geek girl dinner

Geek Girl Dinner, the boring parts


Since we shut down the company, I've been very careful about scheduling enough social events to keep me involved outside the house. Working from home is inherently an isolating endeavour if you don't have children or housemates who also stay home to work.

I've also been thinking of starting to network, so

First up, was tonight's Bay Area Geek Girl Dinner, sponsored by Google. I think the Geek Girls Dinner group is an informal group of women working in technology who get together over dinner to talk and network. The Bay Area group was just forming, and I signed up to go when I received an invitation.

Besides, who can refuse an opportunity for a meal at Google?

Seriously. Can anyone?

I invited Andy to go with me, since I didn't think Kris would be either interested or able to be home in time to go. Andy accepted, and off we went.

Arriving much too early for our own good. I grossly mis-estimated the commute time, leaving us with plenty of time to both drive all the way around the main campus, as well as park far enough away to be completely soaked by the time we followed the yellow brick road and made our way to the big top socializing tent.

I'm not kidding about the yellow brick road.

The event was socializing, panel discussion, socializing networking. Now, the problem with going to one of these type of events where you know exactly no one except the person you came with is that it's quite easy to talk to the person you arrived with ant lose the opportunity to network with other people because you're not forced to talk to other people.

This was the risk I took in inviting Andy. Unsurprisingly, since Kris and Andy are practically twins, the same thing happened with Andy that happened when I brought Kris to one of my geek events: I spent the whole time with Andy and managed no networking. I'm okay with it, though, because I learned some fascinating insights about Andy.

He likes more bitter beer than I do. I think I knew that, though.

When talking to someone, Andy looks at them in one eye, but not the other, and not both eyes. In particular, he looks at their right eye. Sure, if the person is talking to him in 7/8 profile with only the left eye showing, he'll look at the persons left eye, but for the most part, it's quite difficult to talk to left eye. I do the same thing, entertainingly enough, because looking at the left eye means you're SEEING THE WHOLE FACE, and isn't that just too uncomfortable.

We also talked about things we're bad at, but know we're bad at and trying to be better about. Mine is interrupting. Oh, goodness, did I used to interrupt ALL the time. Lisa Timmins broke me of that habit (mostly) by making me aware that I interrupted people by simply NOT letting me interrupt her (gah, I still miss the two of them. I really should take this telecommuting job seriously and REALLY telecommute, say, from Seattle).

That Andy said he didn't notice my interrupting him means I've managed to somewhat squash that demon (yay!), though I may still ask questions too quickly.

Andy's kinda like David Ruhoff in that sense, I think.

One woman, Danielle, came up to talk to the two of us. She works at Google as QA in the IE toolbar group. She did what a single person has to do at functions like this: roll the dice, pick someone, introduce yourself, start talking, and hope you've just met someone interesting. Apparently Andy and I are sufficiently geeky and open that we were approachable.

I like that we were approachable.

Unfortunately, my bladder called, and I didn't get Danielle's email address to let her know how much I enjoyed talking to her.

We went into the panel discussion, sat near the front, and listened. I have to admit, I didn't have a pen or paper with me during the talk, which drove me COMPLETELY nuts. I so wanted to take notes about what I thought about the talk, but had to be satisfied with after impressions instead of the specifics that caused emotional responses.

After the panel, I finally used the restrooms at Google and discovered that, yes, the toliet seats are heated at Google. It was a little disconcerting to sit down on a hot toliet seat, but I was more distracted by the couple four stalls over having sex.

No, I'm not kidding about that couple. Four feet, two pointed the wrong way, squeaking noises and a lot of moans. No, I'm not kidding, though I almost wish I was.

After the restroom adventure, we snarfed some food and left. Bless him, Andy was willing to leave when I was ready to leave, which was, admittedly, fairly soon after the panel was over. I wasn't feeling the networking love, too big of a crowd for me to be really comfortable, but going was a start. I'm glad I went.

Bay Area Geek Girl dinner


Went with Andy to Google tonight for the first Bay Area Geek Girls' Dinner. Food was served both before and after the panel of four speakers.

The panel was introduced by Ellen Spertus, whose presentation was quite entertaining. I'm fairly certain I've seen her speak before, either at Blogher or some other event such as SxSW or OSCON. I'll have to look it up. She had a top ten reasons why it's great to be a geek girl, the only two I recall being, "You'll always have a place to store your USB drive," (which humoured me) and "You can wave to the men in the line at the restroom as you pass them by." Indeed.

The panel consisted of Leah Pulver, Sumaya Kazi, Irene Au and Rashmi Sinha, and moderated by Katherine Barr. The panelists' ages ranged from 24 to 36, with only one woman being a mother.

The first question posed by the moderator annoyed me more than maybe it should be. It went something like what do you need to do to legitimize yourself as a woman in the workplace.

Not one of the panelists answered the question as I would have: "I don't do anything to legitimize myself. I don't need to prove myself because I'm a woman, I need to prove myself because we work in a meritocity in the Bay Area. Being a woman has nothing to do with my skillsets or ability to complete tasks or think clearly."

I completely questioned the need for such a question.

Other questions from the audience were spectacular in the answers they elicited. The question that stands out in my mind was, "As a woman, I find my ideas and suggestions are not taken seriously until specifically approved by a man or someone above me in management. How do you deal with this?"

The first two panelist's answers were something to the effect of, "That never happens." Ah, to be so young and full of yourself that you can actually believe such a world exists.

The next answer was "get another job." Ah, a valid solution, but not necessarily possible, given the questioner was Indian and may need to stay with the company to complete her green card status.

Irene's answer, though, was right on, spoken with both authority and experience: align yourself with a person of authority, find out what they believe, make friends with them. If others see you in this group, your ideas have legitimacy by association.

Overall, I need to admit I was disappointed with this whole presentation. It may have helped the early 20 year olds who are just starting in the work place, but it did nothing for those established and wondering what's next.

I did, however, find the two people having sex in one of the stalls of a women's bathroom entertaining.

That, and Google's heated seats.