AltConf Speaker Series // Virginia Roberts

Following on from our first post in this series, we chatted with Virginia Roberts, a Program Manager at Microsoft, and 2 time AltConf speaker — wow!

Let’s get straight in to it with a little bit about Virginia:

By her own admission, Virginia took an odd path into tech — she earnt a bachelor’s degree in linguistics, then found her way into tech working in computational linguistics, video game localization, ebook quality assurance, and more — usually with human language as a central theme. She also spent a decade working as an online dating coach before she rage-quit that industry and turned it into her first AltConf talk!

Virginia volunteers with App Camp for Girls, and loves being a part of a movement to make the tech industry more inclusive. She is now focused on raising a good kid, which takes up far more time and energy than she can articulate, but also brings inarticulable joy (and the opportunity to make up lots of fun new words).


Virginia, tell us about your AltConf/WWDC experiences…

I’ve spoken twice at AltConf, in 2016 and 2017. I found AltConf valuable the first time I went to San Francisco during WWDC to volunteer with App Camp for Girls. It was definitely valuable to have a completely free conference so full of great speakers and topics, and I was flattered and excited when I was asked to speak!

Why did you choose to get involved in AltConf?

Frankly, I’ve always wanted to grow my own public speaking ability, and AltConf provided the perfect platform — when the engagement is unpaid there’s less pressure (both to get accepted and to deliver your talk), and it was great to have a built-in audience of like-minded folks who would get the silly Apple jokes I made, etc. :)

What did you find most valuable about being involved?

Making unexpected connections! I loved hearing from people who found my talk useful when I didn’t even know they’d attended — sometimes people mention it months later on Twitter, which is so exciting!

What would you say/advise to others thinking about getting involved?

Don’t feel like you don’t have anything to contribute! At a conference with this broad a focus, lots of small things can be relevant. Are you an expert in emoji utilization for maximum impact? Do you know which Unicode is behind every version of every “smart” punctuation mark that drives picky programmers nuts? Are you a wealth of knowledge about how non-software-tester types can create some basic test cases to make sure their app isn’t going to flop when it gets featured by Apple?

There are lots of areas of expertise that might be outside the predictable “tech conference” track, but are totally relevant to lots of AltConf audience members. Pitch something and see if it sticks, or ask your friends and family what you’re an unexpected expert about if you need a nudge towards a certain topic.


Well there you have it — another advocate for getting involved, backing yourself and submitting in our Call for Speakers (sign up here). AltConf talks are anonymously chosen by a panel of community members, once our Call for Speakers closes on April 28th, midnight PDT. This year we’re running 2 speaker tracks, Tuesday — Thursday, 9am — 5pm, so there are plenty of opportunities to be a part of this year’s line up.

AltConf 2018 will be held June 4–7th, at the San Jose Marriott, 301 S. Market St, San Jose, CA. Follow us on Twitter @altconference for more updates.

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