Write/Speak/Code: A Conference For Doers

What a "working" conference means for busy professionals

This year, I was thrilled to be invited back to speak at the Write/Speak/Code annual conference. I love attending conferences. I enjoy going to new places, meeting new people, catching up with friends. etc. Also, there’s usually some interesting stuff to learn and some great topics being discussed. For me, as a full-time working mom, I get so inspired by the conferences I attend, only to realize I have limited time to actually play around with many of the ideas, concepts, or new technologies. This is where Write/Speak/Code is different. Write/Speak/Code is an interactive “working” conference. After learning about a particular concept, participants actually get the time to then work on it there.

The conference is split into two tracks, the first year track and the alumnx track. The first year track is for those attending the conference for the first time, while the alumnx track is for those who have been there before. During day one of the first year track, talks revolved about writing blog posts. People were then given the time to write one. The second day focused around talks that explained how to be a mentor while speaking. Then afterwards, participants are given the opportunity to put together a talk and give it to a small group of peers. The third day is code day, which centered around contributing to open source. Finally, on the last day, both the first year track and alumnx track come together for self-care day. The day provides women and non-binary folks the tools they need to take care of themselves as professionals, technologists, and women.

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For the alumnx track, the workshops and talks were interactive and informative. While the days aren’t split quite as specifically as the first year track, they still maintain a theme of sorts. The first day, for alumnx, focused loosely on writing and professional skills. The second day had to do with branding and bettering yourself. This year, the conference also included a sketch noting session and a session on making zines. Also on the second day, alumnx individuals get to pick a project to work on. They then get time to actually work on it and present it to the participants in the first year track. Often times these projects get the first years excited about the different kinds of projects they can take on in the future.

This year, I chose to work on some Collective Idea open source gardening. Here at Collective Idea we’re working on adding more substantial contributing guidelines to all of our open source repositories, as well as making sure we have a code of conduct on all projects. I also had a chance to think through a personal newsletter I’ve been hesitant to launch. It would include information about conferences I’m speaking at or thoughtful blog posts I’ve written.

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Write/Speak/Code not only gave me time to work on exciting projects, but also kept me inspired, motivated, and aware of the fact that new ideas are important AND doable. It definitely pushed me toward some interesting and creative ideas that I’m hoping to launch in the future.

Before attending this conference last year, I had never been to an all female/non-binary conference. I was honestly skeptical about how or why it would feel different, but there is just something about it. Something about the people you can interact with, the shared experiences many of us have working in tech, and the willing support and encouragement that is a strong theme throughout the conference. The conference gives you confidence to try new things and the time to lay a strong foundation that every participant can build upon once the conference is over. Working conferences are my favorite type because I’m able to learn and do at the same time. In this busy, busy world, that’s a priceless gift.

Photo of Allison McMillan

Allison was first introduced to programming at a Rails Girls workshop after a career as a nonprofit executive. She is also an international conference speaker living in the Washington, DC area. When she’s not writing code for us, she invests her time leading the People Committee which focuses on the health and happiness of our team members!