It is 2 a.m. in the morning and I just returned to the hotel after spending a wonderful time at TechEd special event called Embracing Inclusion with Design Thinking – Driving Innovation. That sounds pretty formal and it does tell nothing about what the event was about.
When I joined the company, I had no idea what was the event going to be about. Except that title I mentioned above, the subtitle or description said something about women in technology. That sounds like a place to be at TechEd, right? Normally we don’t have that many women at TechEd. In fact that was one of the InnoJam attendee’s feedback that if we have more women on the teams, teams would be more performing. Let`s see if we can get more women on board next year. But that Is not the important part right now.
I would like to tell you about the event hat deeply touched me and I would like to share that experience. I know that if I go to bed now instead of writing this blog, tomorrow version would be much less emotional and would thus not reflect the reality. I am a very rational person, valuing things cold bloodily (ok, not 100% true, but I tried…). I this event was completely different.
Unfortunatelly I don`t have the real pictures from tomorrow yet, so the picture is from Vegas, but it went in Madrid just like Vegas, I think.
First part of the event: panel discussion
First part of the event was a moderated panel discussion with three amazing women + Thorsten Franz on board (I was joking at him, that the discussion is for women only at the beginning, but I must apologize for the stupid comment, Thorsten had so much to say nailing the problem). The discussion was mainly about topics like: how many women do we have in IT, what can we do to have more of them on board, what is being already done to encourage more women to work in IT (and/ or in more visible positions – let`s put it this way).
We mentioned some of the numbers like 18% of IT staff are women, or women get 68% of the men`s salary for the same work. We were talking about women that pursue their careers, about the resilience of women to stay “alive” in IT and on the labor market, about improving the infrastructure to help people with children work and similar topics. Some of the opinions were nailing the problem and resonating with me, some were controversial, some very provocative, some very joking about the topic. The discussion was interesting and the three women and Thorsten on stage shared their personal stories. So it was very friendly, personal and informal.
I had no idea what to expect from the second part called “Design thinking”, so I was sure that seeing and listening to the amazing women, who have so much to say, will be the highlight of the evening. I couldn`t be more wrong. The discussion set the tone, the atmosphere of the rest of the evening, which is important for the rest of the story.
I must emphasize that the women stories were just examples, because the main topics were “inclusion” and “diversity”. I don`t think the goal was to talk about the “men/ women problem”. So other topics were about” how to build diverse teams, if, why and how these teams perform better. We also discussed something I heard called a “Facebook phenomenon” (but the “situation” was here long before Facebook), which claims that your friends are very much like you. You like people that are like you. One feels comfortable with the company that he understands and the other way round. But this way you no way build a diverse team. Team where people`s skills complement each other.
Let`s complement each other
This is often a real situation. People either don`t know their weaknesses to look for people that would complement them or feel threatened by people who are good in things they are bad at. It is a pity that some people put always career first. I know, career is important, but please read on and you will hopefully feel what can happen during a nice evening with nice people when they open their eyes, ears and hearts, don`t care about careers, don`t argue about unimportant things and want to complement each other in order to “build” something cool.
To wrap up the content I must say that it was not about “men/ women” although that`s what the example/ discussion was about. It was about the value of the diversity and about how we should deal with people who are “not exactly like us”. I was too shy to say that at the event, I am not sure if it is impropriate to say it here. But I welcome diversity and I don`t have friends just like me. I like to work or just spend time with different people too. One of my best friends is gay. Another of my best friends is Indian. And I could continue like that.
If there are people who fight diversity, sometimes even with a gun in hand, it must be because they never experienced what I have experienced or others that think openly. If you are a racist, it means that you never had the pleasure to have a friend coming from different race, country, whatever causes your problem. If you are playing stupid jokes on women, then you`re blunt and you have never experienced the potential the women have and the value they bring in. You never had a woman covering your back. Again this could continue like forever. I hope you got the message.
Let`s end this blog to continue with another one
There are three more things to be said.
Firstly: this blog is getting really long, so let me write another one (or split this one into two pieces) so you can digest it more easily.
Secondly: people that know me must know, that some of the lines you can read here are way “too American” for me. Normally I say things are good when they`re, but I don’t say these “everything is super cool” and “I love all these people” very often. I call it the American way, because some people here in Europe feel differently than some people in US. It is cultural, so please don`t feel offended.
Thirdly: I must think to the people that let that event happen. Because it was really awesome! (I would never think I say “awesome” in public one day).
First of all I must thank the ladies who organized the event (and gentlemen too, so we have the right level of equality here) and our amazing Vishal Sikka for supporting and sponsoring the event. When one hears about Mr. Sikka, it goes like “HANA will change the world”. Let`s be honest this can be true but most likely it won`t touch us personally, right? But this time Mr. Sikka did something that touched many people personally. Thank you for that.
While naming the important people I must not forget about our amazing Marilyn Pratt. I strongly believe that so many events would not be worth attending without her (or would be just too cold). One of the attendees was asked about his expectations and why does he attend the evening. His answer was: “Marilyn, I don`t remember any event with you which was not a huge success”. That tells everything. And it comes from hearth.