On Saturday the 14th of May, I had the pleasure of attending the Women in Science and Technology conference held at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla. The title of the conference was, Embrace Change: Opportunities in the New Decade. I have never been to a more inspiring conference. There were around 200 individuals in attendance on the day, which were a mixture of women of all ages and careers and also some gentlemen.
I would like to point out that while the Association for Women in Science (AWIS – the association who organizes this event) sounds like it is only for Women, it isn’t. Anyone can join as long as they are supportive of women in science. This is was why I was happy to see gentlemen in the audience, and I hope they benefited as much out of the talks as I did.
There were two plenary speakers. Both gave very interesting, witty descriptions of how they have become successful at what they do.
The first was Margaret “Peggy” L. Johnson and her talk was entitled, Life, Lessons and Leadership. She is currently the executive vice president and president of global market development for Qualcomm. She provided 5 pieces of advice to the audience:
1) Find your passion. You will be the best you can be if you do what makes your heart leap.
2) Look very hard for the right opportunities and then pursue them.
3) Think globally, sometimes it helps to look at the big picture and goals rather than the minutiae of the details.
4) Roll with the Punches.
5) Don’t define yourself solely by your work. Peggy gave us all a ball, which we could display at our desk as a constant reminder that we juggle many balls all the time: work, family, friends, health, integrity etc. It is OK to place a ball down and focus on something else and eventually to pick it back up. It is not acceptable to drop a ball.
The second was Cynthia (C.J.) Warner, and she spoke on Your Life. Your Career. Your Adventure. She is currently the president and chairman of Sapphire Energy and was an executive at British Petroleum. She encouraged us to decide what is important to us so that we can make informed choices about our career and adventure. She introduced the idea of 5 guideposts to help us on our way:
1) Values. Figure out what motivates you and do it. You will always perform better if you enjoy what you do.
2) Confidence and Determination. Do what feels right, and although you won’t know if it will work for awhile persist, as it will hopefully pay off.
3) Focus and Prioritize. If you do the basics in an efficient way it frees up time to expand and learn.
4) Flexibility and Receptiveness. Be receptive when change makes sense to you.
5) Support. Have a strong support network to encourage you through the more difficult times, either through family, friends, or colleagues. Connecting with others is very important and beneficial to all parties.
Both women were incredibly inspiring and, after hearing their advice and stories, the room was certainly filled with individuals ready to conquer their challenges and lead a more successful career. They both had funny stories about their path to success, which included an exploding bra and an unusual use for a hard hat. The stories certainly helped make the speakers “real and approachable” and helped solidify the advice to roll with the punches. I hope that you might find their advice helpful and inspiring. I know I certainly did.
There is a general feeling that the AWIS meetings are going to be full of aggressive feminists who spend the time man bashing and griping about being victimized or discriminated against. I have been to a few meetings now, and I can firmly state that this stereotype is wrong. All the people presenting want to enhance their careers and meet new people. The experience is very enjoyable. I would therefore encourage everyone (male and female) to consider attending these meetings, as they are incredibly inspiring and beneficial to all.
To learn more about Women in Science and Technology, you can visit their site: http://sdawis.org/