This weekend was the fifth GeekGirl Meetup unconference at the Technical Museum in Stockholm. A great success with nearly 230 geek girls gathering to discuss web, code, startups and, of course, this years theme: SPACE. With 37 speakers, a record high, the programme for the weekend was without a doubt going to be overwhelmingly interesting.
The Technical Museum is located only 10 minutes from the city centre but surrounded with green fields it makes you feel like you're far out in the countryside. The museum is filled with gadgets and advanced technology. It's a collection of the many clever inventions that has made life easier for us humans. Strolling between talks and workshops you could learn more about robots, washing machines, computers, bicycles, the list could go on.
It's a challenge to summarise a weekend of this magnitude. Saturday morning as geek girls were arriving, grabbing a coffee and a sandwich, there was a buzz of excitement in the room. Some girls had been to GeekGirl Meetup's before and for some it was their first time. There is always a few that are a bit nervous they won't fit in because they're not 'techy' enough. This is however, something everyone eventually will get over as it is clear that everyone is there to learn from each other.
With the theme being Enter.Space and with a number of speakers coming from the The Institute for Space Physics in Kiruna, it was evident that some of the technology that we were going to learn about was going to be above most of us.
GGM13 kicked off with the video below and an introduction by the awesome team of organisers who made it possible for all of us to be there.
The first presenter on the main stage was Gabriella Stenberg. She took us through the challenges of travelling to Jupiter. You can imagine that there are some real technical constraints that you need to overcome when travelling to outer space and the technology that are taken on the space craft is often "outdated" due to the thorough testing it has to go through before it's taken onboard. And then there are logistic issues, how do you transport something 700 million kilometers? That's how far it is to Jupiter. It was an captivating story about space travel that most of us only dream of.
The Saturday proceeded with a talk from Petronella Turesson. She presented the history of TV and how our behaviour is changing with new technology. For example, are you one of those people stating: "I never watch TV". Then you're most probably lying. The definition of 'watching TV' is changing. The change is coming from that we no longer think about what channels to watch, but instead, what tv show we want to watch. As Netflix launched in Sweden they had 600,000 users within 6 months. Magine.com, a Swedish startup are looking to compete against the increasing number of streaming services online offering a wide number of tv channels streaming into one platform. And this is definitely an opportunity worth investing in as we won't stop watching tv, we are just changing how we do it.
What is a GeekGirl Meetup without talk about women and IT? Although the unconference main focus is on highlighting strong role models within technology there are still room to discuss how we can promote more women taking leading positions within IT. The discussion was introduced by the the Swedish Digital Commission and a number of interesting inputs and ideas were presented from the geek girls in the room. One point raised was how work descriptions are communicated for technical roles. These descriptions are often written in a sterile manner and might not appeal to women. The way language is used in the IT industry and, especially when communicating technical positions, is important to understand as it will determine if the job role will appeal to different personalities. Saying that you will work isolated in a lab 70% of the time will only attract certain kind of people whilst pointing out the collaborative aspects of a role might be more appealing.
Looking at education there were two important aspects to reflect over. A number of participants had attended women only web design programmes, something they saw as valuable for their learning process. Furthermore, Heidi Harman, founder of GGM, strongly emphasised the importance of teaching code in school at an early age. Just like kids studying french or german, code should be mandatory as it equips kids with a tool to be creative. And if you look at the statistics we must be doing something wrong when promoting IT related subjects in school. At KTH (a Stockholm university) there is only 8% females enrolled in computer science, in India they are 49% and in Bangladesh 70% are female. So what can we learn from them? Is education were we need to start?
The 10 am start on Sunday was tough on many as there had been an after party on the Saturday. But never the less all participants came back as excited as in day one.
Starting with a workshop on the Marshmallow Challenge we discussed the importance of how to succeed when building products. It is proven that most successful teams in this challenge prototype and test quickly. Very similar to the agile workflow in development.
The day proceeded with a talk was from @zayera about user experience (UX) design and how it is an area that has been getting increasingly more attention over the years, however the role of an UX designer is not entirely clear to everyone. Balancing and establishing trust between client and designer is essential so the designer can confidently question what the user think they want. An insightful discussion around the way we build new products and services today.
Karina Töndevold Liljeholm, followed on nicely and presented the opportunities companies had to co-create products and services with their customers. She presented companies that had been successful and some that had been less successful in co-creation. She concluded that it worked best for simple products, e.g. bottled water, at least in terms of positive marketing effect. And if companies decide to go down the path of involving their customers they need to 'Giveashitability' and respond and respect their participation - otherwise it can hurt them more at the end of it.
Ending this years GGM was Maria Gustafsson great talk about arranging the Spaceapp Hackathon a collaboration with over 70 countries.
As this post is coming to an end it has no where near touched on all the interesting things that were going on this weekend. If you're interested in having a peek at what was going on you can check out the talks from the main stage (most of them in Swedish though). I will certainly keep busy with the ones I missed.
Right now I'm getting really excited to start planning for the next big GGM event in London. Maybe another successful unconference like the one at Google Campus last year. Or a GeekGirl Hackathon? Stay tuned for more info!
PS. Geek girls - if you're interested in getting more involved in GeekGirl Meetup's in the UK - send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org