What I learned from attending a Gender Inclusive Tech Conference
Key lessons on self-care, growth and amplifying your voice
Ela Conf is an inclusive tech leadership conference and community for cis women, trans men and trans women, and gender-queer people. It was established in the year 2015. Since then, the community has received a lot of support from organizations like Github, Mapbox, Braintree and Zapier. All participants and attendees in the community are encouraged to connect with and empower one another.
I was fortunate to be able to attend the 2017 Ela conference in Philadelphia from October 27–28. While the conference is a couple of days, Ela Organizers have a year-round digital community to allow individuals to stay connected. You do not have to be an attendee to join the Ela community.
A lot of the conference was centered around self-care, inclusion, diversity, learning and growth. These major themes and takeaways made me think about how I can grow as an individual in technology. It wasn’t about pushing myself to only code more, but also to write more. It also wasn’t about only taking care of myself, but also taking care of those in my extended community.
Here are some of my key takeaways —
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
― Audre Lorde
The first night of the conference included talks about managing stress and identifying a toxic workplace. It reminded us that it’s really important to take care of ourselves first.
You need to rest and recharge, to prevent yourself from burning out or triggering a bodily response to stress.
There are plenty of resources available on the web that teach you to relax, and stay positive and motivated. I found these to be especially helpful —
- Headspace — Headspace is a guided meditation platform
- Shine Text — Shine sends daily text messages with motivational quotes, positive affirmations and actions you can take every morning.
- 21Ninety — 21Ninety was launched by Blavity and is a content-platform centered around health and wellness for women of color.
#2. Amplify your voice
It’s important to create a platform for yourself. It can be through mediums like writing, vlogs or podcasts, and more. According to Miriam Peskowitz– author of The Daring Book for Girls — it amplifies how other’s perceive your skills and expertise.
Miriam’s workshop on Your Tech Voice in Writing emphasized how to write articles that share your expertise and thoughts. Once you have committed to writing a certain number of pieces and then prepare the drafts, you still have plenty more work to do. There’s editing, proof-reading and reviewing!
You shouldn’t be afraid of seeking help from people who can edit and review your writing. This will take your drafts to the next level, and it isn’t cheating.
Many, if not all of your favorite writers, lean on a second pair of eyes to improve their writing. You can either hire a professional editor, or barter with a friend or community member.
Once you are confident in a piece and the draft is almost publication-ready, you can submit your writing to a publication. Medium has some amazing publications like Codeburst.io, Code Like A Girl, Free Code Camp and HackerNoon. Writing for publications helps expose your writing to a larger community and audience.
Each publication has their own process for accepting article contributions. But they’re all generally very excited about amplifying writing that is aligned with their particular theme.
I found these articles and resources to be helpful in amplifying your voice better —
- Write/Speak/Code — A non-profit that encourages technical women to contribute to the open source community and become thought leaders through writing and speaking engagements. Also, read this article on How Women Can Get Booked to Speak at Conferences
- Grammarly is a very helpful tool to catch grammatical errors. It has both free and paid versions.
The writing process needs a good investment of time, so make sure that you claim yours unapologetically!
#3. Goal Setting
It helps to break down a larger goal into more manageable mini-goals. You can achieve things more effectively this way — whether it be completing National Novel Writing Month, publishing your first iOS application, or landing a new job.
Once you’ve mapped out your goals you can find people to keep yourself accountable. This can help you re-think how you can realistically achieve X, Y and Z in a specified amount of time.
Some good resource to help you set your goals effectively —
- The Ela Community has an internal goals group that has monthly hangout sessions and weekly Slack check-ins to see where everyone is at in terms of making progress on their goals.
- FutureMe lets you send your future self a letter and be your own accountability partner.
A huge part of Ela Conf is about creating an inclusive and safe community. What does it mean to build a community with these values? Here’s my takeaway —
Individuals should work to intentionally create inclusive spaces and accessible products.
Some of that involves being careful about assumptions that are made about other people. We must be considerate towards people who have identities, abilities, beliefs and experiences different than ours. Our decision-making should also be centered around those perspectives.
Some tech communities have a code of conduct or community standards, to ensure that everyone understands what are the norms and what is/not acceptable. A good example would be the Recurse Center’s CoC —
I’ve found these online communities to be very supportive —
- Code Like A Girl — A space that helps and empowers women in tech
- Tech Ladies — They have a Facebook group where individuals can anonymously ask for advice.
- Ela Conf
In closing, I recommend that women, trans men and gender-queer individuals in technology who are searching for a conference that challenges them to be better, for themselves and for their communities, consider attending Ela Conf next year. This year the conference was capped at 150 attendees which allowed the conference to be much more intimate than larger conferences. I have never attended a conference where I left feeling a very strong tie, almost retreat-like, to the community. I am looking forward to growing over the next year with the lessons I learned at Ela Conf about being a better technologist and community member, amplifying my voice and unapologetically practicing self-care.
If you enjoyed reading this article consider tapping the clap button . Wanna see more of my work? Check out my GitHub to view my code and learn more about my development experience at http://aboutmonica.com.