International Women’s Day celebration with Women Techmakers: What I learnt

International Women’s Day is observed on March 8th of every year. It is a global calling to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It is also a time to reflect on the way we have progressed, and to encourage ordinary women to do extraordinary things for their countries and communities.

This year, Women Techmakers is hosting summits at Google offices across the globe to celebrate International Women’s Day. The summits last for an entire day, with talks, discussions and hands-on activities by various partners, such as Tensorflow, Speechless and more! These, unlike the Women Techmakers meetups, are invitation-only. The attendees are chosen through an online application available on their website. It requires a short essay on “What are you passionate about solving for in your current role?“. I crossed my fingers and poured my heart into the essay I sent across. I was fortunate to be extended an invitation to attend the summit at Google Kirkland on March 4th.

On the day of:

The surprisingly sunny Seattle weather offered the most stunning view of the Kirkland office. Here is a picture of what I saw.

Google Kirkland office on a warm, sunny day

The atmosphere in the welcome room was incredibly warm and friendly. The theme of the summit was “Telling your story”. To get started on this, we were given name tags to which we could attach three qualities we best associate with. This served as an easy conversation starter, which was a blessing for an introvert such as myself. After exchanging greetings with women from companies big and small, and downing a sumptuous breakfast, we headed into a room full of ~150 talented women.

Name tags and some “swag”

The day started with Olga Garcia, Engineering Program Manager at Google, giving us something to think about. She paraphrased a line from the poem “Our Grandmothers” by Maya Angelou:

I come as one, but I stand as ten thousand.

It makes us ponder about the journey of those who have paved the way for us, and instills the confidence in us to do the same for others.

Senator Patty Kuderer welcomed us with her story of fighting to bring gender parity in the state of Washington. She is also an advocate of change for introducing more girls to STEM, something she had to forgo during her school days. This was succeeded by a Keynote address by Thais Melo, a Tech Lead Manager in Google Cloud. Her journey of going from coding in the corner to leading a team evidences that we can take on any role as long as we believe in our abilities.

The Stories of Success panel that followed the Keynote opened us to stories of four brilliant women: Sara Adineh, Nikisha Reyes-Grange, Angel Tian and Heather Sherman. We were introduced to wide-ranging experiences from their respective fields and were given an insight into how they dealt with challenges they faced.

After lunch, we split into two groups to attend fun workshops; Group 1 headed to “An Introduction to Tensor Flow” and Group 2 was a part of “Develop Your Story: An Interactive Workshop”. I chose to be a part of the latter, excited to learn from Kimberly MacLean. It was two hours of learning to voice our stories through group discussions, role play, and fun games. This included “Yes, and…”, Portkey exercise (YES! The workshop was lead by someone who gets Harry Porter!), story building, and working on our elevator pitch. Time flew by and I made some very good friends through the exercises. I also learned from others that the TensorFlow workshop was just as much fun; why can’t we be in two places at the same time!

With all our newly found knowledge and energy, we moved into the last session of the day – An evening with Waymo! Waymo is an autonomous driving company spun out of Alpabet Inc., in December 2016. Being a Robotics Engineer with experience in Computer Vision and Machine Learning, this session was the perfect blend to geek out! The interactive activity required us to think from the perspective of a software engineer, a systems engineer, a project manager and a mechanical engineer. We went through the design process for different scenarios, such as snow, rain and crowded neighborhoods.

Women Techmakers Seattle: Success is…

To learn more about what happened at all other summits, follow #WTM17 on Twitter or Google Plus.