Ada Lovelace Day – 24th March 2010

On 15th May, 2009 I walked into a room full of what can only be described (affectionately) as geeks. I felt completely out of my depth.

I anxiously looked around my surroundings at the events room at FACT in Liverpool, my eyes on stalks. There were 2 projectors running, one for presentations, one for a rolling Twitter stream, there were webcams seemingly everywhere, and a guy in the corner (who I now know to be Adrian McEwen) who appeared to be driving the Starship Enterprise whilst filming an episode of Spooks. Not only that but there were a worrying number of roving microphones and there were more laptops and iPhones than you could shake a stick at. Everywhere I looked there was tech. Coming from a humble background of managing a moderate sized office of apple macs, it crossed my mind that I might have accidentally wandered through a door at the back of PC world marked ‘restricted access’.

I was acutely aware of the growing number of men in the room….. here I was, at Be2Camp North, the second event of its kind to take place in the UK, and I was the only woman in the room. I was also wearing a shift dress and Mary Janes – not a T-shirt saying “meh” and Converse – so I stuck out like a sore thumb.

I found myself a seat near the back, plugged in my MacBook, managed to mumble the words “do you have the wifi password please?” to the nearest geek (a term of endearment, honest), took a deep breath and waited.

This was an unconference, which meant that the sequence of speakers very much depended on who was available. First up was Suw Charman-Anderson, and her timing couldn’t have been any better. Here I was feeling nervous, self-conscious, out of my depth and uncomfortable, and Suw gave an informed and inspiring explanation about Ada Lovelace Day and how Ada’s story can be applied to the notoriously male-dominated construction industry.

Suw’s 15 minutes were up and my spirits were lifted. I realised that I shouldn’t be sitting at the back, I had just as much right to be there as anyone else, and in actual fact I should be making an effort to represent all the women in the Built Environment who couldn’t make it to Liverpool in person. My Macbook and I moved nearer to the front, ready to take on the world. We were treated to many more speakers and I made notes, lots and lots of notes. I even found my voice and plucked up the courage to ask a question (using a microphone and everything!).

Since that day, my confidence has grown, I’m more independent and I have the courage to speak out and be heard. I learnt a huge amount from the experience and I made some great contacts who I can proudly now refer to as my friends. Geeks are ace, FACT! Oh, and together with some of Birmingham’s finest geeks, I helped to organise Be2Camp Brum in August 2009, which was a massive success – if you don’t believe me, check out the video.

So it’s a bit of a cop-out (sorry!), but my Ada Lovelace Day blog post is really about the great woman herself, and of course Suw, who gave me the kick up the backside that I really needed.

Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to celebrate the achievements of women in Technology and Science. Find out more.

6 thoughts on “Ada Lovelace Day – 24th March 2010

  1. Thanks for sticking with us. I like to think I’d have been more welcoming, but what appeared to be “driving the Starship Enterprise whilst filming an episode of Spooks” was more like panicked swerving around trying not to crash the Starship Enterprise into the nearest planet, so I was somewhat distracted. Sorry.

    Hopefully I’ll be able to make it along to the next Be2CampBrum and finally get chance to say hello properly!

  2. Thanks for this post – it sums up exactly the feelings of insecurity and out-of-place-ness I feel when going to these sort of events.

    It’s not only comforting to know that it’s not just me who feels like this (!) but hugely encouraging to read about such a big change in how you felt after listening to Suw’s talk.

    Next time I’m at a techy or business-type shindig where I feel I don’t quite fit in, I’m going to channel this blog post … and get confident!

    • Ace! Touched to hear that that my experience can be a lesson to others too. Let’s hear it for Ada – woo!

      I left that event with a big smile on my face, and I’ve barely stopped grinning since – well apart from when I banged my elbow on the corner of a wall recently, I wasn’t grinning then, oh no.

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