Women in Tech

Wednesday, December 14. 2011
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There is one thing which annoyed me a lot in 2011: the general topic is Women in Tech.

I'm not annoyed because I don't like women or don't want them to attend conferences. I'm annoyed because nothing happens.

Status Quo

For the most part it's guys at conference who discuss what can be done about it.

For example, I don't remember how exactly we got into this discussion at Funconf, but at the time we even had two or three women in the room when this was brought up. And I guess two women in a room with 15-20 guys is an exceptionally high rate for tech conference.

Side-note: I really wish I had asked them at the time how comfortable they are with this topic to begin with.

Outside conferences, the discussion happens in blogs and on Twitter. For example, there are frequently women in my Twitter timeline (I don't want to single anyone out.), who mention things like the female-male-ratio of attendees at tech conferences ("Too many guys!") and usually end with that there are too many guys who give talks.

Of course they have every right to mention this, but are women even submitting talks to these conferences? It often seems like a chicken-egg-problem to me.

Rhetorical question: Am I an asshole for pointing out that complaining gets you nowhere.

Issues

Drifting off the gender topic, there are in fact many other issues in the tech world.

For example, let's take a brief look at another sensitive subject: the ratio of white and non-white attendees at tech conferences (in the western world). I would be blind if I said there is no racism. Of course it's omni-present, but that doesn't make everyone a racist.

Racial issues aside, there are countless other examples where people might not feel welcome or at home when they attend a tech conference. Change has to come on many different levels and while some people might say, "Boys will be boys.", that doesn't mean we shouldn't be a little more aware.

Making change

Getting back to my original topic: of course part of changing the game is that conferences will have to cater to women also.

I'm honestly not sure what exactly needs to be done. Part of it would be to drop panel discussions about "Women in Tech". I got the suggestion that this is not just annoying for male attendees but a reason for potential female attendees to avoid a conference as well.

Leadership

So apart from conferences changing, I think the key is: women need to get involved.

First off: it's tough to go to places where you are a minority. I've done that myself, I can relate. I also realize there are women at tech conferences who do this already. But others who are more vocal on Twitter or blogs currently, need to follow them and do the same.

Words are powerful. But they won't take us all the way. Actions are required: please lead by example and change will follow.

More input

One of the areas where conferences need female expertise is (obviously) running a conference. This may sound a little snarky, but I doubt that guys will get it right otherwise. Women need to shape conferences from the top in order to change them. Join up, or roll your own.

Another important part is giving talks. It's simple: if you'd like to see more female speakers at conferences, you should submit a talk. I find it a little unbearable when the most vocal people demand more female speakers at conferences but do not submit talks themselves to begin with.

Fin

For the past years men complain that there are no women at tech conferences. And when men try to answer why, I think they are just guessing. If women know why, then we should start to discuss a solution.

If women don't know why, then maybe they need to ask themselves.

That's me venting — from 10,000 ft. Hit me up if you want to discuss any of this.

My Berlin Buzzwords 2010 recap

Wednesday, June 9. 2010
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I attended Berlin Buzzwords 2010 for the last two days and aside from meeting a bunch of great people during talks, here are some take away notes from this conference:

  • I got introduced to new stuff — such as HyperTable (c++ bigtable implementation), which I had never heard of before.

  • I actually know a lot more about hadoop, HDFS and tika now than I did before — though I won't be able to use any a lot of it soon. The HDFS talk in particular was interesting as it got rid off the bells and whistles (OMG distributed file system and replicated!!!) for me. On Hadoop — it was easy to feel a little overwhelmed.

  • No MongoDB for me.

  • Hilarious: "Localhost is local most." (by Mario Scheliga)

  • (On HDFS' issues with the NameNode:) "Highly available vs. pretty highly available."

  • A lot of people talked about scaling (in and off talks) without a) having any first hand experience and/or b) a need for it. That was probably the buzzwordy part about this conference.

  • I did not learn as much about Lucene as I wanted or had planned. Primarily because the nature of the talks was a little too advanced for me. A basic introduction to Lucene/Solr's architecture and ways to scale out is still on my wish list.

  • I noticed that contributors to Apache projects like to discuss Jira issues in their talks.

  • Twitter is using Lucene/Java to scale out its (near real-time) search, but sticks to trivial types (instead of objects) to (re)gain performance.

  • Riak seems pretty cool: consistent hashing, auto-balancing, sharding — must investigate more. Also, Rusty Klophaus is a cool guy and I learned that Basho is not just a software company, but they also have a band. And riak is Indonesian and stands for something like how the water flows.

  • Cassandra looks interesting as well. Considering they are Java not written in Erlang, a lot of people seem to like them anyways. Also, Eric Evans is a great presenter — kudos to him. I especially liked the part where he suggested to not use Cassandra for obvious reasons, but the inner geek disagreed.

  • I don't know why presentations by Nokia, are like that. I'm missing a little enthusiasm about work or project.

  • Bashing other projects sucks. Also, introducing yourself with, "We are like X but better.", makes you look shady as well.

  • Benchmarks on slides really suck. And if people still can't resist, they should have a better explanation for them.

  • Berlin Buzzwords really had a great venue.

  • Thanks mucho to the organizers — Isabel, Simon, Jan & newthinking — for an interesting conference.

For more details, head over to Rusty Klophaus: