I was first introduced to the Girls In Tech community back in 2016 when I interviewed Adriana Gascoigne, the founder and CEO, for an article I was writing for my work. She was in town for Pause Fest and at the same time, to launch the organisation’s Australian chapter in Melbourne. During my chat with her, I was impressed with how the organisation had grown over the years and was also taken into its values and mission.
But right after the chat, work and life took over, the article was written and published, and our conversation became a faraway memory.
That is until I saw a post on LinkedIn. The post mentioned that it was Girls In Tech Australia’s first-year anniversary (yes, a year had passed and I didn’t even realise!). I decided to check in with the team and possibly write another article for my work.
That was when I met Susan Brown, the Co-MD. I’ve to admit, I was expecting the chat to be catered for the tech community, but it wasn’t. Susan described the premise of Girls In Tech Australia as a platform to not only create an ecosystem for women in tech, but a safe space for professionals to come together to share, educate and inspire. The more she spoke about the members, the events and its various outcomes, the more I wanted to join the team.
“But I’m not in tech, can I sign up?” I remember asking, after the interview. She immediately took down my details, and the next thing I knew, I’m on the Slack channel.
Fast forward to today, and after a year of not only attending the events but also helping out wherever possible and producing a hackathon, I’ve come out of this experience with so much of respect and awe for all the women I’ve met and worked with, as well as skills and lessons that help me both on the professional and personal fronts.
As a volunteer, I’ve been involved in various events in different capacities. I’ve learned new skills and sharpened existing ones. I’ve been privy to what goes on behind-the-scenes when preparing for a 3-day conference for 300 women. I now know how to run a hackathon. I’ve honed my strategic partnership building skills. I can assemble a very good-looking cheese grazing table (a necessary life skill, in my opinion).
And then there are the other lessons – the ones that also matter just as much, if not more.
How to work a room, how to speak in public confidently, how to address issues at work effectively, how to celebrate one’s wins (no matter the size), how to face failures, how to strengthen one’s personal brand, how to have hard conversations… I could go on.
These crucial takeaways are through the endless conversations I’ve had with the other members, and the necessary discussions we’ve had during our events with our speakers.
A safe space
Being a part of this community means I’m meeting people I would have never had the chance to meet otherwise, and learning about what they do and who they are, getting advice, tips, and skills that I can put into practice almost immediately.
It’s a safe space created by the team for members to share and learn from one another. To seek out advice to pertinent issues, and help each other. There’s no resistance or judgment of any kind. It is because of this safe space that the team and its member base continues to grow.
Confidence, humility and kindness
I’ve been introduced, and have become friends, with so many of the women here – talented, inspiring and successful in their own right. These women are founders of award-winning startups, developers, designers, specialists, change-makers, business owners and leaders and more, and, together they have so much to share. And they’re willing to share. The biggest lesson they’ve all taught me is along with confidence, a game-changing concoction of curiosity, humility and kindness goes a long, long way for growth.
Even though I had signed up to volunteer my time and skills to Girls In Tech and to give back to the community, I never expected or realised how much more I’d be receiving in return from these women. I want to thank the team for a wonderful 2018.
And here’s to 2019 – to more inspiration, education, safe spaces, and a whole lot more cheese.
Author Jamuna Raj