The excitement was buzzing as the time to start grew near. People who hadn’t seen each other in a while embraced and chatted about updates on their lives. The joy and energy in the room was palpable. No one was left alone, everyone was pulled into a welcome hug and conversation. Towards the back of the room, I could see our Launching New Voices mentors doing last-minute prep with their mentees for the lightning talks. Up towards the front of the room, Natalie Warnert, the founder of this event, was welcoming the keynote speaker. I could also see people like James Griffith from Agile Uprising assembling the recording/podcasting paraphernalia. Around the room were people like Chris Murman, whom I met through this event for the first time a few years ago but now I call my friend. I could also see amazing fellow organizing committee members like Linda Cook, Eric Willeke, Jenny Tarwater, Joanna Vahlsing, Linda Podder, and Cheryl Hammond. What a dynamic group of people we’ve had a volunteer for this initiative over the years.
Since 2016, this event has been running on the Sunday before the Agile Alliance 20xx conference. I’m so grateful that Agile Alliance has sponsored this as an official initiative and it has now grown into a nonprofit that partners with Agile Alliance and other groups. Every year, we are sure to talk about an important item – the Code of Conduct for the conference. I remember one summarizing sentence from Linda Cook, Paul Hammond, and Becky Hartman that resonated clearly: “Be kind to others. Behave professionally.” It’s important that we talk about this going into a week where people need to know that the CoC is taken seriously here.
The themes of the events over the years have tied together to enable Women In Agile at a broader scale:
- 2016 – Inform
- 2017 – Empower
- 2018 – Expand
- 2019 – Activate
And the Women In Agile keynotes have also been powerful:
- 2016 – Cindy Morse, VP of Ops and Engineering at Salesforce
- 2017 – Astronaut Abby (Abigail Harrison) of the nonprofit The Mars Generation
- 2018 – April Wensel of Compassionate Coding
- 2019 – Stephanie Thomas of Cur8able
We usually also have an Open Space portion of the program. Here is an example of 3 topics from the 2017 “Empowering the Changing Face of Agile” Open Space:
- Finding Your Voice
- Build Local Community
- Establish Your Presence
The creativity and talents in this community never cease to amaze me. It was so beautiful to see the long line of people (men and women) proposing Open Space sessions who had never done that before. The excitement was tangible. During these sessions, I heard people being encouraged to start WIA groups in their local communities, learning how to start blogs, discovering what a good conference submission looks like, and other great topics. Laura Powers was hosting a session around body language and how to be a more powerful presence in life. We also had a dynamic, energetic dialogue hosted by Declan Whelan around how to be better allies for the women in the Agile community. I appreciated that a few women said they finally felt heard right then, right there, in that Open Space session.
Towards the end of the event, we have the Launching New Voices lightning talks. I’m so grateful to have been on the team that created this concept along with Jenny Tarwater and Pradeepa Narayanaswamy. We wanted to add unique value to the WIA community, so we pondered ‘What if we gave a 7-minute slot for a lightning talk from new speakers who had never been compensated to be a conference speaker?’ and the idea took flight from there. We weren’t honestly sure if anyone would submit a session, and as usual, the response was amazing! Mentors were also added to pair with each new speaker and hone their speaking skills in preparation for the WIA event. The Launching New Voices segment has turned out to be a very fun portion of the event. We have so many talented people in our community. I love that two of our first “new voices” (Joanna Vahlsing and Linda Podder) are now on the organizing team selecting the new voices for upcoming events.
How would I describe the essence of the Sunday WIA event? A place to breathe. A place to meet new friends and connect in a real way. For me, it’s like when I’ve been traveling internationally for an extended period of time and I’ve been translating non-stop all day every day … then I suddenly bump into someone who speaks my language and it’s such a relief to stop translating for a few minutes. That is what the essence of this event feels like for me. It’s so good to connect before we all get lost in the big conference crowd that’s coming. This event spreads joy, encourages hearts, enhances deep understanding, strengthens alliances, creates new friendships, and just generally makes the world a better place by contributing positive energy and building people up.
I look forward to seeing you this year or at future events!