BarCamp

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That night in Pittsburgh

That night in Pittsburgh

My friend Nicole, a body positive style blogger, recently published a post about how she often feels that her blog doesn’t have the same kind of polished sheen that she admires about other fashion blogs.

This reminded me of how, over the summer, I realized that sheen or no, showing up and sharing can profoundly affect the people around you, even if you feel unprepared or like you’re not as polished as everyone else.

Show up and share your story

At last year’s BarCamp, the unconference I’ve helped organize the past few years, someone roped me into contributing to a session about career transition, totally last minute. She recruited a bunch of us who’d learned to code, at least in part through our involvement with Girl Develop It, and then successfully transitioned into tech jobs. She introduced the session about career transition, and introduced each of us, and we told our stories. I hadn’t had any time to prepare. As an organizer of BarCamp, I felt tired and kind of distracted while I explained my path to getting hired as a web developer. I hadn’t had time to focus my thoughts, fix my makeup, or collect my scant introvert energy — all things I usually do before speaking somewhere. I’d given this spiel before, but it felt like this version was less organized than I liked. I really hoped that I didn’t sound totally incoherent.

After it was over, I promptly forgot that it ever happened. It’s a faint memory, like “Oh yeah, I guess I did speak at BarCamp last year. Huh.”

Show up and share your gratitude

Fast forward to this past August, when someone stopped me outside of the bar in Pittsburgh where we’d been doing karaoke after a long and delightful day at Abstractions (so far, my favorite tech conference of 2016). “You’re Lisa Yoder, right?” Uh, yeah. “I haven’t introduced myself, but I saw you speak at BarCamp last year.” It took me a moment to figure out what she was talking about, since I have little recollection of what I actually said that day. “You talked about getting your first tech job!” Oh yeah, I guess I did. She went on to tell me that prior to BarCamp, she had been thinking about learning to code and trying to get a better job, but hadn’t made any moves towards it. She appreciated all of our stories, but for some reason mine really resonated, and she committed to actually go for it. Since then, she’d thrown herself into learning, and had just landed a web development internship with a tech company in Philadelphia.

She also disclosed that she felt kind of creepy stopping me on the street, like some kind of fan. But that was probably my favorite thing that happened that month! I loved knowing that something I did almost a year ago, with no feedback at the time, was so helpful to someone else. I wasn’t creeped out by this. I was humbled and honored and happy and grateful and maybe a little teary eyed. I felt glowy for the rest of the night and into the following day.

I’m not sharing all of this to toot my own horn. Different stories resonate with different folks, and I’m certain my friends’ stories affected others in the audience to the same degree.

I’m using this experience to illustrate two things.

First, at the risk of spouting a cliche, it’s important to remember that putting yourself out there, even in the smallest of ways, can have an impact on someone else that can change their day, their year, or potentially their life. Keep doing it, even if you don’t see the sheen in your own work. Submit that talk, publish that post, build that app, make that piece of art. This is as much a reminder to myself as anything else.

Second, if you are positively affected by someone’s actions or appreciate something they’ve made or shared, tell them! So many people are just slogging through, at their jobs, their side projects, their artistic endeavors, their blogs, without anyone stopping them on the street to tell them they’ve made a difference.

Let’s all keep showing up when we’re not totally feeling it and make a conscious effort to express gratitude and admiration to those humans who’ve affected us for the better, even in the smallest of ways.

Also, check out Nicole’s body posi, budget friendly style blog. She’s got all the sheen there is. And I’m betting you do, too.

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Why Unconferences are Awesome

UnconferenceIf you haven’t had the pleasure, let me introduce you to the wonders of the unconference.

BarCamp is one of my very favorite things about living in Philadelphia. It was my first introduction to the tech community here.

The first year we lived in West Chester, Chad went by himself. I spent the day being bitter and sad, and I was mad at him when he got home because he had stayed for the afterparty and I wanted him to come home earlier. He tried to cheer me up by telling me how much I would have loved going. It didn’t work.

So the next year, even though he was fighting off a really ugly foodborne illness, we went together. There were talks on the schedule about computing for social good, how to host a food swap, gender in tech, links as language, and lots of other things I probably didn’t understand at the time. It was just all of these interesting people giving talks about such a variety of interesting things.

What is an unconference?

Unconferences are self-organizing; there are no planned talks ahead of time. In the morning, anyone can pitch a session and get put on the schedule for the day. There are lots of topic-specific unconferences, but what I love most about BarCamp is that sessions can be about anything, and so I always end up learning about things I’ve never thought about or encountered before. Unconferences, and BarCamp especially, are serendipitous. It’s a way to cross-pollinate the community.

In theory, they’re easier to organize than other conferences because there’s no need to recruit and plan for speakers or sessions ahead of time. The attendees are just as responsible (if not more so!) as the organizers for sharing great content. Unconferences are also incredibly democratic — anyone can pitch a talk or a panel or a roundtable or even an activity.  Because of that, there’s a low barrier to entry to speaking, so they’re great for new speakers or for testing out a new talk idea.

If you’re in Philly on November 15th, I’d love to see you at BarCamp Philly! If there’s a BarCamp in your area and you haven’t been yet, give it a try! Or, you could try to organize an unconference in your area. You never know what you’ll learn.