You know that feeling that exist right in-between, "I don't know wtf I'm doing" and "I'm just going to go with it"??? Yeah, that's where I was about three months ago when I registered for a technology summit and booked a flight and hotel, with no idea what to expect. I didn't know how far my technology experience went past my blogging, tweeting, hashtagging and selfie'ing, but I was ready and willing to learn whatever I could. My gut was telling me that I was doing the right thing, so I trusted it. And regardless of my expectations, or the lack thereof, I had high hopes.
So, here I am now, post-summit, reflecting on what turned out to be a very refreshing and enlightening experience. Last weekend, I traveled out to San Francisco, California for the Lesbians Who Tech Summit. This summit was comprised of great speakers, great laughs, great insight and 1,200 great attendees. -I'll give you a moment to move past any jealousy you may be feeling, before we move on... You good? Okay, good.- So, as I stated before, I had no idea what to expect, and because I had no idea what to expect, I immediately stepped into this role of defending who I was before I could really even say who I was, making myself much smaller than I was. I was meeting women who owned companies and developed apps and designed websites and organized data and tracked consumer patterns and managed products and ALL THE THINGS. I was meeting these women and looking at them like, "Whaaat??? So, basically, what you mean to tell me is that you run the world??? I knew it! Beyonce was right!" I was in such awe of these women and their work that I began to question my place in this summit because I wasn't developing apps or tracking consumer patterns... I was "just" a motivational speaker with a website and a blog and an affinity for hashtags and selfies... Why was I there???
I was only halfway through the first day of the conference when I decided to stray away for a bit to regroup. I was feeling sad and defeated and small- I was not feeling like myself at all. There was a part of me that wanted to say, "Maaan, forget this stupid summit! I want to go back to Kentucky where there's snow and ice and everybody knows my name! Forget all this sunshine and warm weather and amazing women doing amazing things with their stinkin' technology!" Please know, it did not take me long to realize how stupid I sounded. As I took a moment to breathe and absorb the sunshine, it hit me: The only person making me feel uncomfortable was me. I'd only been sumitting for about 3 hours and I'd already managed to make some cool friends and contacts. No one was making me feel small; I was the one who'd started introducing myself with "I'm just" rather than "I am". I got myself together- I re-upped on my self-confidence, changed "I'm just" to "I am" and decided I'd probably had enough coffee for the day. I headed back to the summit and it was even better than before. I was now able to find the message meant for me in every speech and presentation. I felt so empowered and so blessed to have this opportunity to connect with so many women like myself. I took many lessons away from this summit, I must share!
THE BEST WAY TO GET THINGS DONE IS TO GET THINGS DONE.
Everyone fell in love with Aliya Rahman from the moment she first opened her mouth to speak. She spoke with so much truth, conviction and charisma- to put it in the simplest terms, she "kept it real", y'all. At one point in the summit, she said, "The best way to hire women and people of color is to hire women and people of color." *blank stare* The audience sent up a roaring applause! It was one of those things that was so simple and true, it made you wonder why anyone made it seem like such a hard concept to grasp. Furthermore, it got me to thinking about how applicable it was in almost any and everything. We all have these dream and goals that we want to achieve, but rather than putting all of our effort into making it happen, we will sit and twiddling our thumbs around all of the obstacles and reasons that we can't do it. I can speak this as a truth, because I've done this myself! The question is, "Why???" Which leads me to my next point...
Say "yes" because it's way easier than coming up with all of the reasons you have to say no. How quick are we to get an invitation or an opportunity of some sort, and the first thing we do is run down our mental check lists of all the reasons we can't, rather than all of the reasons we can??? I am sooo guilty of this! If we want to make things happen, we've got to say "yes" to meeting and connecting with people, learning/trying new things, open doors and opportunities... say yes and go for it. Put yourself out there. You'll never know how far a "yes" will get you if the only thing you ever ride on is "no".
OWN THE TABLE.
"Women will apply for a job if they meet 7 out of 10 qualifications. Men will apply for a job if they meet 3 out of 10 qualifications." -Megan Smith, U.S. Chief Technology Officer
"Women will apply for a job and ask for $90,000, knowing they are worth $150,000. Men will apply for a job and ask for $150,000, knowing they are worth $60,000." -Janelle Allen, Founder, LearnWise
After hearing quotes and numbers like these, a friend and I were sitting and discussing it, trying to figure out why this is...why are women are underselling themselves??? I remember applying to my first "big girl" job after college. They loved me throughout the interview process and when I came in to discuss the particulars of accepting the job, the hiring manager asked me what I expected in regards to pay. I said, "Ummm...hmmm... I'd be fine with $____." She paused and looked at me and said, "No." I began to have an internal freakout, like, "Ugh! I knew I should've asked for less! Now I'm going to spend the rest of my life selling moon pies at Cracker Barrel!" She continued on saying, " No, I"m not going to pay you what you asked for, I'm going to pay you $(a significantly higher amount than what I asked for), because this is what you're worth. Let me take a moment to share a piece of advice with you. Women tend to ask for less than they are worth and because of this, they get paid less than they are worth. From now on, know your worth and ask for it." I still carry that experience with me today. Now, back to what I was learning at the summit, I began to think... Perhaps women are asking for less because we're just trying to get our foot in the door or we're just trying to get a seat at the table. There's that word again, JUST. Why are we just trying??? We don't need to just try. We deserve a seat at the table. There is a seat for us the table. And if that's not good enough for you, forget the seat! We can own the freakin' table! And we do this by stepping out of who we "just" are and into who we are.
Hi, I am Djuan Trent. I am a speaker, a writer, a lover of social media and an advocate for equality and empowerment. I am learning more about technology and how deep it runs, everyday. I am learning more about my role in the world of technology, everyday. I am going to speak at the #LWTSummit next year because I am passionate and driven and I have an incredible story and insight to share. I am making a difference and doing what I want by making a difference and doing what I want. I am saying "yes!" because I can and I should. I am glad I made an investment in myself and tried something new. I know my worth. And I am glad to have a seat at the table, but let's be real folks: I AM HERE TO OWN THE TABLE.