Monday, February 1, 2016

Delayed post on our GHC session "Balancing Career and Motherhood"

As we know, time files. It's been already four months since Grace Hopper Celebration 2015 conference, and for all these four months I have got multiple requests (believe it or not) to write a blog post and finally put my mind to do it. The reason this is happening today is that my co-worker Harini casually told me about her girlfriend today who lives in Atlanta, who attended our session and was so impressed that decided to make incremental changes in her attempts to balance work and motherhood. She had a memorable experience since she told Harini about it months later. There couldn't have been a better compliment! (BTW, dear friend from Atlanta, let me know the secret once your figure it out, I am still struggling:))

Over many months since hearing that our proposal was accepted, I had been thrilled and looking forward to being on stage in this unique context. This is the official listing of the session on GHC website. My co-presenter and I had met over email, and had few Google Hangouts sessions before heading to GHC in Houston. Even though I had initiated the effort and came up with most of the initial draft, my co-presenter Carolyn Rowland (a superwoman - mother of three, conference organizer and a manager at NIST) did the lion's share of work by creating the PowerPoint presentation and coming up with the game idea, she even printed the color coded sets of came cards for a room of 500.

We all met Carolyn Rowland, Neetu Jain, Jade GroenKatie Lewis and I on the day before our session at the conference, to have lunch together and plan what wasn't yet accounted for in the session. I am very impressed with every one of these overachieving mothers - successful technical women who magically do it all. I told them and I am happy to repeat here as well, I got four role models out of my experience with the "Balancing Career and Motherhood" session. 

I was a little nervous about presenting, since it had been a while after my last public speaking engagement. Although I had to only a quick introduction and most of the session was moderating the game played in groups of 5-8, and answering the Q&A, it was still an unfamiliar territory that comes with frequented hearth beat. We had no idea how many people will show up, since some sessions were packed with a line outside the door and others where half-empty.

Our session turned out to be a very popular one, with a full room, and a waitlist at the door. Even though we didn't have much opportunity to rehearse and had to make some improvisations on the fly, the flow of the session was rather smooth and was a great experience. As part of the Q&A segment, we heard some very insightful observations from the small groups, and heard some questions that are an ongoing challenge for most of us. One of the most interesting observations that my "training session" at work revealed prior the conference and we got to hear at GHC as well, was that when faced with challenges e.g. "Your son is sick and needs to be picked up from school, but your boss asks you to stay for an important meeting", all the women in the group came up with solutions, yet none said "I will ask my husband/significant other to pick him up". 

The most important message of that session was that we are not experts who are here to tell you the magic formula to establishing this delicate balance, we are all mother, who have gone through some of the same challenges you are going through, and we are here to share some of what worked and what didn't work for us.

I had the usual moment of self-doubt at the session that pursues all working mothers. There was a young mother with a baby about my daughter's age in the audience, so I stopped by to say hi and checkout the little cutie. The mom told me that she couldn't leave her daughter at the conference daycare and had to bring her in, since it was very noisy and dirty, my hearth dropped since my daughter was at the daycare that very minute. (My impression of GHC daycare was that it was organized excellently. It was run by very pleasant elder couple, staffed with kind and warm caregivers. Ella and I loved it).

My awesome coworkers TY, Anthony and Carenina also came to my session to support. They were extremely supportive and cheered when I mentioned working at Netflix. Here are some of the pictures from the session, courtesy of TY:

Here are the details of the game if you are interested in trying it out yourself. Feel free to contact me or my co-presenters to help set it up:

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