Written by: Sonny

September 30, 2014

I spent my day today at the Carpenter Center attending the Women in Technology's annual conference - Women ETC. This represents the third year of the conference and my second time attending.  To say it was engaging is an understatement.  The morning started off with four dynamite keynote speakers that brought varying perspectives on their journeys within IT.  Two CIOs of large, Fortune 500 companies and two entrepreneurs of promising startups...what an interesting perspective these ladies brought.  I was captivated by each of their challenges, overcoming those challenges and ultimately succeeding at an astronomical level.  The common theme that all four of these women shared was a tenacity for not being content with the norm.  The "norm" can be a roadblock for gender, race, process improvement, change...it can represent a countless number of things.  For these women, in their own special ways, they persevered forward, overcoming those roadblocks to accomplish what they believed in, to make their mark, and along the way they have paved the path for future women leaders.

Two of the speakers that really, really resonated with me...I found myself thinking immediately after their speeches - "I'd work for her in a heartbeat!"  Ayah Bdeir is the founder of a company called littleBits.  She has found a way to add creativity, passion and individuality of ideas to open source hardware.  It was FASCINATING.  Google her...you'll find countless listings of her speaking engagements, multiple TED talks and a resume that begins with a very impressive education and a list of the other business ventures she's explored in her short professional career.  My favorite comment from Ayah - and i'm paraphrasing - 'Being a woman doesn't hinder me in a predominately male populated field.  I just get the job done.  I don't have time to dwell in those things.'  She just gets it done!  It was spot on.

Rebecca Jacoby was the other keynote speaker that floored me.  She is the CIO from Cisco Systems and her talk was awesome.  She spoke for the longest period of time, but I wanted her to keep going.  Telling us about her life journey.  Her challenges as a leader early on her career and how to effectively master building those relationships and ultimately inspiring those around you to arrive at a shared goal.  I especially enjoyed her imparting some advice to each of us - Give, Get, Avoid.  "What can you GIVE, what do you want to GET, what do you want to AVOID".  She has asked herself this question throughout her career for every critical decision that needed to be made.  And she encouraged each of us to use it as a guiding principal when faced with those similar significant decisions and crossroads.  When you think about it, it makes complete sense.

So, Rebecca Jacoby or Ayah Bdeir - if you are interested in being an advisor/mentor to a couple of entrepreneurs of a boutique IT consulting company in Richmond - consider it done!  Loved the conference and am looking forward to next years!