Bring your best you to the workplace

Women in Technology
28/01/2019
My visit to the European Women in Technology Conference

The first question which you could ask yourself is – why do women need their own conference? It is not like men were not allowed to attend the ‘European Women in Technology’ conference in Amsterdam on November 28th and 29th in 2018. But the message is clear – the biggest part of the audience as well as all the speakers are female.

Why do women need their own conference?

Technology-related conferences usually are attended by many more men than women. This reflects the ratio in all technology-related professions. Whereby inviting only women from technology-related businesses to a big get-together enables them also to discuss their feelings and fears in depths. This is something which women sometimes feel uneasy about in front of dominant men. Another motivation is the possibility to focus on the obstacles why less women than men tend to work in technology – obstacles which often seem to only exist in women’s minds and which also were discussed at ‘European Women in Technology’.

The talks were given in the same style as at the TED conferences – well-prepared, fluently speaking women explained their messages to the point in front of a big audience (in total, three thousand persons attended the conference at RAI Amsterdam). The presentations were all well reviewed. Highly-ranked managers of big players like HP, Microsoft or Audi were invited to share their thoughts. Also women who only recently started their careers were given the opportunity to talk eventually for the first time in front of such big audience.

Highlights

During the two days the importance of diversity and how to enable or even enforce it, self-confidence, competences and skills which are important for your career in technology, work-life balance and motherhood, leadership and various technology development highlights were addressed. The audience consisted of both women who are educated as engineers, scientists or designers, and women who work in HR or marketing of a technology-oriented company.

At least the following three contributions deserve to be highlighted because of their very inspirational effect:

Construct a good environment for your team

Maria Gomez from ThougtWorks talked about how to create the right environment for your team to thrive. In her opinion, the key to create the ultimate motivation for each team is autonomy, mastery and purpose. To achieve guided autonomy, a team needs to have defined boundaries and areas. Internalizing the quote ‘you build it, you run it’ (Amazon) creates responsibility. A continuous learning environment further enables every team to work independently.
Purpose is to be found according to Maria by working towards sustainability, competition and justice. As a start, she recommends knowledge sharing sessions where one team member can train the colleagues in a certain topic.

Bring the full you to the workplace

Ideas of how to bring the full you to the workplace were shared by Mennat Mokhtar from ING. First, she described the vicious circle in which she found herself trapped at some point of her career. After freeing herself and travelling the world, she would soon start missing the cooperate life and vice versa. She recommends considering the following ideas which in total helped her to create stability and meaning:
Get to know yourself by finding your true intrinsic motivation, which in her case is in relation to authentic leadership to ‘live in peace and harmony by stimulating inner transformation’. Search inside yourself by using e.g. a journal as your personal ‘brain dump’ as Mennat phrased it. And then, bring yourself to work by living and working by your purpose.

It is also important to pay enough attention to the people in your environment. Mennat suggests to simply start every meeting with ‘How are you?’ and mindfully listen to the reply. Just repeating what the other person says already creates acknowledgment.
Another idea is the ‘walk and talk’ to make a team bond – go for a walk in pairs, switch partners every 20 minutes and do not talk about work. Or to play the ‘two facts one foe’ game where every colleague needs to guess which piece of the shared personal information is freely invented and not true.
Finally, Mennat motivated the audience to help others to be successful, to encourage the desired behavior in other people by showing it yourself, to take responsibility and to not stick to your role.

Mentoring vs. Coaching

Meera Rao from Synopsis explained how people can grow together through mentorship. In her opinion, a great mentor forces you to think better of yourself and to get the very best out of yourself. In her words, a coach is somebody who supports you in finding out what you want to do, while a mentor tells you what to do. A mentor should not give advice, criticize, rescue, sponsor, silence or discount his or her mentee. He or she should, however, give constructive feedback which you can adopt to and listen well.

Good things come to those who ask

These three examples show the richness in ideas with which the audience went home after the two days. ‘Good things come those who wait’ is not the mind set which will help you to find happiness as a women or man in technology – but you can accelerate your career by actively asking for more responsibility and challenges. Even if you feel that you are only 80% qualified for a position – this is enough, and you will grow with your new tasks. Visit the European Women in Technology Conference in 2019 in Amsterdam to get inspired yourself!

Josephine Wittkowski
Consultant – Technical Software 

Source pictures: Maddox Events

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