Women of Silicon Valley Conference, 2018

“Being is the new doing”, I read on one of the MC’s t-shirt as I entered the huge ballroom for the Day 1 of the conference. Trying to give a relevant meaning to this quote, I contemplated for some time and did come up with a few meanings but none that resonated with me well enough.

“Never mind! You will get there.”, I said to myself as I began my day with the first talk by Mai Le, Director of Engineering at Uber. The topic of her talk was - Internal Strength, the force begins with you. She talked about how us women do not self advocate enough, how we self doubt, how we think way too many times before speaking up in large forums, how we tend to shrink when the spotlight is on us, loosing the very opportunity then and there. Nothing new under the sun, right? We have all heard of this before. But what does she mean by Internal Strength? Why is every one focussing so much on our inner self? What does the quote “Inward, Upward and Outword” mean?

I think I was starting to get a hunch of what might be something new for me in this conference. I was super excited about the next talk of the day. The talk that motivated me to attend this conference. It was by a woman I follow and admire dearly, Arianna Huffington, the author of Huffington post.

She started with a story. A story that she tells all the time. A story about her “Wake Up call”. Let me narrate it one more time. Once in 2007, while she was building Huffington post, she was at home on the phone and checking emails when she passed out, fell and woke up in a pool of blood with a broken cheekbone. And after weeks of medical tests, the doctors came back with a simple disturbing answer that she was exhausted!

It was amazing to see how she tied the biggest of problems tech world is facing today to sleep deprivation. She talked about the so called “burnout culture” of Silicon Valley. I am not sure about the entire silicon valley but being from a family where I have seen my parents doing just that almost all my life, I do have this innate belief that if I have to succeed at something, I need to burnout. Notes to self :

“Working hard is good but working hard on the expense of your well being is not. Mental and physical well being directly affects performance” — Arianna Huffington
“Learn to declare an arbitrary end to the day. Never would you say, I have accomplished everything I could have today (And if you do, sorry but your work is not interesting enough ;))” — Arianna Huffington
“There is nothing like Work Life Balance. It should be Work Life Integration” — Arianna Huffington
“Learn to escort your devices/phones outside of your bedroom (start with at least 5 minutes) before you sleep. Start and plan your day without looking at your phone in the morning. Great ideas come while you take a shower or you take a walk or when you are at your relaxed best” — Arianna Huffington
“Life is a dance between making it happen and letting it happen” — Arianna Huffington

At least one thing was clear to me after this talk that in a quest to invest a lot in my work and career, I was not investing enough in myself. And in doing so, I was definitely leaving a gap between my true self and the self that I get to work every day. I was wondering about the last time I asked myself: What matters the most to me? Is my work reflective of the way I want myself to be? Am I speaking up when a decision is made that does not resonate with my self? And there I was finally realizing the thin (but oh so thick!) line between being vs doing.

With deadlines, pressure, competition, we often tend to forget our initial instincts that led us to our career path, it is important that the driving factors of our day to day decision makings at work are those instincts, the true us, the bigger picture and not the false motives that distract us on our way. And trust me, once you are all in, the journey will seem more fruitful and satisfying, life will become proactive rather than reactive. And that was my very first lesson from this conference.

Few other lessons from this conference which I am ready to give a go are :

Embrace the Growth Mindset: Do not be so stringent upon your ideas and beliefs, try to change and grow with time. If not from the right outcome, you would certainly benefit from the path you took to reach the outcome.

Ramp up your resonance: Speaking up in meetings, forums is less riskier than not speaking at all. If you feel scared about the relevance of your opinion or your expertise on the subject, try to prepare yourself beforehand. Find your voice and do so with conviction and confidence.

Move on to move up: While men are good at compartmentalizing, women tend to personalize. Do not take conflicts or difference of opinions personally.

You can be bad: It is okay for you to be aggressive, angry, opinionated and paranoid. Just be the audacious version of yourself.

These were my learnings from this amazing conference. Even if you could relate to any one of it, I would say this article fulfills its purpose.