What I learned from Women in Tech Nottingham lightning talks ⚡️⚡⚡️️

An attendee speaking at the event

Last night we hosted our first WiT Notts lightning talks event, it was a truly fantastic evening. At WiT Notts one of our goals is to give a voice to our speakers where they might not otherwise get heard. But more than that, to create an environment where people, especially women and gender minorities, feel welcome and comfortable to share their experiences with us.

There’s something kind of magical when you get a group of people to openly share with each other. The honesty of everyone’s talks, coupled with the encouragement and support of our attendees, created an atmosphere full of friendliness and inclusion. We all learned new things from each other. Some talks were of failure, mistakes made, and lessons learned. Some on knowing when to stop and understanding other people and their situations. Some about our passion for tech and our work. Some on inclusivity; on finding a place where you belong. And very passionate and animated (complete with bee impressions) talks from Emma on bees.

For me, the talks couldn’t have better-illustrated women in tech: passionate women sharing their stories; honest voices admitting difficulties but not succumbing to them; advice and support to others; and emotion-driving talks that made us laugh and in some cases, hit us right in the feels.

If I was looking for an example of women encouraging women, I couldn’t have hoped for a better talk than Charlie’s How to wing a presentation talk. (Definitely a woman after my own heart.) It was the final talk before the break and caused several of our attendees to get up and do an impromptu talk in the second half. Some of whom had never done public speaking before and had certainly not arrived with the intention of standing at the front of the room.

I think that’s an incredible power, to encourage others to get out of their comfort zone. To say it’s ok to be nervous, it’s ok for hands to shake a bit and voices wobble. Because people aren’t judging the delivery, they’re listening to the words. That’s the important part.

For an event whose other goal is promoting inclusivity, two talks really fitted this. Rizwana and Nina both delivered talks on finding a place to feel included. For Riz, it was a poetry meetup, she also performed an original poem, which was delightful. For Nina, she’d found herself in the (frankly terrifying from my perspective) world of Roller Derby. But both had the same message of discovering a place where they belonged, where they could build confidence and feel at home.

And that’s my personal goal. To create an event where our attendees feel like they belong, feel welcome and supported, feel part of a thing that’s bigger than all of us. I read an article recently on how women in tech events positively impact their attendees and I hope we’re doing that too. I think we are.

The thing that I love is that now we know each other a bit more. At the next event, we can ask Anna about her home automation plans, we can find out how Emma’s bees are doing, we can ask Jenny how her app project is going. It’s a platform to open up communication, community and friendship and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of that.

Our amazing speakers

I cherry-picked a few talks, but they were all fantastic. Thank you so much to everyone who spoke at the event.

Louise Paling: What is Agile? (through the medium of lego star wars)

Jenny Prokop: Why I failed at Kickstarter & what I’m doing about it

Anna Dodson: Lightbulbs and being lazy

Emma Seward: Bees!

Aimee Gamble-Milner: When I learned to stop

Rizwana Akmal: ‘Tis a poetry talk

Charlie Whyman: How to wing a presentation…

Helen Clark: Sharing user research

Claire Abbot: Things that are a thing!

Lucy Williams: Component-based web design

Aimee Gamble-Milner: Presentation tips I’ve collected

Emma Seward: More bees!

Nina Swanwick: Roller Derby