I attended Microsoft Ignite in Orlando to learn about Microsoft's new products, vision and be a geek. The best part, no lines for the bathroom! I chuckled when long lines formed at the men's restroom. Day one, the gender and race gap was dissapointing. Not a lot of women or women of color as attendees or presenters. I wasn't surprised by how many white men were at this conference but I would've believed Microsoft had enough resources and partnerships to diversify their speaker and attendee pool. With the lack of diversity, the conference felt like I was at work again except on a larger scale. Over 30k attendees and the percentage of minority participation was abysmal. Less than 10% of attendees were women or minority. In an attempt to give women a space, Microsoft had a women's lounge and exclusive Women in Technology sessions. These were opportunities for women to connect, discuss business and leadership and get Shark Tank tips from Daymond John -- my favorite take away from the conference besides the technical tips, tricks, Microsoft Kool-Aid, etc.
Daymond John was a special guest at one of the women in technology sessions. His delivery was passionate, entertaining and informative. While taking us through his journey, his objective was to motivate women to take the lead and think more like entrepreneurs. He shared these Shark points:
- Set a goal and make your own decisions
- Do your homework. You won't create anything new just a better version of what exists.
- Amor. Love what you do.
- You are the brand. Market yourself.
- Keep swimming. Never give up.
After this session I was inspired because these are things I forget to do. In the tech industry it can be hard to integrate your inner entrepreneur. The takeaways most helpful for me were doing your homework and setting goals. Reading and doing research gives you knowledge to branch out on your own or challenge yourself. Creating new widgets is a thing of the past but servicing niche markets with better versions of what exists is what entrepreneurship is about. Setting goals and sticking to them is a challenge. Life gets in the way, you want a social life and sometimes we deserve to bum it. But having attainable goals motivates us to push through and turn dreams into reality.
I challenge you to explore areas in your life that could use more diversity. How can we get men to attend women in technology break outs to understand the value women bring and their role in bridging the gap? How can we be better CEO's of our life? Are we networking enough, participating in events so there is representation of phenomenal women? There's a lot more work to do, this conference showed me that tenfold.