By Jenn Donahue, PhD, PE
“To make a difference in someone’s life you don’t have to be brilliant, rich, beautiful, or perfect. You just have to care.” – Mandy Hale
What were you doing on May 19th, 2021? I will tell you what I was doing… I was doing my happy dance! Because on that day I received the incredible news that I had been hand-picked to be one of three short talks that would close the Women in Agile online event. The Launching New Voices program was designed to bring visibility to new voices within the community. This concept was spearheaded by Jenny Tarwater with the hopes of growing the next generation of conference speakers.
As their new protégé, the program paired me with a mentor. I was so fortunate to be matched with Cherie Silas, a seasoned speaker and coach. Being my normal over-achieving, obsessive-compulsive self, I came prepared to the first meeting with Cherie with a presentation that could easily have been 30 minutes. How would I ever chop this down to the 7-minute limit? Cherie is a great listener, and I could tell that she cared about ensuring my success. We worked over several sessions to pare down my topic. I had several examples that I wanted to present, but she helped me to look at which one would be the most impactful and relatable. With each session, my 30-minute dissertation became clearer and more relevant with the ultimate goal of creating a real connection with the audience.
Practice, practice, practice. Over the couple of weeks leading up to the presentation, each day I would practice my talk, fine-tuning the best way to make a statement. I would record these and send them to Cherie who always had immediate feedback and recommendations. Finally, I was ready for the conference and confident in my talk.
The conference day arrived. Opening the program, powerhouses Piper Kerman and Caitlin Walker presented topics on inequity in the federal prison system and the use of Clean Language as an aid to helping people achieve a desired change, respectively.
I was next. A few deep breaths, and then I launched. The practice and encouragement from Cherie and the other organizers had prepared me for this moment. While I could not see my audience, or read the chat while I was speaking, I felt the encouragement and connection to the 70+ other women located across the globe. Within 7 minutes, it was over. I remember a feeling of being slightly exhausted yet amped up. The reflection on the computer screen showed a smile that stretched from ear to ear.
I shared the “stage” with two of the other wonderful protégés: Khwezi Mputa and Marzena Zaziabl. Khwezi is from South Africa and did a tremendous job of speaking about how our personal biases can bring harm. Marzena, from Poland, provided a wonderful talk on how to better manage our inner critic. Each of their talks were true inspirations that I look forward to watching again.
The conference was very well organized. I also found the chat sessions incredibly informative and revealed the true nature of the group, their passions, their interests, and their goals. I would also like to thank Emilia Breton-Lake and Faye Thompson, JD for all of their support and encouragement!
I have now transformed into a proud protégé alumni, and I look forward to being able to contribute again in some way during more of these online and (hopefully) in-person events.
If you are interested in being a protégé or mentor for the next Women in Agile conference, please check out https://womeninagile.org/?s=launching+new+voices