Google’s Women TechMakers Summit, or, how I learned to stop thinking and listen to my heart

Having a kid is a trip. You learn a lot of things about yourself. I got to revisit those learnings this weekend, when I went onsite to Google for the Women’s TechMaker’s Summit. It’s a celebration of International Women’s Day, and technology, and … well, it’s a celebration about a lot of stuff.

I went last year with my programming partner Stacie Hibino. We code stuff together, usually at hackfests. The last time we coded something together (with Kyle Mock and Estelle Weyl) … we made ThinkNote, a seriously cool app (I’m biased) that picks up your brainwaves from a device and turns it into music.

I was pregnant then. Now, I have a kid. What that means to me is that my hormones went through the mill and back. As a pretty much thinking, analytical person, I feel like I just got out of puberty. It’s eye opening- you’ve gone through a metamorphosis. And, previous activities you enjoyed, now you sense all over again.

My reaction this year to the talks, the coding sprint, the society, and the location, was a big heartfelt: Squanchiness.

Squanchiness is a term my friend Nanci made up that means: happy, loving, hug of emotion. Women are great! Technical women are amazing! We all are fabulous! Google is fabulous to host this! The organizers are amazing to put this on! We have so much work to do, but we are amazing, etc. Ha ha.

Also- we are so amazingly lucky to live in a community where we can get together on a Saturday and do this big mind meld. Sitting in the Android Wear code lab, all of us hunkered down silently following the instructions and nibbling on Lara bars, it was this great feeling matched maybe by the sunny part of my college library on a Monday afternoon. It was just good energy.

At the end, chatting in the early evening sun, eating Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and sipping wine — not a bad combo- the mixing and mingling was so great, I ended up telling another woman about the conference the next day. Now I think all tech women, especially those that feel isolated and static in their careers, should get in on this. And, while the conversations themselves weren’t super intense, I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say there was a warm comraderie.

Stacie and I coded from our respective houses the next day, geeking on the tutorial we both did, daring each other to do more mods. That’s the hacker spirit, that I remember from nights as a teenager at my parents’ house, BBS’ing with friends up on the Ridge, typing in modem language (no lie) stupid silly stuff, and generally re-coding the Apple IIe interface.

In the past I might have revisited memories of the conference with an analytical critique. Instead, this time I was thinking more from the heart. I’m so glad I got to learn something new with Stacie. I’m glad my first 8 hour away-from-baby trial stint was sucessful. I’m so glad I met another mom at our table, and we talked about how to pick a daycare. I’m glad I sat next to a young woman so excited about her job she was literally breathless. The day was packed- so much so that I didn’t want to peel myself away to breast pump. But then, appreciated the way Google supports breast-feeding moms with separate facilities. Even the talks that weren’t technical- something I usually resent- had me thinking about my own confidence issues, imposter syndrome, methods for decision-making, and community-building.

In the beginning, the MC opened up the floor for us to standup and ask what we want — from the future. What innovation do we want to build? I had this list, and since I didn’t get a chance to get on the mic, here it is:

  • I’m excited about new hardware, let’s make some cool s**t
  • From the beginning of the Internet, we’ve all wanted to know when the coffee pot is empty. Why haven’t we figured this out yet?
  • If men breast-fed, they would have invented a way better breast pump. Let’s do this!
  • Way longer maternity leave.
  • No penalty for being childbearing. I mean, come on. It’s powerful, it’s amazing. Anyone who penalizes you is just jealous.

And, while I was sitting there in the audience, I had all of these crazy invention ideas, that I’m not going to share here.