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Arlene Andrews
Arlene Andrews

Posted on • Originally published at on

Speaking at Develop Denver

I was delighted to be asked, what seems like ages ago, to submit to Develop Denver ( I had gotten most of the way through the process to gain an internship, and had hit a snag on the housing. I was asked to make a GoFundMe (which I disliked - I always want to give back in kind!) , and made it, more than my goal - partly thanks to the community of developers that is out there on social media.

The internship fell through - my background was part of the issue. But that still left the invitation to submit that had come in during this - I would have been back in the area literally the day of the event. I couldn't talk on what I'd experienced, but I could talk about what I'd learned about hiring and myself during these three months.

Sounds easy? Not at all - as you know, the tech space shifts rapidly, and the hiring landscape moves slowly. Many of the answers in hiring have already been formulated, and the influx of new people, with different educational choices, was starting to show. The announcements from Google and Apple that a degree was no longer required got me thinking. How are companies handling this?

With social media, within hours I had many answers - not all of them useful. And a lot to think on, and add to my store of data to pull from. I heard from all sides of the table - employees that were trying to get hired, and had both good and bad experiences; employers who were trying to navigate the rules, regulations, and experiences that hiring has around it; and those that had given up on working - some that had resorted to freelance work, and others who had become so discouraged that they went into minimum wage jobs.

And, always, there were those out there that were happy to talk about their experiences, and to support the idea of a talk on these topics. And many requests for links - more than I would ever have anticipated.

The team this year had a new person, and was offering not only their time on Slack, but in-person workshops! You could meet the people that were thinking of submitting, and get some assistance on refining your topic, and how to present it. The group was excited about this, then I had to throw a monkey wrench in their plans (I'm a tester, this should have been expected): I wanted to attend remotely: I was a good two hours away from the live sessions.

Someone was generous enough to make their laptop available so I could attend - and I am so thankful for this. I got to hear live discussion of some topics that hadn't even crossed my mind, and the feedback to help focus the talk more clearly. I was surprised to discover that I could speak from an expert's point of view - not only were these my experiences, but I'd also worked in recruiting, and knew some of the headaches that a large disruption could cause.

The next few weeks were a flurry of preparation - another submission had been accepted, and they wanted a transcript and slides a month in advance. Thankfully, some of the slides could be reused for both talks: I was nervous enough about making them. I had advice from several sources, including two who do a lot of public speaking, and the wonderful folks in my Slack channels that also speak. Getting the slides to follow the 10/20/30 rule advocated by one person (10 slides for 20 minutes - no smaller than 30 point type) helped guide how much I was able to fit on each slide, and the community again was able to assist in making sure that the slides and images were not only free to use, but were visible to those who might have had vision problems.

I don't sign, but I knew those that were hard of hearing wouldn't have an issue: I had been on stage before without a microphone. Yes, I'm loud, at points.

The second get together - they now had adjusted their plans to include remote workshops (thank you all!) - I missed due to it being on the day the transcript was due, and a full-on panic about it. And it would have been valuable - helping people work through their openings and closings for impact, and making sure that you had the resources that were needed to make your talk a success. I could have asked for this, but was busy making sure I had a recording, and input from other people, and discovered I can't talk as well sitting down in a quiet room. Much to my distress - it cut into my practice time for both talks.

The cover picture is from my talk - I was delighted to have someone take that picture, even if I prefer to be on the other side of the camera under normal circumstances. The talk went well - my audience was outstanding, the room was open enough that I didn't feel crowded, and the questions after the talk helped me focus on the next one.

As always happens when you do something live, there were bobbles and errors. Most of them, I could recover from, and thankfully it was nothing technical. The pleasure of having an audience is something I enjoy - even one person that you feel you've been able to share a concept or an idea with is a great treasure of mine - and this group was giving that feedback quite frequently. They understood the errors - and wanted this to be a success. Thank s to them, it was - I still give myself a barely-passing grade.

If you ever get the chance to speak - I urge you to try it. You don't have to be up there alone, but finding that connection with your audience: being able to connect with them afterwards and hear their thoughts is such a delight.

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