The bi-annual Microsoft Women’s Conference was held last week on the Microsoft Redmond Campus. I keep enjoying this conference more and more each year.

In my humble opinion, the Executive Roundtable event was by leaps and bounds the most productive, most rewarding event I have ever seen offered to Women in Technology. I often wonder what more we can do to retain the current talented women in the technology field. This event hit a home run in retaining me.

Highlights

  • For 2 days, I was surrounded by thousands of my own kind. It really makes a difference.
  • Overall quality of speakers. Wow.

Lowlights

  • Dear Speakers: Before you start with Hurricane Katrina references, please acknowledge for a second that this isn’t a “past” event for some people in the audience. It’s almost like a cheap shot to be all introspective in these session and then hear a Katrina reference. But I know, I’m in the minority that felt like this.
  • They kept running out of hot water for tea. (yeah, yeah, I’m struggling to find some lowlights.)

Top Sessions I Attended

Despite popular belief, I do not have enough energy to be in two places at once. These are my personal favorites, based on the sessions I was able to attend. In no way is this meant to be a reflection of the overall top session at the conference.

Key takeaways from these sessions are below.

Achieving Peek Performance… No Matter What

Wow, what a session to kick-off the conference. Bonnie St. John won the Bronze medal for downhill skiing in the Paralympics, but if you check out the picture, you’ll notice that she has one leg. Besides being an Olympic athlete, she’s a White House economic official, a Rhode scholar, and a consultant to the Fortune 500. NBC Nightly News refers to Bonnie as one of the five most inspiring women in America.

Key Quote

"Winners aren’t those who don’t make mistakes. Winners are people who can get up after a fall the fastest."

Main Takeaways

  • The most successful people are those who accepted the most help.
  • Courage is just like a muscle. It has to be built step by step by taking risk after risk.
  • Never forget to find joy in life.

Other Notable Quotes

  • “You have to take that first risk, and when you get through it, you get stronger, than you take another, and you get stronger, until you get to a place where fear has no power over you.” – via President of Liberia
  • “I [Bonnie] thought I would never get a date, since I have only one leg. But my sister said, ‘Just think. You’ll never have to date jerks!’”
  • “Disable sport is all about world class excellence, since you are competing in a world without perfect resources, just like today’s business world.”

1-1 with Bonnie

Bonnie asked me what was my biggest takeaway was from the talk. I said “it was the story about never forget to find joy in life. I get so focused on problem solving that I forget to see the forest for the trees.”

Working for You Isn’t Working for Me

They brought in a Harvard-trained psychotherapist to explain how to get along at work! I love it! Katherine Crowley, a Harvard trained psychotherapist, and Kathi Elster, a management consultant, started their company K Squared Enterprises. They also wrote the book Working with You Is Killing Me.

Quite possibly the best session at the conference. The speakers not only clearly defined their objectives, but also delivered them. The pace, the format, the audience interaction was spot on.

Key Quote

Do NOT take the other person’s behavior personally. They are not attacking you as much as you think they are.”

Main Takeaways

  • Handle yourself first, then handle the situation
  • Don’t forget to breathe. It really does change things.
  • Partnership are challenging. First thing you have to do is build trust. Put in the time, and handle with care.

Other Notable Quotes

  • “Revengeful thoughts is where you take poison and hope for someone else’s demise"
  • “Your mind is dangerous if left to its own devices"
  • "Slow motion gets you there faster"

Become a Change Master: Mastering the art of mind and body change

This was a fun talk! But then again, since I was 5 years old, I’ve wanted to be a 97-year old bodybuilder so I can be featured on the local news. Dr. Pamela Peek is the Chief Medical Correspondent for Discovery Health TV. She also wrote the book Body for Life for Women.

Key Quote

"Take your dog for a walk, even if you don’t have one."

Main Takeaways

  • Scientists have just recently discovered that we create new neurons. It was previously believed that we only have as many neurons as we’re born with. The upside to this is that it is possible to change habits. We just need to retrain our brains using reward as a positive reinforcement.
  • When afraid of change, honestly ask yourself “what’s the worst that can happen?” Say the answer out loud, step on the fear, and move on. But you have to say it out loud to confront your fear.

Other Notable Quotes

  • “Not having a friend to talk to is as dangerous to your health as being a smoker.”
  • “If Nike had a women’s brand tagline, it would be ‘Don’t overthink it.’” Because we’re hard-wired in our DNA to care, we can’t stop trying to problem solve.
  • “The fundamental piece is taking care of yourself, so that you can make good decisions.”

1-1 with Dr. Pamela

I told her how I wanted to be a 97-year old weightlifter and how motivating it was to see 90 year old women competing in athletic events. She suggested that I try out powerlifting, even though I tried to explain to her that I am really not that strong. She also told me if I was interested in starting triathlons, I should check out http://www.irongirl.com

Microsoft 2.0: An interview with Mary Jo Foley

This was fun to see the interviewer and interviewee swap seats. Mary Jo Foley is a journalist and blogger who has covered the technology industry for more than 25 years.

Key takeaway

Not surprising, my key takeaway was her answer to my question during the Audience Q&A session. For a second there, the format of the session and ambiance of the conference room made me feel like I was one of the theater students at Inside The Actors Studio, especially with the dramatic waiving of my arms for the microphone person to see me in the back row.

My question was “You’ve stated that you picked journalism over broadcast because you wanted to stay behind the pen. But, when you became a blogger, you now had your personal bio out there in the public light. If you could go back in time, what is the one thing you wish you could tell yourself about blogging.”

Her answer was, “To grow thick skin. Knowing this would have helped to avoid many sleepless nights.”

I wholeheartedly concur.

And this concludes my 3rd Microsoft’s Women’s Conference. Thank you Microsoft for yet another AWESOME event. Until next time.