Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned by Past Organizers of N2 Women Events

My first… N2 Women Event
By: Doris Schiöberg

I was responsible to organize the N2 Women event at SIGCOMM2009. In the following lines I try to summarize my impressions and some of the lessons I learned. I divide the lessons into the steps I had to take, one by one.

  1. Talking to a “legend”:
    When I started the organisation of this event I had to talk (= write emails) to many people who

    • I didn’t know at all.

    • are professors and senior researchers.

    • might be a kind of idols for a first-year PhD student.

    The lesson there was for me:
    Even the most famous and outstanding professor is a human being! When writing an email this should be kept in mind. The first impression is important. But also a professor sometimes has a bad/stressful day or might just be ill. Try to read their mails from that perspective and a lot of things get more easy. Of course, I knew this before, but knowing something and getting the feeling for it are different things.

  2. Choosing a time slot:
    I decided to go with a shorter slot during lunch time on the first day of the conference. Poster and demo sessions were planned for the same day around lunch time. That’s why I had to keep it short. My impression is that this was the right decision. Having the event at the beginning of the conference lead to the fact that I knew a lot of the women and talked to them during the following days. With some of them I would maybe have never spoken if I wouldn’t have met them at the N2 Women lunch.

    Critical feedback I got/see myself (positive and negative):

    • Some prefer breakfast because they don’t want to miss the main lunch and the networking there. Personally I think missing one main lunch out of three is OK. And the meeting opened special opportunities for networking because of the reduced number of people (apart from gender).

    • Others prefer lunch because they don’t want to have an event early in the morning.

    • Because of the demo and poster sessions that started right after the N2 Women lunch some women could not participate. They had to prepare their demo/poster.

    • Because of the sessions afterwards everyone left directly after the last talk. On the other hand the event was long enough to get in first contact. Especially on a conference with a full program it might be hard to decide on a time slot.

    My take away on that: Talking to my N2 Women mentor and other people helped a lot. But: You can never make it perfect for everyone!

  3. Choosing a topic:
    The topic I chose was maybe more interesting for people at the beginning of their career, such as PhD students. Although I think it was not boring for others. From what I see during the last years there were very different topics and speakers. Some topics were more concrete, dealing with specific things of the all-day-researcher’s life, some were more general. I think that both ways are good. An organizer just has to think what she wants to achieve for the audience and maybe which kind of audience shall be reached.

    And again: You can never satisfy everyone!

  4. Scheduling:
    My mistake was to plan my schedule too tight. And I forgot to plan some extra time at the beginning. It would have been better to give a longer introduction on N2 Women than I did. A longer introduction also gives the possibility to give around the sign-in sheets for the N2 Women mailing list. After the event people tend to disappear quite fast. Having more time also leaves more space for discussions at the end.

    The lesson here was: less is sometimes more! One or two speakers are enough if there is only little time.

  5. Summary:
    In summary it was an amazing and impressing experience. I can only recommend everyone to volunteer to organize her own N2 Women event. One of the things that made this experience a good one was to work together with all the researchers. I got a lot of help from Dina Papagiannaki (my mentor), Dolors Sala, Pablo Rodriguez, Wendi Heinzelman, and many others. Thanks to them! And a special thanks to the speakers: Meeyoung Cha, Anja Feldmann, Sue Moon, and Dina Papagiannaki! It was amazing how close they let the audience get in touch with their experiences and personal relations to research and students.