Last Thursday I attended the #TedxStLouisWomen event with several of my Aspect #WIT colleagues and 3,000+ others across the St. Louis region. I knew the day would be full of amazing stories, but what I didn’t know was how it would change me. The theme of this year’s event was “Bridges – We Build Them, We Traverse Them, and Sometimes We Even Burn Them, For Better or For Worse.” The agenda was packed with speakers who can best be described as perfectly imperfect, from seasoned speaking vets to edgy woman determined to push boundaries, across the board these women were ready to inspire. In today’s blog, I will highlight the first half of the program, stay tuned for part two where I dive into the panel discussion and final set of speakers.
The afternoon session began with Keith Alper CEO and Founder of the Nitrous Effect (twitter: @keithalper), welcoming us to the event. Keith announced that since the previous year’s event he had lost his beautiful wife to breast cancer. He then asked his daughter, who was backstage helping run the show, to join him on stage. He publicly thanked her for taking care of him and his son. I am certain Keith and the event team wrestled with the idea of sharing this information, would it come off as a gimmick? or not appropriate? But not to worry – it was raw and honest and set the tone for the speakers to follow. I’m sure I speak on behalf of the audience when I say thank you for letting us see this vulnerable side of you and your family. It was a pure and inspirational start to the day.
First to follow up Keith was Samantha Ettus, bestselling author, Forbes contributor and 3x Mom (twitter: @samanthaettus) who described her journey from grad school to the day when she understood her uncanny ability to “spot the stars among us.” My favorite part of Samantha’s talk was when she told a story about the time she was at the airport sitting on a plane and the school called her to let her know she had forgotten to send the kids with lunch money. They tried to comfort her by saying “not to worry, we’ll feed them Cheez-Its”. It’s a story that I (along with other parents) could relate to. I have been in that position, at a work event where something happens at home and I say to myself, “is this worth it? Am I ruining their childhood?” But then I remember, I am doing this for them and these bumps in the road will only make them stronger, plus, my kids love Cheez-Its. Thank you, Samantha, for giving the audience the permission and encouragement to abandon the guilt!
Next up was Sarah Byrden, Leader, Educator, MogaDao Sacred Daoist and sexuality teacher. (website: http://www.theelementalself.com/) Sarah’s discussion centered around sex and consent on campus and why we are missing the mark. Sarah walked on stage and stood in silence for a good bit. She needed to connect with the audience and see our faces. When she began to speak she was dripping with honesty. I appreciated the “work-in-progress” feel to Sarah’s talk and look forward to following her as she develops her approach.
Crystal Martin, Developing Developer and former @launchcodergirl (Twitter: codermeow) came on stage with boundless energy. Her dedication to advancing women in technology is something I aspire to. The advice that really resonated with me was to give credit where credit is due. Have you ever been in a meeting where you state an idea that seemingly goes unheard and then moments later another individual states the same idea and gets a standing ovation. We all wish to have those “a-ha” moment that our leaders deem as pure brilliance. But I agree with Crystal, give credit to the initiator of the idea – every time. Crystal finished up her talk by visually thanking and giving credit to the people that have helped her get where she is today.
Last in the first half line up was Tabatha Coffey, Author and Reality TV Personality (twitter: @tabathacoffey). Tabatha was on a mission. She not only wants to redefine certain derogatory words commonly used to describe women who are confident and passionate, but she also is challenging women to change our perspective on how we see all women. Tabatha encouraged us to think of the women in our lives as a sisterhood. Her position sunk in with me and I am taking her challenge.
While it is hard to convey the energy and sentiment over a blog, I encourage you to go check out these women and follow them. They are doing great things. #TedxStLouisWomen will publish the TEDx talks in December 2017.
I feel fortunate that Aspect invests in these types of activities and events to support our Women in Technology Program. You can find our webpage here where you can sign up to join our WIT newsletter. We are also accepting nominations for our Unsung Hero’s program which is designed for employees, colleagues, or friends to nominate a woman in technology as an unsung hero. Nominating someone couldn’t be easier, just click here!
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