Among the many professional activities I am considering and doing post holiday, is one that more of my colleagues – particularly women colleagues, should consider doing. By that, I mean submit to speak at conferences in 2012 around your area(s) of technical expertise.
Because I am stepping beyond my comfortable confines of Microsoft technologies, in particular, I am now working with noSQL databases. I have decided that it will push me even further to also SPEAK on these new (to me) technologies. To that end I have submitted to the following conferences already in 2012:
–Agile2012 (on the open source unit testing library ApprovalTests)
–CS&IT2012 (on creating the Intentional Method of Teaching Kids to Program)
–Strata 2012 (on BigData for BI Professionals)
–OsCon 2012 (on harnessing world-wide contributions via smart pair programming to improve open source projects)
–SQLSaturday120 (on noSQL for SQL DBAs)
So, here’s my call to action for you:
1) Make a list of technologies you love (and I assume you are presently working in)
2) Talk to your colleagues about what they have learned from working with you.
3) Start small – 15 to 30 minutes, single topic. Write your presentation, you can use powerpoint, Prezi, notepad, anything…just get your thoughts down. Write some sample code or build a small sample application too.
4) Give your presentation to one or more of your technical friends, improve it, based on their suggestions.
5) Give your session again – a user group is a great place to do this. If possible, also have someone record it. You may also want to have a co-speaker join you. They can ‘interview you’ to help keep you on track. Also they can ‘watch the audience’ for understanding and help to facilitate (translate) questions. You can also hand out paper evaluation forms or use online evaluations (like SurveyMonkey) – ask for feedback!
6) Post online content, post your slides to slideshare, post some or all of your talk to YouTube. Blog about it. Post your code to Git, SourceForge, CodePlex, etc…
6) Submit your session to one or more regional conferences. CodeCamps are great for this! Also *Saturdays, such as SQLSaturdays, SharePointSaturdays, etc…Again, make sure to read (and act on) all of the suggestions in your post-event surveys.
7) Get to know your local contacts for any vendor software you may be talking about, i.e. AWS, Google, Microsoft, etc… all have local developer advocates in most major markets. ASK them to help you get accepted to speak at regional and national conferences.
8) Submit to a national conference. You are ready now, believe me. I should know. It is always best if you can ATTEND a conference at least once before submitting, however if this is not possible, then spend quite a bit of time looking at past presentations on the conference website from previous years. Prepare to get rejected. I get rejected at over 50% of the conferences I submitted to. That’s the way it goes, accept it. If you do get rejected, ask the organizers for more feedback, i.e. what they were looking for that was missing from your proposal.
9) After you have a good track record speaking at national conferences, ASK to be part of conference keynotes. Again, from personal experience, I will tell you that you will rarely get invited at first. However, AFTER you deliver one or more successful conference keynotes, then you will have a new problem (and a good one!) you will have more invitations than you can accept.
There is only one way to change the remarkably small showing of technical women speaking at conferences. I am doing my part, are you?
Good luck and I hope to see you on stage at the next conference. If I can help in any way, please ping me via this blog.