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.