2018 Launching New Voices – Faranzeh’s Experience

By: Faranzeh Orak @FarzanehOrak

Speaking at Women in Agile 2018 was one of the neatest things happened to me.  It was not only a challenge for me to start public speaking front of a large crowd at an actual conference but also very interesting to meet a community who were there for your success – people who flew miles to be present and show their support. They were there to empower women in technology and share their stories, and whoever I met made me feel welcome and happy to accept this challenge.

Two months before the conference day, I met with the organizers and the rest of the speakers. After pairing mentors and mentees, speakers from last year introduced themselves and shared their experience with us. At the end of the conference call, they asked us to make sure schedule the next meeting with our mentors.

My mentor was Cheryl M Hammond. Right after the meeting, she and I had about a two-hour-long phone call. Cheryl was so curious about what I planned to talk about, and I was so curious to know her opinion. After she listened to me, she gave me her feedback, and we planned our next meeting. During the two following months, we met at least once a week. Every week, she would give me the constructive feedback, and I did my best to apply them in my talk. Working with her and knowing her was a blessing.

Finally, the conference day came I was very excited, but at the same time nervous. Cheryl and I planned to meet in person one day before the conference and on the conference day. A few of my friends decided to come to support me, and having Cheryl and friends around made me feel supported. Everyone I met made me feel welcome. I truly felt this crowd wanted me to succeed and that helped me to calm down and be proud.

The conference started with introducing the organizers and then the keynote. The keynote was by April Wensel, founder of Compassionate Coding. Her keynote was about Expanding Your Circle of Compassion for Greater Impact. It was a very impactful talk she starts with encouraging women to be themselves and that they should not change themselves in order to be a fit within the tech industry. She shared her life journey when she was unhappy, despite being successful at her job because she was trying to change herself in order to be accepted as a smart and good software engineer. And then, she continues with a very insightful quote by Raj Sisodia “We’re fortunate enough to be living in a time when feminine qualities such as Relationships, Nurturing, compassion, vulnerability, caring, and cooperation are finally being recognized, not as signs of weakness but as sources of incredible strength.” Which basically helped her to accept and appreciate what she brought to the table as a female. She finished the keynote by encouraging everyone to empower compassion by accepting who we are and respecting others as who they are.

The second session of the conference was lean coffee which was focused on the obstacles for women in the technology field. The crowd split into groups to discuss stereotypes and issues that many women deal with daily at their workplace or even society.

Each group had to discuss one topic that was assigned and then brainstorm on the potential solutions. I found it very informative when I heard different experiences and perspectives of other women in my team. We discussed “sometimes being young and positive/happy might cause other employees or managers don’t take you seriously.” I heard so many interesting perspectives. I realized two things:

  1.     There are many people who are dealing with the same stereotypes daily
  2.     Although we have so many obstacles for women in this field, we have a strong and genuine community who are trying to introduce the right culture and change the perspective

It felt very relieving to see such a community and how passionate they are. It made me see a much brighter future for our technology field culture.

The New Voices’ session started with a talk from Susan Webber. Her talk was very impactful where she spoke of applying her experiences working in the group at work to her son, which helped her step out of mother and son role. Instead of demanding, she considered her son emotions and thoughts, they were able to share in the decision-making process instead of her making decision for him.

After Susan’s talk, it was my turn to go on the podium and talk. My talk was about my journey, and I called it “What is in your head, it is going to be in your hands,” but I think actually a more appropriate name could be “Turn the universe in your power.”

I talk about my journey where I started as a girl who couldn’t find an address using GPS map to a woman who draws a map of complex system which it goes on the first page of internal application and gets presented to so many people (stakeholders, leaders, new employees and etc.…) in a few years.

I talk about finding my passion for computer science but having so many obstacles along the way.

I talk about when I didn’t let failure defeat me, and I promised myself to keep moving forward and pursue my passion.

How I applied for graduate school (for the second time), and I get admitted, and two years later I graduated as an honor student from a graduate program in computer science.

I talked about how my passion for programming helped me to use all my power and resources around me to keep improving my technical skill and contribute to the community.

Growing in my field was my dream so I put all of myself and heart to it, study for hours after work, going to different user groups to know the community and volunteering in different events to give back to the community.

In the end, I talk about how through my journey I learned to:

  •      believe in myself
  •      accepting the failures as part of the growth
  •      don’t let my fears stop me, put myself out there the outcome is always good
  •      Sharing, always share what you learned with other people there are people like you a few years ago who need your help and information- giving back to the community.

Women in Agile was a great experience for me. I learned about this community who are there to support and accept women in tech. These people truly believe in the Raj Sisodia quote I mentioned above, and they want you to be successful because they have experienced many obstacles during their career and now they want to use their power and experience to make a better future for the current and next generation.

And finally, I felt amazing by challenging myself, learning more and gaining new experiences as a new voice in Women in Agile 2018.

Check out a video of Faranzeh’s talk here.