BarCamp Baltimore 2009

I had a fantastic time at BarCamp Baltimore today. I’m so glad I got my butt
out the door (with Stacey’s help) early on a Saturday morning to attend. There
was some great energy going on there. Got to see some friends; put some faces
to names; and met a lot of cool new people. The best part was definitely the
conversations at lunch and between sessions.

My sole contribution was to suggest a “How do we get more women into software”
topic, which was developed by the organisers into “Education / Diversity”. As
I’d hoped, it spawned a pretty vigorous discussion, and also as hoped, I spend
most of the time listening. Unfortunately there was a lot of handwaving about
fixing the school system which I felt was pretty pie-in-the-sky. But there were
also some good practical steps suggested.

My concrete takeaways from the session were:

* Mentoring, mentoring, mentoring. Find some way, such as after-school
programs, to catch girls and minority kids young. Pass on the passion for
tech before they get locked into gender roles and social conditioning about
what they can and can’t do.
* For hiring and broadening tech groups, reach out to womens groups and
minority organisations like Black Engineers.

Unfortunately, one of my other takeaways from the session was that one reason
women aren’t as prominent as men in technology is that male geeks like to hear
themselves talk, sometimes at the expense of the women in the room. Even when
the women in the room might be the ones with the most to say about the topic at
hand.Baltimore group

The other standout session for me was the HackerSpace one. I was excited to
learn about HackerSpace and I hope the nascent Baltimore group succeeds. It’s
good to see old-school tinkering and software/hardware hacks going on.

All in all a wonderful way to spend the morning and afternoon. I came away
energised and excited about the explosion of cross-disciplinary creativity going
on in this time and place. I’m looking forward to more events like it. Many
thanks to Dave Troy and everyone else for making it happen!