In Love with AdaCamp
It’s been a little over a week of attending AdaCamp today and I know I have made some memories that will never fade away. For those who are wondering what AdaCamp is, let’s begin by talking about the Ada Initiative. In January of 2011, two women Mary Gardiner and Valerie Aurora got together and founded the Ada Initiative which aims to bring women across the world in open technology and culture together. AdaCamp, which is run in the format of an unconference, is one of the most impactful initiatives of this non-profit organization. Over the last years, a couple of successful AdaCamps have proved that this unconference increases the commitment of women towards open technology and culture.
I was introduced to AdaCamp by NH, fellow Wikipedian who also happens to be a person I really admire. I applied to AdaCamp, Portland early this year and unfortunately I could not make it. However, I applied again for the first AdaCamp to be hosted in India and in my own city, Bangalore. No prizes for guessing that I was elated when I made it to the attendees list. The AdaCamp was organized on November 22-23, 2014 and 40+ women attended the event. We were a diverse group of females from all walks of life and touching many corners of the globe.
The Venue: A venue becomes comfortable for participants if it’s at a place that is well known, has good accessibility and is comfortable. The Red Hat office located at the 11th floor of IBC Knowledge Park made a very decent venue. It was well connected and all through the 2 days, I had no issues reaching or leaving the venue. It was a weekend and yet the arrangements were up to the mark. A couple of Red Hat employees had volunteered to support the AdaCamp and their efforts paid well.
An Unconference in the right sense: It’s a format where you decide what you want to talk and discuss about. It is a place where there are rules that you do not expect and no rules where you expect the most. As an example our lanyards (red, yellow and green) indicated whether we are comfortable getting clicked or not. A red indicated no pictures, a yellow indicated ask and click and a green meant go ahead and click. I have never seen such a rule but what also surprised me was the fact that I could step out of a session if I don’t find it helpful without worrying about the facilitator feeling offended. This was something that I was never exposed to. If I signed up for a session and I don’t quite get what is being spoken of, I would have stayed in a usual format but not this one.
Our Hosts: Warm hosts who are ready to help, are great listeners, and share perspectives make any event memorable. Alex and Suki were such great hosts. Together they managed the sessions and overall logistics including the plan for the day was laid out. The variety in food, beverages, snacks was all well planned keeping in mind the general taste and health conscious attendees. Simple instructions like donning jackets when it gets too cold due to the air-conditioning was also not left out.
The Reception Dinner & the Weekend: The event kick started with a Friday Dinner sponsored by Web We Want hosted at the same venue as AdaCamp. This was a great way to break ice, meet people we would be seeing for the next two days and have some good food. Also, we got the see the venue before hand so that the next morning rush and panic to be late to the unconference could be avoided.
The next morning after breakfast and settling in was our first session on Impostor Syndrome. This session was for all the attendees and knowing that mostly women feel almost all the time that they are not skilled enough for career or they would be found out and exposed was a good warming up exercise. In my heart I had a feeling that may be I was invited by mistake and this session made me introspect against the thought. “I am” a Wikipedian and I was invited to AdaCamp cos the team felt I could add value and learn out the two days. We had a couple of quick exercises that including complimenting ourselves which were a great boost to the confidence.
Our task was to pick as many compliments as we could through the two days and leave the wall empty when we call it a day on Sunday. We were also give handouts for reading more around the Impostor Syndrome and they had some good references. Then through the day, there were sessions that we could choose from and attend based on our interests. There was something for everyone – Wikipedia editing, Mozilla basics, Intersectional Feminism, Hacker-school etc. Something that stayed on with me was what Alex pointed out. She said, “what you know will bore you, what you don’t, will make you learn something new” . With this thought in mind, I skipped the one on Wikipedia basics and attended the ones that I had no clues about and I must admit that one hour flew by in a jiffy.
Lighting Talks were another interesting feature during both the days. Participants who wanted to share about any topic could take up 90 secs and give a talk about the topic. They could also use this time to pitch in for a workshop or a session that they would want to lead. So that was a leading point to our “you vote and you get to plan sessions” format. As a group, attendees mentioned topics that were interested in leading or would like to learn about. Then all the participants voted for the ones that they would want to attend and thus the sessions were planned. So parallel session would run across a couple of rooms and attendees could pick and choose what they want to attend. If they want to attend two in the same hour, they could hop on from one to the other.
The Workshops: Day 2 was workshops and sessions where one could try hands at a technology, Wikipedia editing, crafting skills and what not. There was something for everyone who attended. Along with NH, I too led a session on Wikipedia editing and I really felt good about it. Motivating women who want to edit Wikipedia and helping them get rid of the same inhibitions that I had early this year when I started editing Wikipedia was a great feeling. We had two women published their first articles on Wikipedia and we were so proud.
Takeaways: Apart from the sessions that I attended and the enriching experience, I felt mentally stronger after these two days. Sense of self worth is a funny thing. For people like me who get this sense on days that can be counted like my birthday or the day I get my annual review (hoping that I did good), these two days made me reflect that there is no dearth of opportunities if one “wants” to make a difference in this world. It is never about money or availability of jobs. It’s about lives touched and a life led. I met women who were just out of college and working toward betterment of females in their surrounding areas, those who are still in college and making a mark in the areas related technology and coding, those who are talented to an extent that they use arts as a medium to make their voice reach people, those who were not born in India yet working in our country for the upliftment of Indians. Those who take pride in being who they are and the choices that they have made. Sometimes I felt I belonged to this group of women and there is so much to learn from each other than two days are too less.
I am proud to say that now I am an Alumni at AdaCamp and I have opened channels to talk to women in open culture and technology. These two days were one of the best days I had in a long time and as I said, the memories of AdaCamp Bangalore 2014 would never fade away.
It’s December and this is Post #1. I am feeling great after taking up NaBloPoMo during November and looking forward to challenging myself further. Your comments, feedback, likes and share make me feel you want to read more. Thank you readers!