Last week I attended my first unConference. I attended She’s Geeky, which was a great first unConference to attend, given that I am a recently inducted member of the geek tribe. Let me explain. A few years ago, I would never have put myself in the category of geek. I am not a math and science person. I don’t have any programming skills, I certainly don’t watch Star Wars, Lord of the Rings or other such shows on a regular basis. I don’t even really like video games. Yet here I am in 2010, taking the title of geek and self subscribing to the She’s Geeky unConference.
I am a connector, a relationship person. I love to sit down and have coffee, get to know someone and figure out how I can help. I am passionate about bringing the people together who can benefit from knowing one another. Yeah, that still does not sound very geeky. But a few years back I had the good fortune of being introduced to social media and the power of connecting through this medium. And I jumped in. I love the way social media and digital communications can connect us and grow our networks. I love it so much, that I now spend my days reading about it, talking about it and consulting nonprofits and businesses on how to leverage the awesome relationship power to help them grow. And hence I have been recently labeled as a geek by one of my clients. And it made me stop and think “that’s right, I am a geek and i’m proud of it.”
So now back to the She’s Geeky unConference. I attended and got to hang out with really geeky women. What an amazing experience and I learned so much! There are so many ways to be a geek and earn a living in really cool geeky professions. So what did I learn?
First I learned all about how an unConference works. And what surprised me the most was that I found it to be one of the most valuable conferences I have ever attended. The sessions were useful, I participated fully and walked away with ideas, tools and much more to take into my professional and private life. Usually when I attend a conference I am lucky to walk away with one really good take away. Here I walked away with many.
Specifically, I learned more about estimating projects. Working as a consultant on my own, I am in need of good advice in this area. And I got it from several very experienced women. The most important things was how to organize a specific project, figure out the “risk” of the project, and come up with a way to predict the amount it would cost.
My most valued session was on Getting Things Done. GTD is a method I learned about a few years ago, but I was never able to figure out a method of using it that worked for me. But upon entering this session I met Meghan Wilker, of Clockwork Active Media Systems who was plugging in her Mac to show us her system of GTD. That was the ah ha moment for me, as I am a Mac user and because GTD is based around Outlook that was part of my problem of using the GTD system. Meghan showed us her own “home-brewed” GTD system that she created by “hacking” iCal and Apple Email. It was great to see how she used GTD and made it work on her Mac. I am in the process of setting this system up so I can get things done too.
I got to talk shop and teach people a little bit of my own area of knowledge – social media. While playing miniature golf I gave a Twitter tutorial to several women and also discussed the merits of a facebook fanpage for a business. After that I even got to moderate my own session on using social media for career advancement. Fun!
Let’s see what else? Oh, I can’t forget the session on entrepreneurship. These geeky women rock, with fascinating business stories, I heard about some new exciting start-ups and many ideas on making. A discussion on law firms led me to refer my favorite attorneys (Karen Lundquist – employment law and Jeffrey O’Brien – Business Law) to the group and learn more about hiring and making decisions. I left this session not only with valuable advice but true motivation.
I also participated in an unSession at an unConference. The unSession started from a conversation during break and ended up being about branding and Twitter names. We discussed the importance of having a recognizable Twitter name and how important this is becoming to brand identity. I talked with Sasha Westin founder of Fabuliss a fashion consulting company. The name Fabuliss was chosen first and luckily the Twitter name @Fabuliss was available. My company SocialNicole evolved from my Twitter name @SocialNicole. Both names are easily recognizable and it really does make a difference when meeting people.
The last session I participated in was about elevator speeches. This was a big group and the conversation covered elevator speeches, social media and resumes. Personal branding was a theme throughout this discussion and identifying what made someone unique and special. Using this unique thing to help create a creative elevator speech, Twitter profile and brand was a fun conversation.
So that’s a brief overview of some of the main things I learned – there are a lot of other really geeky things that I really could not begin to explain if I tried, so I won’t. But the most important part of this experience was that I got to connect with amazing women who are really doing awesome things in our community and world. I left with a much broader network than when I started. I learned many valuable things and I was recruited to help keep She’s Geeky Twin Cities alive, not only once a year at an unConference but also throughout the year as a way to connect amazing, talented and yes geeky women. I can’t wait to connect again. Perhaps a She’s Geeky Twin Cities Happy Hour soon?