, prepare diligently, and remember that your insights will resonate with the audience. The tech industry thrives on innovation and new perspectives, and you're contributing to that growth.
Having a mixture of emotions, especially when you're sharing the stage with experienced speakers, is completely normal but your unique perspective and passion are your strongest assets in this journey.
The tech industry benefits immensely from diverse voices, and your willingness to contribute to the conversation is truly commendable. Enjoy the moment, and relish the chance to inspire and empower others in the tech community.