The end of March marks the end of Women’s History Month in the UK. It’s a good time to reflect on the events and conversations that took place. On 11 March our team attended the ‘Reframe Women in Tech’ conference which KrakenFlex also proudly sponsored. We heard from a line up of inspiring speakers with the main theme of ‘Believe you Can’. Here are my personal thoughts and takeaways from the day.
Events and groups that unite women
…in tech or other industries are important! Some might say that this is a strange statement to make. While I always strongly believed in the need for safe spaces for women to speak up and find support, I also started hearing women questioning if making this distinction between female vs male only contributes to the inequality we are fighting against. The principle of critical thinking dictates us to question our beliefs and consider other points of view. While I see how women want to be seen as professionals and individuals without a prefix ‘female’, I also see the numbers that show how underrepresented women still are in technology, the energy sector KrakenFlex operates in and also in top positions across all industries. Excuse the comparison, but it’s like seeing a rare animal species that we want to admire and protect, so there are more of them in the future. If events and meetups aimed at women create a safe space for women to share their stories of struggle and success, find role models and mentors, we should absolutely support this as individuals and as organisations.
You are not alone!
So many times I felt alone in my awkward struggles thinking that something must be wrong with me while others have it completely figured out. I am sure it’s true for people of all genders and ethnicities. While some have objective barriers and bias working against them, others might have built those barriers unconsciously themselves in the form of negative self-talk and believe that they are just not good enough. From personal experience I know that both can be extremely difficult to overcome. The more I heard from the speakers and panellists about their own journeys and stories, the more I realised that it’s rare for anyone to have a smooth and easy journey. It inspired me to try and share my own story someday in the hope that it might help somebody feel less alone in theirs.
R for Resilience!
Building on the previous thought, one very important reminder I got from the day and amazing stories of strength is one about the importance of building your resilience. With the right state of mind and the right support we can overcome any challenges. Sarah Ellis in her talk about ‘squiggly careers’ gave some practical tips on how to build this resilience reserve for the times of change in our careers. She focused on building the right support network of mentors: the Challenger, the Ideator, the Connector, the Empathiser, the Questionner (doesn’t look like it’s a word, but I am sure you know it’s the one who asks good questions), the Supporter. Sarah also highlighted the importance of Recognising, Recording and Reflecting on your wins even if small. This exercise can help to break the ‘negativity bias’ or seeing what we can improve rather than what went well, we tend to have. Seeing patterns in the wins we recorded might help to identify our strengths, talents and things we enjoy doing we might have been unaware of.
Find a mentor… or two or become one
I worked with mentors before, but never really got serious about it. Maybe I wasn’t ready, maybe I thought I wasn’t worthy of their time, maybe I didn’t have the right person or the right question to ask them. Listening to Sarah’s talk as well as a talk by Kim Diep I decided to give it another go and give this attempt the attention it deserves. I hope one day I can also become a mentor for somebody else. But as Kim pointed out, it’s hard to see clearly what you can give another person and believe that they would want your advice.
Slowing down to speed up
This was actually the title of the talk by Amelia Bampton and served as an important reminder of how sometimes we are trying to solve life’s biggest questions ‘on the go’. Amelia encouraged us to get some headspace, take time to stop and ask ourselves what it is we really want from our careers (and from life, I would add). It’s even better to write it down in all the details, to ‘visualise the invisible’ as another speaker put it. All that is left is to break it down into specific steps you can take to reach your goal. Her final advice is to follow your intuition and always be yourself.
Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway
… as one book suggests. Or as Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” These statements came back to me while listening to the newbie speakers like Katie White and Cass Whittingham who found courage to share their stories with such a big audience. As Katie said, she signed up to do the talk ‘in the moment of courage’ and she advises everyone to do the same. The accountability to other people is a great motivator to overcome your fears. She also reflected how the decision ‘to enjoy the experience’ can help as well as the belief that everyone around you genuinely wants you to do well. So what is it that you are so longing to do, but have donuts?
It’s worth mentioning that here at KrakenFlex we don’t limit our commitment to diversity and inclusion to a specific day or month. We are constantly looking for ways to have an open conversation and challenge the bias. Earlier this year we ran the #IamRemarkable workshop that aims to challenge the social perception of self promotion and to increase awareness of bias around it. This workshop helps to encourage women and other underrepresented groups to improve their self promotion motivation and skills. We started with a small group of women with overwhelmingly positive feedback and will continue running these sessions and extending them to other groups and allies.
We are also running a pilot training on diversity and inclusion by The Other Box with an intention to roll it out to the whole company. The response we had for a request to participate in this training indicates that the team understands the importance of having this conversation and is eager to make a difference.
Written by Masha Govyazina - Product Owner at KrakenFlex