The DataTjej experience
or A weekend in Gothenburg with 120 women studying IT and computer science
This past weekend, I visited Gothenburg. I had the privilege to participate in the DataTjej 2015 conference, the third and last DataTjej conference that I’ve attended during the last three years. Well, I say attended, I did actually participate in organizing the event when it was held in Umeå two years ago. I thought I’d share my experiences and thoughts on this wonderful event, and hopefully inspire some engagement amongst you all.
In 1998, a couple of women in Umeå decided to organize an event that became the first DataTjej conference. Since then, the conference has been organized on a rolling schedule between the biggest universities in Sweden, each city taking turn building a project group, invite companies and find sponsors, plan dinners and parties and invite women from all over Sweden who study IT/computer science at a university level. To get more continuity and to further build the community, the DataTjej association was later founded and local groups at the biggest universities were initiated, and today, multiple meetups and events are regularly organized all over Sweden. The conference is by far the biggest event though, and is today held during a weekend in February with about 120 women each year.
DataTjej 2015, recap edition
So, how was this year’s event you might ask? Well, in short, amazing, but I’ll give you the longer version as well.
The days at DataTjej are usually filled to the brim with talks from companies and sometimes just inspirational people. This year included talks from SEB, Speedledger, knowit, Dice and Ghost games, SAAB, Microsoft, Omegapoint, Cisco, Ericsson, Scania, a workshop with Interaktionsbyrån, a few startups including Knowly and New Minds, IKEA, Katarina Larsson, Tele2 and Capgemini.
Most companies talked about the opportunities they have for women in tech, some talked about their different trainee positions, and some representatives talked about their journey and how they ended up at tech companies. Also, Omegapoint held a live coding session on the Art of refactoring. There was a company fair during Friday afternoon, where we all got to mingle, win some prices, get some give-aways, and of course network with the representatives from the different companies. My gold star went to Netlight who had an entire ice cream cart at their stand, and also to Speedledger, who held a competition in which I won a tablet (yay!).
This year, the conference started off a day before actually, with a visit to the Spotify offices and two talks: one about test automatization, and one live coding session with web development.
The following evenings were just good food, good drinks and good company. The first event was a networking dinner with representatives from the different companies, but it was also insane. The venue for the evening was Universeum, which is the biggest Science center in the Nordics. We had the entire place to ourselves and went kindergarten crazy. There were snakes and birds and a rain forest and sharks and stingrays and SO MANY COOL THINGS! I still haven’t gotten over how extremely amazing it was.
The second evening was in typical Swedish student fashion, with an overallsittning at the Student Union house. That is, student wearing overalls, sitting down, eating dinner, drinking and singing a lot. It’s a lot more fun than it seems, I promise. The third and last evening was at Läppstiftet, a restaurant right by the river with arguably the best view in all of Gothenburg. It was all so darn fabulous.
Why DataTjej is awesome
Diverse teams delivers the best products, this is a scientifically proven fact. Now, I’m not going to dig up any references on that, I will leave that up to anyone who bothers to question it. So what is, at this point in time, the easiest way to diversify the tech industry? To get more women in the field. DataTjej’s direct purpose is not however to get more women interested in tech, but to keep the women who are interested in the field. It can be tough to be the lone woman, or one of the few women in a five-year engineering program, and too many drop out for this and other reasons. It can also be the difference between daring to study hardcore programming or think “I probably won’t be good enough” and go another route.
What DataTjej does the best is to inspire the participants that tech and IT are amazing industries, and that companies are begging for more talented women to come work for them. The other main thing is networking. During this years conference, I met so many wonderful women. Some I met three years ago in Umeå, some I met just that day, but they will all be my colleagues in the future. Some of them might be the reference that gets me hired at a job, or maybe I’m the one saying “I know her, she’s awesome, hire her!” to my boss.
Now, I know some of you might say that this seems a bit unfair, and that was indeed what was said on twitter when Dice posted this photo.
A few replies asked “why no males? why the exclusion?”, and to be fair, it is a perfectly valid question. Now, I’m not looking to get into major discussions but I wanted to at least adress this. One really great article about this was written by Annie Thorell, in which she talks about the problems with events for women only. If equality is the goal, men can’t be excluded from the discussion, but in her article, DataTjej falls into the “by women, for women” events and communities. The main purpose in these groups is to network and build a community, not to directly obtain equality in the tech world. It is however a tool to get there, a way to show women that they are not alone in their passions. This might just be what will make some women stay in the tech industry if they’re thinking about leaving.
10/10, would do again
My biggest problem right now is that the DataTjej conference is for women who study IT, which as I mentioned makes this my last conference as a participant. I’ll be doing my master thesis this fall, and hopefully have my diploma and a job when the next conference takes place in Lund.
I will however strive to get whatever company I might be working for to participate in coming conferences, so that I can be the one standing in front of those women, talking about my experiences, my goals, and my passion for technology. I will talk about the days when we organized the event, how much enthusiasm goes into every tiny, overlooked detail during those three days. It is truly an amazing event with an amazing purpose, and I urge every women who study IT and every IT company out there to try to participate in the upcoming conferences, they are just so worth it.
For more information about DataTjej, go to their website at datatjej.se.
I now wrap this all up with a picture from DataTjej 2013 and our fabulous project group. I miss you all ladies!
Also, I’m gonna plug Jonny’s post about creating diverse tech events as well, because it’s just too good not to.