Save the date: The second editon of the Women+ in Data and AI summer festival takes place on September 27th, 2024 in Berlin. For more information, visit: women-in-data-ai.tech
How it all started
Throwback to the Women+ in Machine Learning and Data Science meetup on June 27th in Berlin: Our colleague, Larysa Visengeriyeva delivered a talk about the MLOps Foundations for Data Scientists, where she demystified the MLOps hype by explaining the principles of MLOps, why MLOps is essential to deliver business value, and how to navigate the vast field of MLOps tooling. The event organizers created an impressive inclusive atmosphere, bringing together various female tech communities including WiMLDS, PyLadies, and Women in Robotics and AI, and even involving a group from Bolt with MLOps expertise. Larysa’s talk led to an engaging Q&A session and discussions on topics like Machine Learning Governance and environmental sustainability of resource-intensive ML models.
After that meetup, Larysa realized something significant had happened. This meetup has been a transformational experience for her. For the first time, she experienced something like a safe space and full respect while speaking in public. Everyone was eager to learn. Speaking at this meetup was a real empowerment, something that Larysa hadn’t experienced before. This meetup empowered everyone, including her, through learning and seeing a role model. Moreover, she got a second boost of empowerment through networking and connecting to female tech communities after her talk.
At this point, Larysa asked herself - “why shouldn’t we organize a tech festival and celebrate female tech excellence altogether? Let’s scale the concept of WiMLDS by providing a stage for women+ speakers specialized in data engineering, data science, and MLOps and invite everyone to celebrate together!”
This is the empowerment we want for every woman+ in tech.Larysa VisengeriyevaHead of Data and AI, INNOQ
When you leave an event on such a high, you start dreaming. And we dreamed big. We wanted to take that meetup spirit and replicate it on an even bigger stage. The idea for the inaugural Women+ in Data and AI summer festival was born. This is what we wanted to accomplish:
A festival for everyone, but the stage belongs to women+?
It’s no secret that women and gender minorities are still underrepresented in the tech industry. That’s why we aimed for a 100% women+ lineup. Believe it or not, a first in Germany. As a side effect, we were hoping for a more diverse audience, consisting of significantly more women+ than your average tech conference. We thought there was no better way to achieve this than to have women+ on stage, inviting other women+ to join them by demonstrating their tremendous skills.
It was the most welcoming conference I’ve ever attended and the talks were strong too :-)Participant W+DAI 2023
You may be wondering what the term women+ stands for. We really wanted to give as many underrepresented people as possible the opportunity to speak, not just women. So, the term women+ includes women (trans and cis), trans men, and people who are non-binary, genderqueer, genderfluid, agender, intersex, and all other minority genders. These people need a lot more visibility in the industry. And because change doesn’t happen overnight, we decided to shine a spotlight on these people, even if it means taking visibility away from others - in this case, well-represented cis men.
Facts and figures:
- 282 attendees
- 100% women+ lineup
- 27 women+ speakers
- 3 technical tracks
- 20+ talks
- 1 off-topic track with 5 workshops
- 2 keynotes
- 20+ sponsors
- a huge techno night at the end
However, we wanted everyone to feel welcome, regardless of gender, experience, or technical background. Interestingly, we got feedback that we weren’t clear enough in our communication about this. We got questions about whether men could participate. Of course, we sharpened our communication. But think about it: How do women+ feel when they see the marketing for other tech conferences showing large groups of men mingling with only a few women here and there?
All things Data and AI
We wanted to offer high-quality talks on data engineering, machine learning and data science, and MLOps - complemented by two excellent keynotes. In the end, we had three technical tracks with more than 20 talks in total - all delivered by women+.
Some talks from the program:
- From Data to Decision by Emily Gorcenski (Thoughtworks)
- Distributed Pandas – From Performance Art to Production by Holden Karau (Netflix)
- Responsible AI Principles for Generative AI by Isabel Bär (INNOQ)
- Architecting MLOps: The Journey from Identifying ML Use Cases to the ML Platform Architecture by Larysa Visengeriyeva (INNOQ)
- Evening Keynote: Prompt Your Way Into The Future: AI, Lifelong Learning And The Skills of Tomorrow by Daria Hvizdalova (42 Prague)
I had a really great time, my personal highlights were mingling with other engineers, informal talks, new acquaintances and exchanging ideas in a friendly environment.Participant W+DAI 2023
We decided early on not to do an open CFP. We knew from experience that it takes more than a generic CFP to convince women+ to give a talk on such a big stage. That is why we personally contacted every single woman+ and invited them to participate in our festival. This may sound like a lot of effort. Well, it was worth it. We simply have to invest in getting more women+ involved, not only in the industry in general, but also in conferences and networking events. Otherwise, the gap between men and women+ will remain the same or improve only marginally. So, why not push it a little?
