I recently attended An Evening with Ladies Who Salesforce
and admittedly, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know any of the women attending and the women attending didn’t know me. Was I unqualified at 23 to involve myself in discussions on Women in Tech
? I didn’t know but I was intrigued by what was at the core of an event like this and more importantly, what could be taken away from it.
I’m not a self-confessed ‘Techie’ and I can’t adjust the Workflow rules in Salesforce like an Awesome Admin – what I am is a woman that loves to write and happens to have had the chance to do that professionally at a tech start-up. I wondered if my position would be a hindrance in a room full of Salesforce Admins and MVPs so I decided to test out my theory and see first-hand how supportive Women in Tech could really be.
I arrived at the Salesforce Tower never having been there before. It was everything that had been described to me: big, grand and slightly intimidating. As I was swept through the reception area and put into what can only be described as the world’s fastest lift, I was captivated by the illuminating fish tank that canvased an entire wall. Welcomed colours of reds and yellows swam past me as I took a moment, amongst my nervousness, and noticed the warm feeling of tranquillity that cloaked me like a blanket. Maybe that was its purpose; maybe when all those people rush in and out with fear and with worry, they are able to find a little solace in a few stolen seconds before being rushed off to the twenty-something floor.
When I reached the room, there were many women already there, chatting and mingling and noticeably abandoning the seats that were set up for their arrival. As I strolled around, taking in the city of London that looked less like the typical ‘concrete jungle’ and more like an open museum for some of the most beautiful architect in the world, the hugely anticipated keynote speech began.
The Keynote Speech
As a young girl interested in Technology (or any of the ‘STEM’ subjects – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), it’s hard to find someone in the here and now to look up to. Of course, you have the likes of Susan Wojcicki and Sheryl Sandberg but no one ‘closer to home’ that can provide genuine help and encouragement.
CEO and Founder of STEMettes
, Anne-Marie Imafidon, is on a mission to revolutionise this. She took to the stage with appreciative applause from the audience and begun with a documentary of some of the work that the STEMettes has done. As someone that hadn’t been that ‘into’ the STEM subjects at school, I was oblivious to the innovative and creative ways that can be explored if only our eyes had been opened to the opportunities.
The documentary took me by surprise – it was current, it was raw and ultimately, it was real. I envisioned a stark office with a couple of whiteboards and pens, a lunch break followed by a seminar where you avidly sit down taking notes. Clearly, either naivety had struck or I wasn’t thinking as ‘out of the box’ as I should have. The girls involved were between 11-22 years old and all interested in one of the STEM industries. They were welcomed into a big house in South London where, it seemed, they could really have a chance to experience the STEM subjects in a way they never had before whilst supporting each other to find solutions to problems. I couldn’t help but think that if this had been around 10 years earlier, I might have been far more compelled to get involved in a STEM subject and gone on to pursue this more forcefully.
Anne-Marie’s keynote continued unlike any keynote I’d experienced before – with all the personality and passion of someone that was really ‘on the ground’ with us all. Any fear that I had of being 23 was cast aside because I realised – it wasn’t about age, gender, race or religion; it was about equal opportunity.
The Panel Discussion
The panel discussion was an interesting one, most noticeably because of the inclusion of Adam Seligman. When I told most people that I was going to this event, they were curious – would there be any men there? And honestly, I didn’t know. But with Adam on the panel, it proved that the coming together of these successful, passionate women wasn’t about going against men, it was about working with
them. One of the speakers, Gemma Davies, vocalised this better than I can when she said that one of her most rewarding mentors was male. Enough said.
Other questions that were asked included whether any of the panellists had experienced that ‘click’ moment in their career where everything just fit together. I sat up a little in my chair when I heard this; was our fairy tale ending right around the corner? Surprisingly, none of them said they had and for me, this was possibly the best response of the evening. I find that for the majority of our lives, we seek what we consider to be ‘perfect’ when perfection sits all around us. Maybe I’m being a dreamer, or maybe like the panellists said ‘ you should be living in the here and now before you miss out on the now’.
Another topic that came up was something that I’ve never considered an option before – having a mentor. In STEM industries, you have to be ready and willing to learn because things are constantly changing and adapting so having the backbone of that learning from a mentor sounds like an obvious conclusion but one that I, and my colleagues, hadn’t come to. All the panellists had a mentor or someone that had inspired them and it was at this moment that I started to feel like part of a community, even if it wasn’t my community to begin with.
Later in the Evening
Breakout sessions followed where people could discuss with the panellists any questions or thoughts and after this was a chance for some networking. I took a step back from it all and considered what I’d learnt – there are so many women in the world trying to compete with one another but the women I met here stamped that out and threw it onto the busy London road at rush hour. They were open, encouraging and honest and it’s everything that younger women are looking for. The STEM world is looking brighter because of these women, these events, these communities and importantly, because of the men that believe and support what they’re trying to achieve.