Thursday 27 June 2019

My journey from 15 to 500!

Right now, I have a mixed feeling - a sense of achievement and a of bit tiredness too; just counting days for the weekend (1 more to go). This week has been hectic yet rewarding as I presented in front of 500 attendees at the Women of Silicon Roundabout (WoSR) conference. It was my 3rd time at WoSR as an independent speaker and got a chance to attend the awards function too. Every time I take up a session there; it only gets better. I started at WoSR with a very small session at the beginning. It's time for me to reflect back on my journey as a presenter at WinTech events thus far. Here I am sharing my experience; with no offense to any nation or language. 

As a student, I was always keen to take up tech sessions at my university. I won awards at various inter-college events too. But after moving to London, I lost my confidence a little as my English vocabulary was limited and my accent was Indian'ish. One day, I attended a session at the Microsoft developer conference. It had a native English speaker and a French speaker. Although the French speaker wasn't that fluent in English; attendees enjoyed his talk more than the English speaker. That made me realize that it's not about your fluency in English or your accent; its all about knowledge and delivery. It really doesn't matter which background you come from; if you have the knowledge, then attendees will appreciate you. That boosted my confidence and I started applying at various tech events.

Around a year ago, I got my first chance to be a speaker at WoSR'2018; thanks to Mat Clothier (CTO, Cloudhouse) for encouraging me and Mihaela Filip (Marketing Manager, Cloudhouse) for nominating me. I managed to get the last slot on the last day in the Master class track at the far end of the exhibition hall. As you can expect, the last session on the last day will mostly be empty. But it was a debut break for me which I didn't want to miss out on. So, I accepted the chance and worked hard to make my session on Application Portability as interesting and informative as possible.

On conference day, I was the only person from my company joining the event. I went to attend the keynote speech in the big auditorium at ExCeL London; packed with around 3000 attendees. That's the first time I heard Joanne Hannaford's speech (Partner, Goldman Sachs). I was highly inspired to see a lady coming from a software development background; making it to the top. After the keynote, I tried to go backstage to meet her but couldn't go there due to security reasons. I sent her a message on the event app asking for 2 mins of her time; just for a handshake. Although she was heading back to the office, she waited for me at the staircase near the conference's exit door. I spoke to her and told her that "one day I will give a keynote speech in that auditorium, just like you did". She smiled and said "yes, at the next event".  I said, "You are kidding Mam. I just managed to get the last slot of the event, on a small open stage at the far end of the exhibition area". But she said, "don't worry you will get there!"  Those words were music to my ears! At that moment, I didn't even imagine that I'll get a better chance next time.

Master Class stage in WoSR 2018
Then I headed towards the Master class area, it was a big area at the end of the exhibition hall. During the day, I went to various sessions, networking with other speakers, talking to the attendees. TBH, I was explaining to them about my topic; trying to convince more people to come to my session. The worst thing for a speaker is to work hard to prepare the content and end up with empty seats. I was trying to avoid that situation :P 

But I made many good contacts; one of which was Aarthi Raju. I attended her talk on "softs kills for tech presentations" and requested her to come to my session to help me improve my presentations skills. She helped me rehearse and improve my slide deck (thanks Aarthi, you are a star :) )

Giving session atWoSR in 2018

Finally, it was my session time. I had around 15 attendees (enough to keep me motivated). It went well but after the talk, I requested the organizer Patrick Lewis (CEO WinTech) to give me a morning slot next time. He said he will try his best (and he kept his word)!

In Nov'2018, Michaela Jeffery-Morrison (Co-Founder, COO WinTech) asked me if I could present at the European Women in Tech conference in Amsterdam on Virtualization. I was delighted to be a speaker again but this time I requested them to give me a slot which is not at the end of the event and not at the end of the exhibition hall. Thanks to her for giving me a slot on day2 morning session in Future of Tech track (at the beginning of the exhibition hall). Although it was an open stage, we had a full house of around 80 attendees (with few standing as well). I felt like I got promoted; when compared to the previous event :) As always, I made great friends (Dinah Barrett, Rhiannon Payne and few others).

After the European conference, I submitted a paper for WoSR, London planned in June'19. In the meanwhile, I joined Google in early 2019 as a Strategic Cloud Engineer. As I was working in Google Cloud; Emma Tommony (Portfolio Director, WinTech) and Georgia Ermilios (Conference Producer, Maddox) correctly suggested me to present on Hybrid Cloud (as it is a hot topic) and I immediately accepted it. And..... you guessed it right; I requested Emma to give me a slot on Day1 and she very generously gave me the first slot on the first day in a biiiiiiig auditorium with a capacity of 500! She said as it is the first session in 2019 tech pulse, they are expecting it to be house full. That was like a dream come true! (thanks a lot Emma). It was a relief as I don't have to work hard to convince attendees to come over to my session anymore :P

2019 Tech Pulse hall at WoSR in June 2019
Its a mere coincidence, that the room allocated to me this year was exactly at the same location at the end of exhibition hall as last year's stage. Except that it was 20 times bigger and in a conference hall instead of an open stage. To be honest, when I saw the room before my session, I really got nervous. I never got a chance to stand on such a big stage. I was excited but nervous at the same time (it is one of those moments when your heartbeat goes up more rapidly than a crypto currency). I turned around, walked out of the conference hall; called my parents (back in India) and my husband. Talking to them always motivates me! 
After that I only had one thing in my mind - "I always wanted to get on this stage.. Here is my chance... It's my day!" When I went up on the stage, I saw a room full of attendees who came to listen to me (without me having to convince them to attend it). I just wanted to be myself and enjoy the experience. It went perfectly well; couldn't have been better!!  :)

After the session, I got a very positive feedback from my colleagues and attendees who came up to the Google booth to congratulate me. At that time I remembered what Joanne Hannaford told me last year; that I will make it to a bigger stage at the next event. I messaged her and went to meet her. I told her that her prediction came true (partially). She remembered me and was delighted to hear that I made it this far. Although I didn't give a keynote; it was the biggest stage of my career thus far. 

I'll definitely make it to the keynote in ExCeL auditorium one day!  :)


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