Codess, an engineering forum for women, held a series of “lightning talks” on Thursday at Cast Iron Studios in Bellevue. On the docket at the event were influential women in tech, engineering, and startups. Speakers covered topics such as the future of technology, finding yourself in your field, designing for diversity, and learning to lead a startup.
Codess is sponsored by Microsoft, which was well represented at the event. Dona Sarkar, from HoloLens; Vidya Srinivasan, a program manager: and Valentina Keremidarska, a principle group software engineer at the company, all spoke.
Sarkar, from the HoloLens team, kicked off the night with a preview of the upcoming HoloLens. She said screen-less technology is a future that hasn’t had established leadership yet, and the time is right for female engineers to step up and lead. “Ladies, it’s time for us to rise. The future is screenless. Let’s go out there and get it done,” Sarkar said.
The HoloLens will take what’s inside a phone or computer and frame it in the real world. It’s augmented reality, which utilizes human interaction. It reverts back to hand creation rather than screen contact, which Sarkar said is more natural for humans.
“We are analog creatures. We create with our hands,” she said. “That’s powerful and it’s so very human.”
Helen Bakker, senior director for technology at Expedia, shared her journey to finding her voice in the field of technology. Bakker’s talk touched on the “inside voice” versus the “outside voice.” In her career, she dealt with doubt and the feeling of being silenced, what she called her “inside voice.” But over time, with help and mentorship, she grew confident and found her place in the world of technology. “Keep your humility, but trust your ability,” she told the crowd.
Microsoft program manager Vidya Srinivasan talked about diversity in technology, namely how to design products that truly are for everyone. “None of the people in this room have the same background,” said Srinivasan. “So it only makes sense that our products are as diverse as we are.”
Diane Najm, of PhotoPad, spoke of her foray into the world of entrepreneurship coming from a social work background. For her, it was important to forge ahead in the face of failure and fear to assert herself as a female leader, even with little things. She said she never asks where she can sit in a board room now, she enters with confidence and chooses a seat.
“It’s not where you sit at the table it’s what you bring to the table,” said Najm. “Women are leaders.”
Verifone’s enterprise architect Karen Reinhardt best summed up the night with her advice to the crowd: “No matter how nerdy it is, if it’s your love, go for it.”
Codess is a community designed for female coders, and it promotes gender diversity in the workplace. The Seattle event is one of many across the globe that Codess hosts.