Women in Tech World join the WiT Regatta
Guest Post by Bosky Mukherjee
This February, Women in Tech World joined over 30 organizations at the Women in Tech Regatta. Attendance at select breakout sessions, a table at the Opening Party, and the opportunity to connect with the community at this inclusive and diverse tech gathering made this a fantastic experience. During the week, we had the pleasure of collaborate with tech enthusiast Bosky Mukherjee on takeaways for the industry, in addition to the ones she had originally published on LinkedIn earlier this month.
Lucky for me, last week my beautiful home base of Vancouver, B.C hosted the WITRegatta in conjunction with BC’s Women in Tech Coalition. We the tech community were treated to an energizing collection of curated events, bringing together the great minds of our city. The Regatta featured both men and women who brought the same level of energy that I had been missing from San Francisco. It was wonderful and inspiring connecting with the local tech community – start-ups, VCs, coaches, CEOs and local leaders aspiring to make change and build an authentic local ecosystem. I remember what Joe Thompson shared with me once: “one needs to be a constant student of tech while also being a student of growth in US.” I found myself reflecting on very similar perspectives with the local leaders.
Here are the key reflections I’m taking away from my experience during the Regatta:
Vancouver as a Tech Hub: Although smaller and relatively younger, its all about who you know. Sure this is common wisdom, however due to the size, it’s fascinating that even a small step/ gesture to reach out to 1 or 2 people can catapult into something magical. I felt aloof from my circle and tribe after returning back to Vancouver, all it took was reaching out to 2-3 people in my tribe and that led to more than 15 meaningful connections locally.
Product Thinking Gap: We all realize that Vancouver was born out of a services culture as opposed product led culture. The city boasts of so many companies that started offering consulting services/ custom development and over time have worked towards productizing that competency. However, if one were to look at what has been happening in the Bay Area, it’s the reverse. Companies started with a product idea, commercialized it and over time with the advent of service design. They then worked into transforming the “once feature factory mentality” into designing service/value props for their users throughout the entire customer journey, interaction points and across different channels.
This is where the “Product Thinking Gap” comes into play. I was speaking with Andrea Lloyd (Program Manager at entrepreneurship @UBC) and Annee Ngo (CEO/ CoFounder of Startup League & ProtoHack) and we had similar observations. Vancouver tends to jump into solution mode, coming up with lots of features to design and build. However this gap means that the spending time understanding the problem, defining/redefining the problem and customer discovery – while doing it quick to accelerate learning – still seems to be in its infancy. This is why programs and the amazing people at UBC, ProtoHack, Leage of Innovators, Launch Academy, local accelerators and others are such powerhouses in our city.
Mentoring: Mentoring, whether formal or informal, is critical for our community. The cross pollination of learnings that often take shape across generations (given our diverse workforce) and peers is crucial to our life-long pursuit of learning, growing and evolving. I always assumed that you had to search for mentors in the field, through knowing someone at an organization or literally cold emailing people on LinkedIn.
What I did not know until a couple of months back, and it was again reiterated during WIT Regatta by Jill Earthy, Annee Ngo, Glorie Averbach, Pieter Dorsman, Elena Yugai and Lorie Corcuera that the structured mentorship programmes offered by FWE, WXN are very powerful to make those connections and be matched with the right mentor based on one’s goal.
More than anything, the Regatta left me feeling energized, that I belonged to some great, smart, like-minded community desiring to change the landscape of Vancouver through thought leadership and innovation. Special thanks to Melody Biringer for planning and organizing this event, as it was such a benefit to our community.
In the spirit of collaboration, after reading her article, a few of Mukherjee’s peers shared their takeaways.
“Great summary! And so similar to what I’ve experienced. This event was special in the way it led to connections that I truly hope will be ongoing. It’s now up to us to take it forward and grow with the support of the people we’ve met,” said Laura Sukorokoff, Corporate Trainer, Learning and Development Professional and Public Speaker.
Management Consultant Gabriel Dantas commented, “Well said Bosky For me, the #WitRegatta was all about connections and to discover Vancouver as a Tech Hub where mentoring [is] an important asset for the community. As the speakers told us in every session, the true power of the event was not just about the great workshops and presentations, but also the relationships that arise from the conversations between speakers, attendees, volunteers and the organization crew. One insight that inspired me was the idea that been individually authentic we can create diversity and from [these] multiple diversities, we shape a better community!”
Andrea Barr, Program and Operations Specialist shared her takeaways:
- We can learn a lot from improv: failure is okay and it should be celebrated
- Trust your instincts and lead from your strengths
- Life is a glorious mess: see the gifts in the challenges you’re face with and embrace them
- Share your truth, inspired action: write down what you love about yourself
- Good morning, I love you: what can you do or say to show yourself more compassion and love
Our own Director of Marketing and Communications, Editor at MSN, Microsoft through Aquent, Zeynep Tuck, shared her takeaways, too:
Diverse and inclusive spaces can be nurtured by skilled allies. Becoming an ally requires leaders to develop skills that will lead to structural change, like changes in how we hold meetings, communicate in the workplace, and even connect socially. In a breakout session at Microsoft Vancouver, we learned that when championing unrepresented voices, leaders need to identify their privilege and give up their own voices to make space for others to speak.
Emotion and personal connections are missing from brand storytelling. Good storytellers know that engaging an audience goes beyond clicks and impressions. It’s about building a relationship where both sides rely on each other for personal stories with purpose, stories that matter and will lead to action. This echoes #WitRegatta Founder Melody Biringer’s motto, “Relationships are the true currency.”
New language needs to be developed. And fast. At the WiTRegatta, we saw people questioning the way they communicate, approach each other and do business in general. Our language, the terms we use and the things that have been happening in our industry for decades – good and bad – are under a microscope at the moment. Many people feel that the tech sector needs proper tools and language in order to progress toward more inclusive, diverse workspaces. So, we need to tackle this like any other transition – one step at a time. After joining select breakout sessions, it became clear that we need to build the context needed for the changes we’re making. We need to apologize when we misstep, then move forward. We need to listen rather than speak. And we need to be the role models we want to have.
To continue this collaboration, we echo Mukherjee’s request to find out what the WiTRegatta did for you. Please feel free to share your thoughts, insights and stay tuned to the Women in Tech World blog to hear from others in the community.