On March 10, over three thousand other attendees and I took part in the digital Women in Tech conference #WITswe2021. The Women in Tech initiative emphasizes that it is critical for the industry that more women choose a career in tech – and that those who are already in the industry want to stay. This year’s theme was ‘The Power of Resilience,’ which I think is the need of the hour considering the pandemic.
Paulina Modlitba, responsible for setting the main conference program, has described the theme in her words: “Our planet is facing a pandemic that is changing the way we live forever. Fortunately, a bright and common thread of hope is running through the crisis. A thread that forces us all to reflect and become better at collaborating, inventing, developing, and adapting to new conditions and a new reality. Resilience, the art of adapting, is more important than ever to survive and thrive in these unpredictable times.”
One of the best aspects of virtual conferences is the social interactions with people scattered across continents and time zones, learning from their experiences, and expanding your network. I have previously attended other tech conferences, however, this is my first time attending a virtual conference. I am nothing but amazed by the brilliant virtual interface, which nearly replaced the in-person experience. The navigation inside the conference arena was pretty intuitive. Kudos and credit to all organizers. I was able to mingle with other attendees between sessions ranging from students, developers, researchers, managers, entrepreneurs and learn about their journey, career and interests. Some other amusing things part of the event were the yoga booth with an amazing instructor, a piano booth with live music, and a photo booth.
My key takeaways
Keynotes, breakout sessions, insights, learnings, and inspiration were on the agenda, along with plenty of ways to network. Before diving into the talks, I would like to mention Unn Swanström, the event moderator who has done an excellent job engaging the audience, moderating the panel discussion, and asking all the right questions.
Speaking of inspirational talks, the first Keynote speaker was Lola Åkerström, an award-winning visual storyteller, author, and entrepreneur. She spoke about “The Power of Asking Why Not?!” and helped us think through breaking the barriers and to keep questioning as to why a certain space (where we can contribute) is not open for us.
Katrine Marçal, author of ‘Mother of Invention,’ starts by bringing up the fact that the first computer programmers in the world were women during World War II, how programming was female-dominated, and how in the mid-60s, things suddenly changed when the industry was starting to become more important to society. And programming went from being female to male-dominated and from low status to high status. It was very empowering and put things into perspective.
The best keynote, in my opinion, was Gitanjali Rao. She is an author, engineer, recognized as America’s Top Young Scientist, received an EPA Presidential award, and the list goes on… In her words, “I am a strong believer of doing what you want to do and not what you need to do; if I don’t love what I do- I stop doing it.” I was blown away by this speaker! Her being just a 15 year old with the passion and goal to create a positive global change and impact is exhilarating.
Dr. Rana El Kaliouby, author, CEO of Affectiva with a keen interest in human-machine interactions and a quest to make feelings understandable for technology.
Dr. Ayesha Khanna, CEO of ADDO AI, talked about how deep tach transforms how we live with the power of data!
Not to forget the Bright Future Panel with four amazing young women who, in their own ways, are pushing the tech industry forward and encouraging girls to take up careers in tech. There have also been several focus sessions with a wide variety of topics to choose from. A few that I found very interesting were “How to keep Women in Tech” by Accenture and the idea that company culture is important for equality and let’s people thrive, “Mastering self-leadership to succeed in your Tech dream job” by Storytel redefining what success means in terms of personal well-being. I, unfortunately, couldn’t attend a few focus sessions since we could just choose a single talk in a time-frame. However, every talk will be published online, so that will give me and everybody else a chance to catch up.
To conclude, I would say that the conference was inspiring with great reflections from the panel, speakers who care fervently about their work, and the willingness to encourage fellow women to dream big. I have found ways to network, with connections wanting to collaborate, learn and inspire each other. I’ll finish this with a shout-out to the partners of the event, Women in Tech, driven by people and companies who want to create a change.
Click here to view talks and focus sessions from the women in tech conference. It will be available for everyone for a limited time. Enjoy!