No, I didn’t attend VerveCon 2019 alone; there were several Cadence employees there. I’ll explain that title in a minute.
Yes, the second annual VerveCon, a conference focusing on cultivating women in leadership roles in the tech industry, was on May 7 at the Santa Clara Convention Center, and if I had to guess, I would say that there were about a thousand attendees. I attended last year’s inaugural conference, and the organizers definitely branched out and improved from last year.
My biggest problem last year was that the conference seemed geared more for the woman just starting her career, and because I didn’t fit into that category, I felt a little bit alienated. But that was fixed this time around. The sessions I attended were geared to women of all levels in their careers, which I really appreciated. I was also happy to see that Cadence was a significant sponsor!
The keynote panel was smoothly moderated by Junko Yoshida, chief correspondent, and Dylan Mcgrath, executive editor of EE Times. The panelists were:
Each question lobbed at the panelists was relevant to most women, and the answers were insightful. I was sitting near the back, so couldn’t identify who answered each question, so I’ll group them together. A sample of the questions are below:
This was an interesting question. Two of the panelists talked about Indian culture, and how it’s ingrained early on not to brag, be humble, and express humility. One said that she prefers to think of herself as not great but working towards greatness. But all of them talked about the importance of surrounding yourself by people who will champion you—this can help to quell the imposter syndrome that affects most of us. And one talked about how important it is to “say it till you make it”—a big part of how people treat you is due to taking cues from how you treat yourself, so you best treat yourself well.
Most of the panelists talked about the dangers of burnout and “plateauing” in your career, one talked about getting unexpectedly laid off, and one talked about an instance of severe sexual harassment. But they also talked about how they got out of each hole. Obviously, they were all ultimately successful by taking risks and persevering, finding mentors, reporting the harassment. They all had to hit the bottom before they could bounce back from it.
Angel Rich was very direct—she immediately said, “The money!” which got a big laugh. That said, one talked about the excitement about the speed of delivery, especially in the software world. Two of the panelists talked about how they weren’t necessarily superstars in math and science in school, but they were encouraged to be creative, and engineering was a great outlet for that creativity.
Personally, I hate this question. It is never asked of men. But the answers were great. One of the panelists has FIVE children—I don’t know how she does it. All the panelists talked about the importance of scheduling your life and setting boundaries. They talked about the quality of time spent with kids and spouses, over quantity. The panelist with five children talked about how helpful delegation is—both at work and at home, where she hires someone to do housework that takes her away from her family and career.
It was a whirlwind tour: three 45-minute sessions before lunch, and four 45-minute sessions after! I attended tech sessions, career advancement sessions, sessions led by Cadence employees (yay, Cadence!), a session about HR-related topics, leadership sessions, and more. Not even one that I attended was a dud.
Crazy enough, I forgot my notebook in which to take notes, so I had to make do with the back of my printed ticket. It was kind of hilarious. This was what it looked like after a keynote and three sessions alone.
This is an 8½” x 11” paper. Teeeeeny tiny writing! (click if you want to read my chicken scratch)
Lots of content to digest.
In the two career advancement sessions I attended, there was a common theme that I found interesting. In both, the presenters talked about how to avoid stagnation in one’s career. They all mentioned that to move forward, it’s sometimes necessary to move down.
What does this have to do with rock climbing, you ask?
Last weekend, my 19-year-old son and I watched the documentary Free Solo, about the rock climber Alex Honnald, and his quest to perform a free solo climb of 3,000’ on the face of El Capitan in Yosemite, in June of 2017. Free soloing means climbing a rock face without any equipment, not even a safety rope. All that he had with him was a bag of chalk (for gripping the pencil-width ridges).
For more information about this incredible feat, the New York Times has a short article about it. Go read it, I’ll wait.
And when you look at the route he took, it wasn’t a sheer vertical climb. Look at the path he takes: he goes up, then down, then up.
After attending these career sessions and having more than one presenter talk about stepping down before you can step up, the message was driven home. The path to success isn’t a direct route up.
Another climbing metaphor that caught my attention is shown in this photo.
Now, if it were me, I would want to be as close to the rock as possible, with all four extremities gripping with all my strength. (And then I would fall off.) But look at the photo, he’s pushing back with his feet and pulling with his hands. With strength at his core, he balances this push/pull action to stay attached to the rock. Counter-intuitive.
So what’s the lesson? You tell me. I can draw many conclusions.