More than just learning
It was vital to us to make this conference not only about learning, but also about empowerment, personal growth and networking. Why is that? Because it’s still true that women+ are shy about certain things that keep them from reaching their full potential. For example: Owning your career instead of jumping from one opportunity to the next - or networking. There’s a saying: “Jobs come and go. Your network stays.” When we asked ourselves why networking isn’t the same priority for women+ as it is for men, we could only come up with one answer: Maybe women+ need a different environment to fully enjoy mingling with others and building their own network.
That’s why we’ve included a full track of workshops for personal growth and career development:
- Bold vision workshop
- Entrepreneurship in AI
- Developing Career Success Through Effective Company Tactics And Feedback
- How to get started with investing for financial independence
- Rock Your Profile
The whole event, from the very beginning to the end, was amazing. The atmosphere was sparking with enthusiasm, curiosity and interest - it was so easy and inspiring to talk to anyone!Participant W+DAI 2023
To encourage our attendees to interact, connect, and have good conversations, we made sure to create a relaxed and welcoming environment where everyone felt comfortable approaching others. Each session had a moderator who not only introduced the speaker and the topic, but also set the tone for the feedback and questions that followed. This gentle reminder to say thank you for a presentation and the effort the speaker put into it before firing off questions really set the tone for the entire day. And that general sense of appreciation and goodwill carried over into all the other interactions between our attendees.
Does a festival without music even count as a festival? Of course, we needed a big party at the end of an intense day full of learning and new impressions. After all, we wanted to celebrate all things data and AI and all the smart women+ in the field.
Franziska Berns, resident at Robert Johnson, did not disappoint and got us dancing to some fine techno beats. Of course, more people could have stayed for the party and really danced, but all in all, it was a worthy finale to the festival.
Did it work?
Long story short: Yes, it did. We managed to organize a day and night full of high quality technical talks, empowering off-topic sessions, plenty of time for networking, and a sizzling techno party at the end. The feedback we received was that the combination of a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere and excellent technical content was particularly appreciated. Something we’re really proud of.
Awesome. Best event I’ve ever been to in terms of spirit, friendliness, comfort and tech quality. Loved it.Participant W+DAI 2023
Here is how we did it:
- 100% women+ lineup: women+ on stage attracting other women+ to attend
- code of conduct: We didn’t just have a code of conduct on paper. We actively announced our CoC during Larysa’s opening and reminded everyone to follow the guidelines.
- safeguarding leads: During the opening, we introduced two safeguarding leads who could be contacted if needed. We also provided an email to send feedback in a less direct way.
- pronouns on badges
- color-coded lanyards to indicate consent to be included in photos and social media
- session moderators to introduce speakers and set the tone for Q&A and the entire festival
On paper, all of these measures sound almost trivial. In reality, they made a huge difference. Collectively, they created a healthy atmosphere with so many happy and smiling faces. At one point, we asked a speaker if she was nervous. The answer surprised us and showed how special this event was: “Why would I be nervous? Look around, so many friendly faces. No reason to be afraid.”
We hope that other conferences will take a good look and try to incorporate at least some of these measures into their processes. It costs so little and is so worthwhile.
Powered by INNOQ
Providing a safe space and spotlighting so many talented women+ was important to us. However, our goal was to do more than that. After all, this conference is run by INNOQ, a consultancy known for its software development and architecture services. Since we’re in the process of building a data and AI team at INNOQ, this conference was an excellent opportunity to get our name out there and promote our existing services. We left the event not only with many interesting conversations with attendees who learned about INNOQ as a potential employer in the field of data engineering, machine learning and data science, and MLOps that also cares about diversity in tech, but also with specific business leads. For us, this was the best possible way to kick off our data and AI campaign.
We cannot speak for the entire team, but we left the festival with an overwhelming sense of empowerment and encouragement. So where do we go from here? The good news is that we’re doing it again. W+DAI 2024 is happening.
- When: September 27, 2024
- Where: Berlin
- At: Radialsystem Berlin
- More information: women-in-data-ai.tech
Stay tuned for updates, or better yet: Get on board and help us make next year’s edition even better! And yes, guys, you’re welcome to join us. Let’s do this together.
The best team:
- Core team: Isabel Bär, Sebastian Eberstaller, Robert Glaser, Kaja Gleiß, Dajana Günther, Stefanie Heinrich, Steffen Hentschel, Larysa Visengeriyeva
- Helpers on site: Daniel Bornkessel, Christoph Burnicki, Martina Freers, Dominic Horstkamp, Christian Jacobs, Jan Körnich, Florian Kretlow, Grigory Kurmaev, Jörg Müller, Kathleen Prasatko, Marco Steinke, Christopher Stolle, Daphne Waporidis