This year’s European Women in Tech Online Festival might have been virtual but the agenda was as impactful as ever, featuring some truly amazing women each telling their remarkable, and personal, stories. The festival has become a symbol of empowerment and this year Cloudera was able to double the number of passes for women across its EMEA business to attend. So, what did we learn? The answer: Plenty!
The power of listening
Orla Dunne’s, Global Head of Foundational Infrastructure, Goldman Sachs, session Letters to my Younger Self, covered some of the key leadership lessons she’s learned along the way. Change, Dunne said, is inevitable, accept that and focus on what you can control – not what you can’t. In doing so, you must remember to listen, “We have two ears and one mouth and we should always use them in that proportion.”
For Niamh Hegarty, Proposal Coordinator, what really resonated was a statement Orla made, that you’re often remembered for how you receive and react to bad news, rather than good news. “I think that’s incredibly valuable advice in these challenging times. It really resonated with me because, whilst there are learnings in success, we evolve through our mistakes and sometimes things don’t work out. The key is to understand why, respond, and move forward.”
How women, as leaders, build and create the future was also a key theme. “One point was that being successful requires having a successor so that you can move forward and embrace new opportunities. I’d not really thought about that before in such stark terms, and it ties into the fact that leadership is about followship – when you look behind you, know that people will be with you. But they can only be so if you’ve invested in them,” says Anna Lewis, EMEA Marketing Director.
You don’t have to conform
Calling on women to take control of their careers was a recurring thread across the keynotes and talk tracks. Perhaps the most unique take on this came from Tertia Labuschagne, VP, R&D, NTT. Tertia’s mother was very ill when she was younger and as such, she grew up in a household where gender roles were not defined by typical stereotypes. So it was a shock for her when she entered the workplace to find that because she was a woman, society had signed her up to terms and conditions she had not agreed to.
Tertia encouraged the audience to rip up the T&Cs enforced on women and write their own. For Laura O Connor, Sales Support Analyst, it was a powerful session: “It really hit home about how much compromise we as women make because it is expected of us, but following the session, I feel encouraged to implement more boundaries, overcome ego-based fears and feel more empowered as a super woman.”
Don’t buy into toxic illusions
One of the most open and authentic presentations was from Harriet Waley-Cohen who is a Life Coach and Speaker, who delivered a session entitled ‘Unleash Your Inner Power Woman’. Harriet spoke about how many of us buy into the toxic illusion of perfection and success, and often get sucked into other people’s visions for how they think our life should be.
“Hayley’s use of an Albert Einstein quote “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid” really brought home how futile it was to judge ourselves by our failings, rather than looking to celebrate our strengths and achievements,” says Rose O’Connor Services Infrastructure and Billings Analyst. “Following her talk, I’m emboldened to build up my network and support system by looking up the ladder for mentors but also considering how I can give a leg up to someone just starting out. We are, after all, all in this together.”
Common ground and shared experiences
But the festival isn’t just about the learnings, it’s also about fostering communities. Emilia Dworak, Senior Systems Analyst, found she shared a similar path into tech as others when she attended the Lunch Conversation with Mimecast’s Women in Tech. “I initially studied applied linguistics, and it was only when I started to work in a telecommunication company, that I pursued my technical degree. It turned out there were several linguists on the call with similar stories. The live session was informal, gave us all a good laugh and energized me for the whole week. It felt like a lunch break with women from all over the world that share the same passion for technology!”
Huge thanks goes to all the speakers for sharing their wisdom and honesty. Supriya Pattanayak, Delivery Programme Manager, sums it up perfectly: “These women have achieved so much. To hear them speak about the real-life issues they faced and how they managed to navigate them was both inspiring and relatable.”
What now? Well, the emphasis is on us to go away and apply what we’ve heard and learned to our lives. Sounds easy right? Well not always. But by supporting and giving each other the confidence to embrace new opportunities, I reckon a lot of new inner power women are about to be unleashed.