Three Clockworkers (one who wasn’t even a Clockworker yet!) spent a day at She’s Geeky, an Unconference that convenes to inspire women for the future by creating a space to connect women from diverse STEM communities. Read their personal highlights about the day-long meeting. And if you went, let us know what you thought!

Liz Tupper

As Managing Director of the Conference, Liz has a unique perspective on highlights from 2012.

“Each year we have attendees that have never attended an unconference before, especially She’s Geeky. With an unconference the attendees set the agenda/sessions that they want to host. The attendees are the ones contributing and deciding what they want to take out and put into the weekend. It is a very eye opening and for some a very life changing experience.  It’s not uncommon for 1st time attendees to say that they finally found a group of people that they can truly relate to. Which was true for me when I attended my 1st She’s Geeky in Washington, DC back in 2009.

This year we were fortunate to have several high school students attend our 1st day. A few of these young women hosted a session on a class project about inventions. We had a very in-depth discussion on what we would like to see in the market place and some pros and cons to existing ideas they had. Offering a platform for these young women that will lead technology in the future is one of my most proud moments of this year conference since opportunities like this didn’t exist when I was in high school. I can only imagine how different my life would have been if this were the case.”

Chelsey Mona

“This was my 3rd year attending She’s Geeky. I wasn’t sure what to expect the first time I signed up, but what I found has kept me coming back. For me, every year, I walk out of it feeling connected a community of really smart and supportive women. I’ve met many people who I’m lucky enough to now call friends.  

The un-conference format allows women to learn from each other in a more casual setting and to actively participate in the gathering of knowledge. It’s not sitting around and watching some dude walk through his slides. It’s conversational and personal. It’s a way to share what you know and really learn from everyone else’s point of view. The added advantage of being hosted at the Science Museum of Minnesota, who generously donates space and gives us access to the museum, is that sessions can explore everything the museum has to offer – like Storms on Stage where we saw fog, lighting, fire tornados. Fire tornados, people!!

I feel very fortunate now to work at a company with many women, but in the past, I’ve worked at companies where I was the only woman. When I studied computer science at school, I was often the only women in a class of 300 programmers. While that doesn’t have to be isolating – and often isn’t – it sometimes can be, so it’s great to meet other women who’ve had the same experiences. It’s encouraging to know that while we’re in the minority in the STEM fields, our numbers are growing. It’s incredibly exciting to hear all of the great ideas and to know that this group of people is going to do amazing things!”

Toni Oberto

“The day began with the question, what makes you geeky? (I personally disclosed I was a high school mathlete.  What up derivatives!  High five and don’t leave a sister hangin’!) And sitting tucked amongst the crowd of professionals were five high school students, confident young women interested in STEM careers – how cool! – donned in comfy sweatshirts and jeans. Spending their MEA holiday at the She’s Geeky conference while most of their classmates were likely still asleep and waking up at noon. At first it was endearing, smiling at their introductions, especially the shy ones. But I was clearly underestimating their awesomeness. I was soon to be blown away. 

The structure of the day allowed each attendee to submit a topic (or topics) for discussion. Then, in the spirit of teamwork, the group was responsible for organizing the topics by hourly sessions, and within sessions, into four or five breakout groups. (Some tech-related, others not at all, i.e., Session 4E: Binders Full of Women). At the end of each hour, most participants would make their way back to the agenda wall to peruse which session to attend next. 

At 10:00 am, I made my way over and fixed my eyes on the pink sheet that read: Engineering Project: Help us brainstorm. The group of high school students was tasked with inventing a product for a school project. One stipulation: the product couldn’t already be patented or in development. 

Budget: $500.  Deadline: February 1. 

They shared their impressive list of ideas, including a shoe with interchangeable soles, a grill that shakes ash off coals to improve heat conduction, and a process to recycle and repurpose leftover husks from corn production. The young women walked us through the downfalls of each project and then asked the group at large, what day-to-day issues do you encounter?

The question sparred a huge discussion with a whole slew of concerns and ideas: a geo-locator calendar to remind our reminders what to tell us, a more effective alarm clock for us snoozers, a functional and fashionable purse. To say the least, we were jazzed to be participating. The collaboration was incredibly energizing. And as we continued parsing through the list of ideas from the students and new ideas from our group, we kept going back to those interchangeable soles (Triathletes: Just think of the seconds you could shave off your PR!).

We narrowed our focus and began to brainstorm. By the end of the hour, there were multiple sketches laid across the floor, and one high school student was feverishly taking notes on a steno pad. They looked refreshed and ready to take the ideas back to their other group mates.

The girls brought an energy and gumption that reminded me of what it means to be innovative, both personally and professionally. We don’t always need to build something from the ground up; often times the best “inventions” are simply improvements on what already exists. And, it’s important to strike a balance of working around an issue (This template sucks so I will just delete questions 3-5…) and knowing when to fix it (Look at this new template I made!). And it’s important sometimes to get all ideas out in the open, even those obvious stupid ones (Spanx Sox…for those of us ladies with fuller toes). 

A big thanks to the young women from Blaine High School for blowing us all away with your intellect, creativity, and leadership. You were truly inspirational.”