Voices From Our Internal WomenConnect Event
July 5, 2018
In late June, we hosted our third annual WomenConnect event, where well over 100 employee attendees got together to talk about career transformation, cultivating leadership skills, and finding a comfortable work-life balance. We kicked off the event with a discussion between me and Jeff Weiner about empathy, compassion, and women's empowerment, and then broke off into table and panel discussions so that everyone could participate in the conversation. We had time to network and catch up with colleagues—both new and old. We even debuted our new Women in Tech (WIT) video, which features women across all different departments, the work they're doing at LinkedIn, and what being a woman in tech means to them.
Our WomenConnect event series began three years ago because we wanted to provide an intimate space for women who work in technology. Our goal was to provide a forum for women to come together, share our experiences and best practices with each other, and build strong and meaningful relationships. The event has been such a great success that we’ve now open sourced the program framework so that companies and groups of all kinds can create their own version of WomenConnect programming. Our goal is to include all women and their male allies in the conversation because every voice matters. Here are just a few of these voices from LinkedIn.
What was your favorite part of the event?
"I always enjoy the transformation from the first polite greetings around the table to the last session of table discussions where everyone really opens up and shares personal stories of both challenges and success." – Nanna Ericson, Senior Technical Program Manager
"The best moment of the event for a lot of us was Jeff being there. It was great to see him take time to join the conversation and be part of the event." – Neha Kachroo, Senior Software Engineer
"I saw Francis Tsang, who is the Head of International Engineering, my manager’s manager’s manager, and someone I have been itching to talk to but never had the chance (or guts). So, at one point, I had the mic to present a summary of my roundtable discussion to the entire room, and after introducing myself, I turned to Francis, who was sitting at another table and said, ‘Hi Francis. I know you, but you don’t know me.’ Erica Lockheimer gave me some kudos for calling Francis out, and then later, he and I ended up scheduling a lunch together. The spur of the moment made me realize how incredible it is that this event fosters a setting where people are more approachable, which helps facilitate connections between people who would otherwise not connect." – Thao Bach, Software Engineer
"The panel discussion was particularly nice since it was based on the personal experiences of my colleagues. It gave a view of different aspects and experiences that people have and how we can all work together towards a common cause." – Thejaswini Holla, Senior Software Engineer
"I really enjoyed the data privacy panel discussion. The panelists shared their personal stories and what it meant for them to make members feel safe. For example, Pavi Ramamurthy and Sara Harington both emphasized that privacy means control, especially for victims of domestic violence and school bullying. Our members should have full control over who can find and view their profiles. It was also great to meet women role models who inspire other women to achieve their potential." – Angie Zhu, Senior Software Engineer
What is something memorable that you learned from the evening?
"It was my first time seeing Jeff live, which was very exciting. I loved his advice around women empowerment and what values he looks for in a leader. He explained in the best way the thin line between empathy and compassion. It is a pleasure to be part of an organization who really thrives for its mission so strongly." – Varuni Gupta, Data Engineer
"Companies should encourage employees to speak out. All workplaces have to be safe enough for women to be able to speak out about issues affecting them, and immediately." – Thejaswini Holla, Senior Software Engineer
"I appreciated hearing from Jeff and Erica that LinkedIn is a place where we encourage managing up. By emphasizing compassion and understanding that leaders are people too, we enable everyone to speak up and initiate hard discussions on an even playing field." – Nanna Ericson, Senior Technical Program Manager
"I learned about the power of seeing people who are similar to you in leadership roles. There was a LinkedIn WIT video that featured a lot of women in senior leadership roles across different departments at LinkedIn. For me, it was the first time I saw so many female leaders at the company at one time. On the one hand, it sends a message that there are women who have made it that far into senior roles, which is aspirational for women in the room. On the other, we will still have events like WomenConnect to solve the gender disparity problem. While it remains an issue, it gives me hope that those women are paying it forward, so that at some time in the future, there won't be a need for such an event." – Thao Bach, Software Engineer
Why do you think events like WomenConnect are important?
"We are all busy people. These events give us a chance to block off time to connect with our colleagues beyond the work. Listening to the challenges faced by everyone, from new colleagues to long-time peers and senior leaders, allows all of us to better reflect on opportunities for improvement within the workspace, because we accept that everyone around us is, fundamentally, human." – Nanna Ericson, Senior Technical Program Manager
"It gives women a forum to be a little more vulnerable, be more open about issues, and celebrate their successes." – Thejaswini Holla, Senior Software Engineer
"Everyone who comes to these events has different backgrounds and goals, but here, we come together as one community and with a strong belief that these events will give us an opportunity to align our career growth, achievements, and challenges, and learn in this process." – Neha Kachroo, Senior Software Engineer
"It gives people a sense of how we all fit into the big picture—how we, people from distinct backgrounds building LinkedIn, are shaping the product for people like us. This makes us understand how it’s crucial to have every group of people represented in the developing team. It’s not a perspective that I remind myself of enough on a day-to-day basis." – Thao Bach, Software Engineer
What drives you to attend and contribute to WIT events?
"My reason would be to pay it forward. The support system we received to become successful women in tech needs to be paid forward until we bridge the gap that still exists today. WIT provides multiple channels to facilitate that. Being a part of WIT encourages us all to participate and learn in this journey of being a tech woman." – Manisha Kamal, Senior Software Engineer
"I enjoy the networking opportunity it provides, as well the insight into other backgrounds and situations. We have lots in common, yet we are each different, which is why it's great to come together." – Thejaswini Holla, Senior Software Engineer
"It’s enlightening to hear from senior leaders about their career reflections and get a glimpse of their roles and the problems they solve. As someone who has been out of college only one year, I felt like I became a few years wiser just from hearing the wisdom and lessons from people who are more experienced and have lived through my age and beyond." – Thao Bach, Software Engineer
What is the best piece of advice you received at the event?
"'Speak up and be prepared.' Whether it is a career progression or a job change, you need to be strong enough and prepare well (you can even script it at first). Trust me, it will eventually pay off. You need to have a mental plan, reach out to people facilitating your goals, and grow in this journey." – Tetyana Bruevich, Senior Manager, Global Readiness
"Jeff gave very practical advice on how to deal with disagreements and arguments. Approach the other person with compassion and being a spectator to your own thoughts. Take a step back and think about what leads the other person to that position and why they feel that way. This advice was helpful for both my professional life and personal life." – Angie Zhu, Senior Software Engineer
We are thrilled to see the continued interest in this unique event series that more closely bridges women in tech with each other as well as with leadership and male allies. The success of the WomenConnect program is thanks to many teams at LinkedIn, including our event volunteers, table facilitators, male allies, LinkedIn Media productions (Daisy Barnett and Tony Chung) and the Bon Appétit catering and staff. Specific thanks should also go to Liz Morgan, Tetyana Bruevich, Hibah Mohammed, Elizabeth Wendorf, Jeeyun Rina Lee, Alyssa Leong, and Andrea Carlos for their tireless work in planning these events over the years and ensuring a successful evening of learning for all attendees.
Special thanks to our lead video producer Michelle Thomasson (right there in the middle, below!), the amazing behind the scenes crew (Daisy Barnett, Karen Ordaz, Elizabeth J. Brown, Melanie Amano, Ash Blodgett, and Tanya Staysa) and to our male allies Sonu Nayyar and Michael Lydon for supporting us! #AllWomenCrew