I had a wonderful weekend in Grand Rapids, MI, visiting friends and family. While I was up there, I had the opportunity to speak at two conferences. The first conference, Dynamic Link, is a conference that is organized largely by college students as part of a class. Putting on the conference itself teaches them that responsibilities in the “real world” go beyond just getting a grade, but that there are real consequences based on whether they do or don’t perform tasks on time, in a quality manner. If one of them misses a dealine, there might be 13 other students who are depending on them for something, or possibly all the conference attendees will suffer. That being said, I thought the students did a fantastic job at facilitating the conference. I was able to present a keynote address based on my own career path, and how we need to be open to God’s leading in our careers, through the various ups and downs.
Afterwards, we attended break-out sessions where we discussed various topics that students had done research on. I attended a session where we discussed the topic, “Why aren’t there more women in computing?” Our group came to the conclusion that first of all, there was a lot of mis-information out there about computing. Women might see some of their more outspoken “nerdy” male colleagues and think, “I’m not like them. I’m more social. Why would I want to go into the same field?” They also might think that working in the computing field requires working 80 hour weeks consistently and that’s incompatible with having a family, when in reality most organizations don’t expect that kind of workload out of their employees anymore, since it’s not in their best interest to burn out their employees; the perception that all jobs in computing are like that is most likely a left-over vestige of the early days of computing in the 80’s and the dot com boom in the 90’s. (It was also pointed out that women often go into fields like nursing and social work, that might even require longer hours than that of someone in the computing field, but somehow those fields don’t have the same stigma for women.) Our second conclusion was that there are a lot of jobs that might appeal to women that they might not know about when they’re choosing careers, that don’t involve specifically programming. For instance, women might enjoy being business analysts, project managers, information architects, or technical writers. We need to do a better job of educting women about the kinds of positions out there that are in the computing field. I thought it was interesting how so much of this topic tied into the ideas discussed in the book Lean In, which I had just finished reading.
On Monday, I presented at the The Great Lakes Software Excellence Conference. I gave a largely demo-based presentation about some of the new features of SharePoint 2013. It’s always hard to fit a lot of information in a 50 minute block, but I tried!
Thanks again to professor Pat Bailey at Calvin College who has allowed me to participate in these West Michigan activities!