Taking stock of Philly Tech Week

Philly Women in Tech Summit 2013Philly Tech Week is a full week of celebrating and showcasing the amazing things happening in the tech scene, highlighting areas and topics surrounding technology, including accessibility, entrepreneurship, media, entertainment, and civic issues, among others.  Having access to Philly Tech Week is one of my favorite things about living in this city. It’s amazing to me the depth and breadth of the programming, and it’s so wonderful to show up at almost any event across the city on a given night and running into an old or new friend. It’s going to be a very busy week, as I’ll be maintaining my normal day job and freelance workload, but it will be worth it.

I’d love to share a few highlights and things I’m looking forward to this week:

Tetris on the Cira Center:  There’s a skyscraper in Philly, called the Cira Center, that has bunches of tiny LEDs all over it. Each of the LEDs has its own IP address, and so they are programmable. Which means they can be turned into a huge video game screen, and people can play Tetris on the side of a skyscraper. It is, as they say, rad as eff.

Why Take the Leap? Public Speaking & Your Career: My very favorite tech meetup group, Girl Develop It, is partnering with Happy Cog and Ladies in Tech on hosting a roundtable on how and why public speaking helps your career. I’ll be taking extensive notes and prepping for my first speaking gig later in the week.

Rad Girls’ Launch Party: At least one of my friends is contributing to this new site highlighting and interviewing women in Philly who are doing spectacular things. I’m excited to meet the rest of the contributors and celebrate their launch.

Philadelphia Women in Tech Summit: This is one of my favorite local events of the year. At the first Women in Tech Summit, I wasn’t even sure that I belonged, but by the end of the day I’d decided I wanted to learn web development. So it’s a pretty special event to me, personally. Like I shared earlier, I’ll be speaking (for the first time! Eeep!) on a panel about career paths.

Does your city or town have a festival or celebration that you love? What are some of your favorite local events?

Weekend Pairing: Women in Media

Have you seen that #NotBuyingIt hashtag flying around on Twitter, especially during high profile events like the Super Bowl? That campaign came out of Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s 2011 film Miss Representation, which profiles just how disturbing women’s representation in the media really is. The film includes perspectives from high profile media personalities (everyone from Katie Couric to Margaret Cho) and middle school girls alike. Miss Representation‘s website is full of more information, statistics, and ways to get involved in fixing this mess. Also, in putting together this post, I discovered that Siebel Newsom has a new film called The Mask You Live In, An Exploration of American Masculinity, coming out this year, and I’m really excited to see it.

Killing Us Softly: Michelle Pfeiffer Esquire TouchupsIf you took any women’s or gender studies classes in college, you’ve probably at least heard of Jean Kilbourne. A former model, she started collecting images of women in advertising back in the 1960s and ’70s. She started doing presentations about how women are portrayed in the media, and eventually filmed it, creating Killing Us Softly in 1979. That original documentary has been reworked and updated several times, and the most recent version came out in 2010: Killing Us Softly 4. You can stream it on YouTube in four parts:

Even if you’ve seen either of these before, they’re always worth a rewatch. You’ll seriously never see an ad the same way again. I’d love to hear your thoughts these films or issues! Feel free to share your thoughts, ideas, and experiences in the comments.

Reframing Winter


I know it’s not officially not winter anymore. But it feels like it. This winter has been a long one. Even though it’s officially spring, and we’ve had a smattering of spectacular spring days already, they’re calling for a bit more snow this week.

In a serious effort to make it through the last dregs of winter without getting too bitter, I’m trying to reframe winter. To think of the earth, curled under its blanket of snow and slush and ice, settling down for a long winter’s nap. I’m trying to think of winter as a Sabbath for the ground, taking a break to replenish itself before spring bursts onto the scene in earnest, and it bustles with the work of growing and producing again. We all need a phase of rest incorporated into our creative and work cycles.

How are you handling this painfully long winter? Any mind games that you’re finding particularly useful?

I am a Contributor: We Are the Contributors Project

We Are the Contributors

Credit: We Are the Contributors

I’ve been so busy with starting my new job, working on contract projects, and trying to stay warm the past few weeks (perhaps the most difficult task of all here in Philly!), that I neglected to share a really wonderful project that I got to be a part of last month!

Melanie Biehle and Sandra Harris joined together to start We Are The Contributors, an online community and publication that exists to showcase art in all its forms and to highlight makers across different media.

I participated in the most recent project by contributing an essay. You can read that and see amazing work by 11 other people at We Are the Contributors.

It was a really valuable experience for me to have a low-stakes venue, supportive community, and deadline that forced me into creative writing again. I’ve had a very fraught relationship with writing (and, tangentially, any really creative work) for the past ten years, so it was a powerful opportunity for me to throw a piece of writing out into the world. Not only that, but I also met a new Philly friend in the process!

Women in Tech, Ben Silbermann, & Why I Want To Be Visible

Women in Tech, Ben Silbermann, & Why I Want To Be VisibleBen Silbermann, the founder of Pinterest, has given keynotes at Alt Summit a couple times now. I remember people gushing about his talk the first time he spoke there, even though I wasn’t in attendance.

So I was really excited to see that he was back on the Alt Summit schedule this year as the closing keynote. He had a lot of really wonderful things to say, and I did enjoy his talk, despite being pretty exhausted from the previous three days packed full of really great content and new friends.

I’m not sure when it happened, but sometime towards the end of his talk or at the beginning of the Q and A session afterward, I got a sinking feeling in my gut. Why? Because I thought of a question to ask him. I knew if I didn’t ask it, I would regret it for a long time. I’ve never spoken into a microphone in a room full of that many people and I was shaking. But I had to do it. So I stood up and Ellen handed me a mic.

“Hi. My name is Lisa. I have a background in the humanities, but I’ve made a career transition into tech and I just accepted a position as a front-end web developer at Urban Outfitters. Do you have any advice or wisdom for people like me as we transition into an industry that isn’t necessarily welcoming, and at times can be downright hostile, towards women?”

Now, I know this was a Q and A session at a women’s blogging conference. He wasn’t prepared to talk about the massive gender gap in tech. To be honest, I don’t really remember his answer because I was so stunned that I had opened my mouth in front of so many people, but I do remember being mildly unimpressed. It boiled down to something about reaching out to other women in the industry and that changing social norms takes time. I do remember that he congratulated me on my new job, which was pretty surreal and awesome.

But, like, duh. Of course I’ve been networking. Of course I’ve worked really hard. I was a little disappointed he didn’t say something super brilliant. But to be fair, he wasn’t prepared to answer questions like that. And to be honest, it doesn’t matter.

The real reason I wanted to ask that question was to bring more attention to the issue. I wanted to bring it up in front of that audience. I wanted to bring it up in front of the founder of a huge and massively popular tech company. I wanted to be visible as a female web developer.

Social change is slow, it’s true, but visibility helps.

In the spirit of showing up and being seen, I applied to speak on a panel at the 3rd Philadelphia Women in Tech Summit, and I was accepted. I decided to apply at the very last minute, without worrying about rejection, just to see what would happen. I’ve never done anything like this before and I’m a little nervous. If you’re near Philadelphia and even vaguely interested, I’d love to see you there.

Is there any area you’d like to be more visible in? Have you taken any risks, “just to see what would happen?” Do you have any public speaking advice?

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