As someone who is introverted and shy, speaking at a conference is not something I pictured myself doing years ago. This past May, I had the opportunity to do my first conference talk at #gluecon, a conference focused on developers. It turned out to be an experience where I grew personally and professionally, made new contacts, and shared knowledge that others were able to benefit from.
After moving to Boulder, CO, I was lucky to get to know a few really great women that give technical talks regularly. They were passionate about sharing technical knowledge and touted several reasons that resonated with me in thinking about speaking:
- Giving back to a community I myself have benefited from
- Expand my network in the tech community
- Improve confidence and technical communication
The head of our local Women Who Code chapter was looking for software engineers to speak on systems they work on, and with the encouragement from many around me, I tentatively agreed to speak at one in the future. The idea of speaking in front of a group on a technical topic was scary. I was afraid of looking dumb or messing up. I had many reasons to procrastinate moving forward with this goal.
I learned about Technically Speaking giving a workshop on conference proposal and biography development, and I took that opportunity to focus on my technical talk goal. I found that the Technically Speaking workshop made the scary and abstract idea of giving a talk seem a great deal more concrete and achievable. The main benefits I got out of the workshop:
- Time focused to research talks out there and brainstorm ideas I could talk about
- Feedback from mentors and peers on various ideas
- Time focused to write my abstract and biography
- Feedback on abstract and biography from mentors and peers
I found the focused time and instant feedback to be invaluable in helping me move forward from not knowing where to start to having a concrete plan to move forward.
I started speaking publicly with my first Women Who Code Meetup talk a few months later with the abstract from the workshop, and then followed that with another Meetup talk. Soon after giving those talks, I submitted a talk on the system I work on to a local conference, #gluecon, and was accepted! I was nervous to give that talk, but I have found that I am getting more comfortable in front of groups over time. I’m looking forward to giving another conference talk this Fall.