Women@DockerCon 2019: Issues and Opportunities Facing Professional Women Today

 

This week, I attended the Women@DockerCon Summit, a private forum for women in tech to connect, discuss, and engage with each other, at Moscone West in San Francisco. This Summit preceded DockerCon, a 3-day technology conference organized by Docker, Inc., and brought together women (and a handful of curious men) in tech in a space where they could freely discuss the issues and opportunities facing professional women today. The event included a workshop and two panels complete with a stage full of lady bosses.  

Women@DockerCon allowed attendees to share their success stories, voice their concerns, and ask for help in a room of supportive strangers. Everyone—from pioneers in the modern women's movement, to the software development directors, to the participants in the audience—had something impactful to say about their experiences while working as a woman.

Communicating with Presence

“Half the people have Imposter Syndrome, the other half don’t know what they’re doing.”

Have you ever felt like a total fraud and that at any moment everyone around you was going to realize how little you know? Good news—you’re not alone! Francine Gordon, a professor at Santa Clara University has spent years working with women who consistently doubt their abilities, a sure sign of imposter syndrome. She explained that, like a duck swimming, you see the movement, but not the vigorous peddling underwater—everybody is working equally as hard, you just don’t see it!

Francine’s workshop began three questions:

  1. What situations trigger your feelings of being a fraud?

  2. What have you held yourself back from because you felt like a fake?

  3. What has been the most effective way of managing these circumstances?

One participant shared that she makes sure to speak up within the first 10 minutes of a meeting. She uses this tactic to hold herself accountable and ensure that she doesn’t succumb to self-doubt. Another shared that she was hesitant to ask the dumb questions in an important meeting, but she wished she had after Bill Gates came in confidently asking all the “dumb questions” she was thinking.

Investing in an Inclusive Future

Next were the panels where a wide range of fields were represented, such as venture capital, human resources, insurance, and more. They spoke on best networking practices, how to handle awkward situations in the workplace, and what they’re excited about going forward in their careers.

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XFactor Ventures Investment Partner Erica Brescia focused on investing in companies with at least one female founder. She built her network by leveraging supportive communities like the Female Founders group on Facebook.

Angel investor Susan Kimerlin shared the best way to learn about your industry: finding somebody doing something interesting and seeing how you can help.

Backstage Capital Director Brittany Davis is excited about seeing a positive trend in female founders at the companies she’s investing in.

Working While Female

CloudBees Senior Director of Global Human Resources Ellen Thorne explained that surrounding herself with a highly technical team allowed her to build important skills that wouldn’t have evolved otherwise.

New Relic Senior Director of Customer Marketing Cynthia Hester shared her best kept secret, “saying ‘thank you’ is the best way to say ‘no’ without pissing anybody off.”

Cisco Vice President of Global Marketing Aruna Ravichandran mastered the art of calculated risk, even if it meant taking a demotion and leading her family to think she was having a midlife crisis.

Liberty Mutual Insurance Director Honey Williams recounted how working at Subway and later dropping out of the AirForce sounded like failures, but those experiences taught her that you can’t be scared to make the decisions that are right for you, even when everyone around you tells you otherwise.

Being surrounded by so many powerful, bold women at Women@DockerCon reminded me of how much we can accomplish if we join forces and help each other take the next right step.