AdaCamp SF: My first un/conference! (Day 2)

Sunday started out with twist. I had been staying at my boyfriend’s sister’s apartment in San Francisco and we were going to AdaCamp together. We arrived at the building and took an elevator up with 6 other AdaCampers, totaling 8 people. We carried on with elevator etiquette, smiling and saying out “Good Mornings” and adding a bit of “I’m excited for today” when our elevatory abruptly halted on the 5th floor.

Now, this was my first experience being stuck in an elevator, and let me tell you, it’s not really fun. Fortunately, I was in an elevator with like-minded people so we were able to get along and have our own “Elevator Session”, but I can’t imagine being stuck in an elevator with 7 other strangers.

It took about 30 minutes to get out of the elevator. We had already begun to feel hot in the small enclosure that is an elevator. We threw off our bags and jackets and sat on the floor. It was considerably cooler down there. Then we went into discussions about fandom, journalism, wikis, etc because what are 8 women stuck in an elevator to do? We discovered that there were two birthdays in the elevator as well as two Andreas. We had chocolate passed around and it was a good time despite being in a hot box.

When the firefighters came, we were instructed to pry open the inner doors so they can hand us a tool to get ourselves out. By this point, we were tired and hungry and in need of coffee. But with our powers combined, we managed to pry open the door — and get a cool shot out of it — and they handed us a pole with a hook on it. With a few unsuccessful attempts, Jenny, our hero, managed to hook some mechanism that opened up the doors and we were rescued! Of course, we demanded a picture with the firefighters. All in all, it was in good company and despite the frustrations, we managed to get out and get our coffee, in which, I realized that I didn’t even like coffee.

So, being stuck in the elevator meant that we had missed the opening of AdaCamp. But we were right on time for the first session of the day. I think I went to one about interviewing.

For those who don’t know me, I’ve had a hard time with interviewing. I tend to get overly attached to the companies that I interview at and I end up feeling very discouraged when I don’t get it. One of the things I learned (and am working at) is to let things go. In a world where rejection and failure is expected (constantly breaking code, companies not sure of what they actually need), it’s really important to let things go. Now that’s easier said than done, but I feel like the session really did help me relax a bit and realize that I can’t do anything about not getting the job, I should just move on.

The second session that I went to was about Mansplaining. Basically, Mansplaining is the phenomenon where a man is trying to explain something, usually condescendingly, to a woman about something she already knows or is an expert in. The female equivalent is Femsplaining. I feel like this was a true test of how “radical” something like AdaCamp can get. I mean the session was about how a man is talking down to a woman even though she’s knowledgeable about the topic being discussed.

Something like that is highly likely of triggering blame on how men don’t respect women. But while there were a few instances of ranting (which is to be expected since being talked down upon isn’t the most pleasant of experiences), the tone of the discussion wasn’t as hostile as I originally feared it might turn out. There was a lot of thought put into the discussion. Things like, Are the men really talking down to you or are they just want to prove what they know? (In the case of a subordinate talking to a superior) Do they even realize what they were doing it?Were they just hitting on you instead of actually trying to talk down to you? A lot of interesting reasons surfaced and while are a few assholes who talk down to a woman because they truly believe that a woman doesn’t get it, I think we came to the conclusion that most people don’t mean it in a detrimental way.

So we started brainstorming ideas on how to fix this problem. Because even if they mean well, their approach can still be offensive and can cause women to feel defensive. One of the things that was said was to breathe deeply and don’t let yourself get angry. Once you calm down, you can access the situation a bit better and find a way to explain that you already understand the situation.

The discussion also brought up the point that we do it too. There were several women who admitted to Femsplaining after thinking about it. Things like making their husband do things a certain way in the kitchen because it’s the right way. So, I think it was important to note that we do it unintentionally without spite, but that it’s also important to realize when you’re Man/Femsplaining so you can check yourself.

Lunch came afterwards and we had a build your own burrito line. Everything was so tasty that my burrito was more of a burrito bowl with a tortilla on the bottom. I sat down with some AdaCampers and had some good conversations but after finishing my lunch, I just felt exhausted. From the elevator situation to constant discussions, never mind the fact that I had been waking up at 8am for the last two days to attend the conference, something that I almost never do.

The quiet room was amazing. It was a great place to just kind of get away from the conference for a while and recharge. I plugged in my computer and surfed the web mindlessly for a bit. It really helped rejuvenate me and geared me up for some more AdaCamp.

After lunch the conference had died down a bit and some workshops were being held. I came out of the quiet room in the middle of it all and decided to look for a friend. She was showing off a robot that she built out of a cardboard box and some cheap parts. It was really cool! I’ve never really got into robotics and I’ve only had one experience with some kind of LEGO robotics (I don’t really remember what it was). It was sooooo cool. I feel like a kid saying it, but I’m so excited to try it out myself.

I also took a self defense class for the hell of it. It was really fun (in a I hope I never have to use this way) and informative. The class was taught by someone who was well versed in martial arts and another martial artist came to help out. It was kind of scary to see them do the more intense reenactions but it was really awesome too. We learned a few moves to get us out of hairy situations that I hope I never have to use, but it’s good to keep that knowledge with me.

And that was AdaCamp! We ended with a closing and everyone said their goodbyes. We got some swag at the table and things kind of just petered out. I wanted to do more, but my body and mind was so exhausted from the intellectual conversations and activities. I felt that the conference was much more than learning about open source and open culture, it was a bonding experience that otherwise wouldn’t have happened. It was amazing to see so many women who have the same interests as you and since we’re so outnumbered, if it wasn’t for AdaCamp, it would have been hard to meet up on a scale like this.

I think it’s important for women to have a space like this where they don’t feel like they’re being judged for what they say based on their gender. There is so much hostility towards programs geared towards women in tech. Having a safe space for us to rant, discuss, solve, create, invent, and bond is so important. It’s been more than a week post conference and I still feel the effects of being there. I have to say, it was such an amazing event. Thank you to everyone who came, thank you to the organizers and volunteers who made it happen, and thank you for all the love, hugs, and advice. <3

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