Tech Takeover: Why I LOVED the Philly Women in Tech Summit

jobsMark Zuckerberg. Steve Jobs. Steve Wozniak. Bill Gates. Brian Kernigan. Dennis Ritchie. Ken Thompson. Alan Turing. Admiral Grace Hopper.

The list goes on, a list of the most influential people in computing of all time. You can see that they are predominantly male. Off of the top of my head, I could name many men, but only one woman. And that is something we “Women in Technology” plan to change.

The Philly Women in Tech Summit was definitely one of the most interesting and exciting events that I have been to as a Villanova Student. As a female computer engineering major, I’m used to being in classes in which the majority of students are male. It seems like in everything related to my major, whether it be an alumni event, a conference, or even a summer internship, I am one of the few females in the room. I’ve become used to it, to the point where I can sit down at a table with only men and not be intimidated at all, or even really notice. As I walked into the Chemical Heritage Foundation Building with 11 other women from Villanova, including a Villanova professor, I was actually really excited, mostly because I about to meet over 200 women who were just like me.

The energy in the room was exhilarating, and it quickly filled up to standing-room only. After the opening, the rest of the day was made up of breakout sessions and small group talks ranging from the cybersecurity to the differences between Java and Ruby. All of the conversations were inspiring, and focused on the “what’s next” in technology, part of which is the rise of female leadership. There were over 30 women who identified themselves as owning their own business during one of the breakout discussions. Other women were CEOs. Others were Angel Investors. Women in technology are not just on the rise, they are accelerating with lightning speed. Although not all of them have become household names quite yet, that is anticipated to change. Kelly Hoey, the opening keynote speaker, is a self-employed, self-described Strategic Advisor. She founded a company that invested money specifically in female tech startup ventures and was named on of the “100 NYC Tech Influencers You Need To Know” by AlleyWatch, along with other titles from Forbes. Kelly offered great advice for females wanting to succeed in technology, and nothing could have said it better than her TechGirlz t-shirt with the motto, “The next Steve Jobs will be a girl”.

Kelly’s advice especially inspired me and has given me a new perspective on investing in myself. One thing that I have wanted to do for over a year is attend a Black Hat conference. As a current student planning to pursue a career in cybersecurity, I know I have a lot to learn. Black Hat and DEFCON are the two most influential and groundbreaking cyber conferences each year, so attending one would provide me with invaluable knowledge and unprecedented learning. However, the financial barriers are pretty steep: Black Hat 2-day courses run at a minimum of $3000 each and the briefings pass also costs a minimum of $1800. (There is a student briefings pass available for $900). In addition to the conference pricing, there is also the cost of living while I’m there, as both of these conferences are held in Las Vegas! A plane from the east coast to Las Vegas can get pretty pricey, not to mention a hotel and food for the length of my stay. I originally wrote it off as a “one day” type of thing, something I could hope would come to fruition, you know, eventually.

Kelly really changed my mind. She said women should invest in themselves, and “build our bank accounts”, because investing in yourself is the way to take it to the next level in your career. Kelly warned about being burdened financially, and getting stuck in a rut because of it. Whether it is taking a new class, or even having the money saved up to quit your job for a career change, or to start a business because you have a really great idea, you need to be able to evaluate your life, and if necessary, change. Kelly told us that “Women return on their investments”, and she would know, as an angel investor in women herself. After hearing Kelly speak, I realized that although I am saving the money I’ve made from my on-campus jobs, I should also spend some of it to build my knowledge base. Especially because I know I am worth that investment. And who more can I trust than myself to return on that investment?

Attending the Women in Tech Summit was an incredibly valuable experience for me and the others that came to the event, and Villanova should continue to send even more students next year.