There were some really cool speakers this year. It's typically a bit more focused on people going into the magazine industry, but it's worth it every year (despite my not being committed to magazines) because the women are so amazing and a lot of the speakers talk about general advice to succeed and get ahead in your career.
So here are some gems of advice I learned at the conference.
Fail fast, recover faster. You've got to take risks to succeed. If they don't work out, you want them to not work out early, so you don't spend years building a castle on a cloud. More importantly, even when things fall apart, don't let a failure keep you from moving forward. It's easy to go from processing a failure to dwelling on it. Don't let yourself get stuck.
Your career path is not linear. Most people get bounced from one job to the next with a vague directionality. It's good to have a plan, and a vision, or at least the impression of the feeling you want to have when you reach your goals, but at the end of the day, you really might not get to the next step in your career the way you had expected. If your career deviates from the path you had envisioned, don't freak out. Just look for the opportunities in what's in your lap right now, and what's in reach.
Pushing others down does not make you look more awesome. It really doesn't. And if you're in a male-dominated field, it's an even worse idea for the added reason that…
You need to grow your category sometimes. Now, the woman who said this was answering my question in regards to her company which sells cricket-based food products and is attempting to make bug-eating a more palatable option in the US because it's a sustainable and low-impact source of nutrition. I knew of several other companies doing similar things as hers, and I asked her if she saw it as important to compete or to share the knowledge between each other. Her response was that she knew nearly all the other people in the category, and she's good friends with many of them. When you are in a small category fighting to gain a piece of a massive market, it's important to grow demand and consumer desire. You can't educate every consumer about the benefits and not-grossness of eating crickets all alone, so when your "competitors" succeed, it can help you succeed, too. I think this is important in male-dominated fields as well. We can't just expect people who have never or rarely seen women in their field to suddenly consider us equals if we don't challenge them to, and we can't challenge them to do so alone. We have to support each other. We can't make our key to success defining ourselves the exception to a rule. We have to prove that the rule is faulty and stupid, whether it's "Ew, people shouldn't eat crickets!" or "Women can't build rockets."
Make stuff on the side. Sometimes, the best way to learn or build something is by making it a side project. You don't necessarily have to go all in with things. If you want to pick up a new skill, like how to program, you don't have to drop everything for it. That decision can come later, and it shouldn't frighten you away from learning new things!
I have some exciting stuff coming up in the next month. Thanks for hanging in there despite my absence!