Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the 2014 NY Lesbians Who Tech Summit: a refreshing two day tech summit filled with back to back innovative and captivating speakers and queer women “teching” it out for social good. Let me tell you why this was refreshing. On my bus ride up to NY I was reading an article in the latest issue of Fast Company magazine covering the f8—Facebook’s developers conference.
The picture revealed a conference that practically all white men.
Most tech conferences, hackathons, and networking events end up looking just like this, which is why the Lesbians Who Tech Summit was almost surreal. Accomplished queer women from the likes of Facebook, Paypal and Google shared valuable insights while up-and-coming lesbian entrepreneurs pitched innovative ideas to investors right on stage. And women hackers from organizations such as Code For Progress and Girls Who Code kept everyone’s intensity up all throughout Saturday’s hackathon.
I met a lot of people and learned many things at my first (and the first ever) New York based Lesbians Who Tech Summit. I’ve listen my top five takeaways below:
1. Do what feeds your soul
Founder of “Digital Undivided”, Kathryn Finney gave us a piece of advice that no parent or college career advisor probably ever gave us: Whatever you do, don’t do it to feed your resume; do it to feed your soul. Find your passion and put your time and energy into building your skill set around that… and then you can become lucratively good at doing what you actually love to do. And isn’t that all we want?
2. Fail gloriously
Facebook’s Head of Diversity and Inclusion Sara Sperling shared with us that to recognize success, you must be very familiar with failure. Success doesn’t happen the first time. It takes stepping over many failed attempts and realizing what doesn’t work to find out what does work. So when you fail, fail gloriously. Fail out loud. Fail happily. And in that failure, know you’re one step closer to success.
3. Live radically
J. Bob Alotta of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice gave us her definition of radical: Live the way you want, without anyone saying you cannot. Simple enough, right? Never let any man or woman tell you that your dreams are too big or too small, if it’s your dream. Never limit yourself to someone else’s expectations — be radical in exceeding your own.
4. Fortune is in the follow up
Expert pitch judge Natalia Oberti Noguera reminded us that exchanging business cards is only half of networking. The resources, the seed money, the investment, the fortune doesn’t lie in the initial handshake but in the follow-up – the emails, phone calls and exchanges after the conference. The worst that can happen is nothing – which is guaranteed to happen if you don’t follow up at all. So take a risk and fail gloriously while you’re at it.
Speaking of taking a risk, Leanne Pittsford, the Founder of the Lesbians Who Tech Summit, has taken countless risks to get to where she is and advises you do the same. She said, “studies show that the fear of loss is twice as powerful as the opportunity of gain,’ and that we all have 10X more power than we realize. So open your business. Code your own website. Apply for that job across the country. Buy the diamond-tip bowtie even though you only wear skinny ties. In being an out, lesbian, woman, techie… you’re already taking an extraordinary risk that should only empower you to take more. It really doesn’t matter how large or how small, just #TAKEARISK!
For all those who attended the NY Lesbians Who Tech Summit, thank you for making my experience worth-while. And for all those who didn’t, I hope to see you at the next one! In the meantime, keep the lessons from this year’s summit in mind and live out your own story.