We’re going to skip right past the Hack the People Mentor night that I was supposed to attend, because I didn’t. At the last minute, my stomach started acting disagreeable and I decided it would be better to stay home and end up being fine rather than chance going and not.
Next up was the Act-W Conference on Saturday.
I was a little nervous about this – an all day event with hundreds of people, none of whom I know.
I am, at my essence, a pretty shy person. Or I have been, anyway. I think as a very little kid, I was pretty outgoing, mostly because I didn’t know any better. It didn’t take me long to learn that people often simply do not want to hear the sound of your voice, no matter how interesting you may think you’re being. So I went from being a pretty vivacious, friendly and outgoing little kid to a pretty quiet, shy elementary school kid.
Being in large groups of people I do not know is still pretty uncomfortable for me, even though I’ve grown past the quiet phase of shy and fully graduated into complete extrovert as an overcompensation.
Although I felt much anxiety prior to leaving for this event, I soothed myself with the notion that I dind’t have to stay all day. That the worst thing that might happen is that I’d have “wasted” $35 if I ended up leaving before the day was over. That if I wasn’t having a great time, I didn’t need to stay for the Happy Hour, much less the dinner. This is a tactic that works well for me – by rationalizing what will actually happen if I don’t enjoy myself, I end up enjoying myself.
I arrived at Zulily right one time, just at 9:15. The lobby was almost empty – just two women, one of whom directed me to the elevator. I got in, checked my phone, and just as I looked up, noticed another woman approaching the closing doors. I held them for her, we introduced ourselves, and voilà! Ended up sticking together all day.
We got our badges, and went to the atrium. Got some food (nice selection, all day long, btw – breakfast, lunch, snacks in between. You’d never go hungry at this place!) and went and found a table with a couple of open seats. The other 5 people we sat with were all super nice. We introduced ourselves, did some background/why we’re here stuff and had some nice conversation as we ate. Although we split up as a group before moving downstairs, we ran into several of our breakfast tablemates throughout the day, and it was nice to check in with each other.
My new friend and I grabbed two seats in the front row middle for the key-note speakers. There was one seat left on the end of the front row, which was subsequently taken by the first key-note speaker, Sarah Bird, CEO of Moz. It turned out that she is a delightful, friendly person who we were lucky to end up sitting next to (she was completely unguarded and warm and open with us) and she gave a speech that was brilliant, relatable and SO.FUNNY.
The was another key-note speaker and several lightening talks, all interesting in their own right, but for me, Sarah Bird was the highlight. A delightful breath of fresh air. I felt newly inspired during her talk, and full of excitement afterward, and I just don’t really get that way for stuff like this.
All the talks were followed by lunch back up in the atrium. It was crowded, but we squeezed in after making some difficult choices. All the food looked great. I wish I could have had one of each 😀
After lunch, we stayed in the atrium for a while, browsing the sponsor tables and networking.
Eventually, we went off to a workshop, that I’m ultimately glad we went to so I can explore the topic on my own, but that we actually left early because it was super dry.
Next up was the salary negotiation workshop, which was mostly stuff I feel like I knew on some level, but was good to hear someone say. It was an enjoyable workshop that stayed on track and gave good information, and answered a lot of questions very effectively.
We ended up deciding to stay in that room for the next workshop, the last of the day, and unfortunately, it didn’t go as well. I thought it had a lot of potential, and it wasn’t all bad, but I did feel like things veered off pretty wildly for a few minutes, and I didn’t feel like all the questions were answered as well as they could have been. I’ll leave it at that, as it wasn’t the end of the world, but we probably should have tried a different workshop.
Finally! Happy Hour! More snacks! Wine!
There had been some confusion prior to the conference and even throughout the day about the dinner, which I was still uncertain about attending, despite the fact that I’d had a good day and thoroughly enjoyed myself. The dinner issue was confusing as the only info we really had up until afternoon was that there would be reservations for tables at 8 nearby restaurants, and that you could sign up “by topic”. The dinners were called “Birds of a Feather” and it turned out that the idea was to come up with ideas for topics to discuss over dinner and then people would sign up for a dinner based on a topic. OHHHHHH, ok. Well, at that point, the issue was more that not a lot of people had signed up, which we realized when we started scanning for topics. There must have been 300 people there, and between them all, (because the topics were suggested by attendees) only 5 topics had been suggested by the time we were looking, about 90 minutes before dinner. That was part of the reason not a lot of people had signed up, but there was also the fact that some people were tired, some had to drive a ways to get home, some people had other plans, etc.
My new friend suggested that we start our own topic, and I agreed. We re-visited one of the ongoing themes of the day, and commandeered a restaurant for “Work/Life Balance”. At this point, it was probably about 45 minutes until 7 – two other restaurants still did not have topics (and some never got one) and the most people on any one list was 4. We had discussed with some volunteers whether some of the topics might be better off combined, and they asked us if we would like to encourage people to get to signing up, if they were inclined to do so but hadn’t yet. So off we went. We did not mention to any one person that we spoke to what our topic/restaurant was, or even that we had come up with one, only that the lists were a bit skimpy, so if you were thinking about signing up, it would be helpful that everyone do so ASAP.
Thirty minutes later, a few names had been added to some of the lists, and ours was FULL. Perhaps more people showed up randomly at some of the other restaurants, but when we left at 5 ’til 7, our list was the only one that was full. We felt some success at that, and our camaraderie was sealed.
I think we actually had 11 at our table, as one person showed up later, having not been able to attend the conference, she got to the HH for the last few minutes, just long enough to decide where she was going for dinner!
When we were speaking to the volunteers about what was up with the dinners, and whether or not to go, one of them told us that they had the same issue in Portland, but afterward, everyone who went to the dinners said that they were the best part of the day. They were not wrong.