MUNCIE, IN - Sponsored by the likes of Verizon, BP, Cisco, and Nortel among others, Ball State University hosted its first Women Working in Technology conference today.
If my name or picture doesn't give it away, I'm a man. Why did I attend? Two words: Insider information. For the survival of the race, our two species must interact... and often at work. So, I figured being in a room of over 100 professional women for eight or nine hours would be a good cultural immersion experience. Here's a swatch* of interesting things I learned at the conference.
Sarah Robbins, author of such books as "Second Life for Dummies" and "Video Game Theory Reader II", noted the only people she knows of who are making their incomes entirely from virtual worlds are women. She indicated this may be because online communities level the playing field for female workers.
Almost every speaker mentioned "flexible scheduling" as one of the most enticing things a company could offer them. They lamented the fact that so few companies pro-actively created positions that allowed for work-life balance for women - a group that on average spends 33 hours a week on household duties, compared to 10 hours a week for men. Robbins suggested everyone read the book "Work to Live" by NextGen Consulting's Joe Robinson. Someone also voiced, "But remember, there's also a benefit to being able to walk away from the cubicle and go home. You don't get that with flexible scheduling."
Current Favorite Gadgets (in no particular order)
2. RememberTheMilk.com - A task manager that integrates with GMail, Google Calendar, Twitter, the iPhone and Windows Mobile
3. FranklinCovey's PlanPlus
4. PPod.com - Groceries delivered to your door. (One woman: "Yeah, but do they put them away?")
5. ATT "Tilt"
7. iGoogle Activity Tracker
Answer to "What's the next big thing in technology?"
1. Distributed Match Engines - Networks that share processing power to accomplish a single task
2. Content Aggregation - Ability to push and pull huge amount of customizable content from one interface.
1. "Don't have a pissing contest with the tech boys. Most people in this field have a super-ego."
2. "If you don't know something, ask questions - don't just say, 'I don't know.' "
3. Be direct.
4. "Often, when men show power and confidence - it's seen as strength. When women do it, they might call you a bitch. Be aware, that may happen."
"Facebook is your front lawn. Whatever you're willing to show the neighbors, your boss will see."
New Trends in Technology from Patty Crawford, Enterprise Architect for BP
1. Consumerism. BP gives some of its employees $1000 credit annually to be spent on a new computer. No help desk support, but plays into the consumerism trend by letting employee choose the software and hardware that makes them happy.
2. Focus. BP is outsourcing some IT needs to Amazon.com. Why? Amazon.com is renting out storage ($0.15/GB/month), servers (up in 15 minutes; $0.10/hour of instance/month), and traffic fees ($0.20/GB/month). Plus, Amazon.com lets companies install their own security on Linux, Solaris, or Windows servers. Read: BP wants to be an oil company, not a tech company. (Oh, and those servers help BP crank out seismographic data pretty fast, too.)
3. Redefine. "Demand a ruthlessly simple definition of a business problem. Why? Because tech people can muddy it up by getting focused on the latest and greatest thing in their field." *Swatch: A sample, especially of fabric. (My mom and sister knew what this was.)