a better way to network #ltgsummit #libtechgender
After the (surprising, but gratifying) reception of my post on the drinking culture of conference networking I decided that I’d try to go forth and see if I could do the networking thing without necessarily doing the drinking thing.
I’m happy to report that this was a super success at the LTG Summit. I don’t doubt that some people were doing the networking thing at bars and the like (I know that this was definitely the case on Thursday) but there were also alternatives to be had. This largely focused on eating meals with other people (notably Jennifer and Chris – woot!). I’m pretty much okay with this since more than drinking, food has always been a defining characteristic of a lot of my socializing and celebrating. I’d much rather celebrate an event with awesome food and awesome company than pretty much any other activity.
I don’t want to attribute the fact that this was made possible because the attendees of the summit were largely women…
But I can’t help but note that every other libtech conference I’ve been too, where there are more men, and every other conference (mainly philosophy or Asian studies ones) with fair mix of men, there has been a greater focus on the drinking vs. the food. Yes, people will obviously go out and eat, but the places are selected with drinking more prominently in mind than finding good food (ideally both, but drinking took precendent).
What was different about this experience was that I didn’t feel like I had to go to a bar if I wanted to socialize with fellow attendees. I had other options. There was also no pressure at all to drink, which I very much appreciated.
Additionally, focusing on food helped create a finite end to the evening in the way that drinking does not. I know part of this is due to the fact that (the first night at least) it was dinner with three introverts and all of us were ready to have some alone time to unwind after dinner. This? Was freaking awesome. Especially for someone who tends to sleep and wake early. It was especially important for the summit because having that time to myself definitely improved the quality of my participation, since it was a great deal of discussion and talking and being around other people.
Now that I know I can do it this way… I’m not sure that I’ll be doing it any other way from now on. It might not suit everyone but it really worked for me. And I left the summit feeling like I did a good amount of ‘networking’1.
Based on my current feelings and intentions of how to embody professionalism, I’m also leaving behind ‘networking’ as something that I do. I still don’t really understand what it is and I find trying to do it really stressful. I also find the notion really… utilitarian in a way that makes it harder for me to connect with people. I much rather look at this sort of thing as making friends. I enjoyed my time with (particularly Jennifer and Chris) because they are great people and not so much because I think that they’ll be professionally ‘useful’ for me in the future. Note: these statements are about me and not a comment on the notion of networking in general, but about my relationship with the term. It greatly impedes my personal ability to engage people in professional contexts. It’s utility and meaning outside of my individual context is something I understand but can’t relate to, so I’m framing it in a way that actually makes sense to me. ↩