I am not very good at networking at seminars and conferences. It’s easy to make small talk with people you won’t see again and hope that you might have enough common ground to continue a conversation until you run out of wine. It’s impossible to use standard openers such as “Where do you work?” or “What do you do?” without looking like you don’t understand: everyone has little badges with their employer and job title.
It’s difficult for me to find something to say that others will find interesting. Sometimes it’s even harder to find people who are interesting. Contrary to popular belief, my perpetual new-year’s resolution is to increase my network, both within and outside of my company, and expand my circle of contacts.
It was a great experience to visit London for project management events. I could attend a project management seminar or lecture at most once a week. I could be out almost every night if you add women in technology and business events. While I do take my resolutions seriously and I am committed to them, I do not believe I should sacrifice my social life for meetings with project managers and small circles of smoked cheese on polenta.
Two events were held last week, one hosted by womenintechnology and another by the British Computer Society’s North London Branch. The womenintechnology event, “How to be a successful female working in IT”, was huge. It was easily the largest free networking event I have ever attended. The Embankment office of JPMorgan saw women from all walks and all tech disciplines fill the hall. Although it was advertised as a technology event it was actually very interesting for any working woman. Project managers would also have found it useful, even though they would only allow you in if your X chromosomes are two.
I spoke with a public sector employee, who stated that women often choose local authorities because they have a strong commitment to equal opportunities and policies to support diverse workforces. The private sector network engineer, who was standing beside us, nodded sadly. She was the only woman on the network team at her employer.
It was easy to talk to the guests at the drinks reception. I started one conversation, then moved on to the next. At that point, someone else began talking to me. It was like a miracle. The wine may have helped, but it was also positive vibes and the crush in gallery that made it easy to talk to people as you passed. There is no room for wallflowers so there are no excuses to not start conversations.
When we entered the main hall, I took a seat in front of the other people. It’s easier for you to see and hear, there is more leg room, and the seats are always empty. It frustrates me when I’m a speaker to see people in the back row and empty seats in the front row. Suzanne Doyle Morris, the director at Doyle Morris, a coaching firm, sat next and we started to talk. Amazingly, this was probably the fifth or sixth person that I had spoken to since arriving at the event. Maybe networking isn’t so bad after all.
Maggie opened the speeches with some figures.
80% of attendees have more than 5 years experience
76% of respondents considered themselves to already be successful in IT
66% of those interviewed had experienced barriers to their success.
Women are doing well in IT, but they want to do better. Helen Duguid from Do-Good Consulting, a former employee of Microsoft, stepped up to show us how we can do that. She shared some of her research with us. It revealed that only 37% women have access to high-profile jobs that lead to senior management. Helen suggested that we all choose one thing, a personal project that we could undertake in the near future to help us get where we want to go. It took me a while to find the right one, but I finally found it.