This year I had the pleasure to attend my first Microsoft Ignite conference in Orlando. It was a great week of hearing outstanding speakers, learning new technologies, and networking with some of the best in the business. However, the best part for me was a new track they started this year called “Women in Business and Technology”. It consisted of a pre-day session, and luncheons throughout the week featuring a wide range of speakers. Although the sessions weren’t “technical”, they proved to be invaluable.
The Women in Business and Technology pre-day event was jam packed with fantastic speakers and amazing women from all over the world. The ballroom was set to encourage engagement with attendees and speakers. A few representatives from LinkedIn also had a table and photo area where they offered free professional headshots to use for your profile. The team that put this event together did a fantastic job and I hope they continue to offer this track every year!
Below are some session highlights that I'd suggest to go listen to on demand and specific speakers that have good online content.
Carrie George, a Leadership and Executive coach, spoke on the difference between happiness and well-being. I was very intrigued by this topic. You always hear “do what makes you happy”, but for some reason that always feels unobtainable. Happiness is fleeting. It isn’t forever, but that doesn’t mean it can never be achieved again. By focusing on well-being, it can have longer lasting effects and can be achieved for much longer with better results. I won’t go into too much detail on the ways George suggested to achieve well-being, (might be a future blog!) but it was compelling to say the least.
Ann Johnson, the VP of Enterprise and Cyber Security at Microsoft, spoke twice. Her first talk was about her “accidental career” and how she came to be where she is now. Her story is one of confidence and how talking down your fears can take you places you didn’t know you could go. Johnson also encouraged us all to raise each other up rather than view it as a competition between women.
Her second talk, unsurprisingly, was about fear. She encouraged everyone to take risks, and to not let fear cripple you from taking a leap. Sometimes it doesn’t always turn out how you imagined but the experience always has something to teach you regardless. Dona Sarkar, self-proclaimed Chief #NinjaCat for the Windows Insider Program at Microsoft and MC for the event, described Johnson as a “literal bad ___”. I believe everyone in the room would unanimously agree to that!
Charu Jangid, Product Manager at LinkedIn, talked about how to position yourself in the best way possible for what you’re looking for in a career - obviously by using LinkedIn. But this wasn’t just a product plug, Jangid spoke to how the business world is changing in terms of finding candidates and people finding fresh starts. By leveraging social media, like LinkedIn, a person could find opportunities they might never have found using the traditional ways of networking. She showed examples of video resumes and how the right profile wording can make you more visible to the type of companies you’re trying to reach. She also emphasized that LinkedIn wasn’t just for job searching, it’s also can boost your company’s visibility to great potential applicants and customers alike.
Throughout the day, I had the privilege to meet and connect with so many women from all various walks of life. As women in business, and especially technology, it can seem like a lonely place at times. But having a network of uplifting women who understand, makes all the difference. I know I will continue to be inspired and encouraged by all the women I met. It was truly a life changing experience for me. My biggest take away and my encouragement to all women, not just in business and technology: Be Fearless!
Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Women in Business and Technology Blog, as I highlight more amazing speakers who spoke throughout the week at Ignite. Feel free to connect with me via LinkedIn and follow me on twitter @kj_rader.