Key Take Aways From Web Summit 2020

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Photo by Daria Shevtsova on
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If you’re interested in the worst case of online misogyny I’ve ever seen professionally- scroll down to the last section.

It Was Good Until It Wasn’t…

If you don’t know the Web Summit conference, you might want to get on board. Luckily for me, it was online this year and I was able to attend from my living room. It’s all about tech, startups, business, and this year- I don’t know if it was me or what but the AI talk was everywhere!

This reaction right here!

If you don’t understand AI, you’re not alone

AI seemed to be a big hot topic at the Web Summit conference this winter and everything from startups and politics were talking about it. It’s the flashy new toy on the trendy tech block.

This is the easiest way to understand it that I’ve come across, it’s data management. Pure and simple. It’s taking heaps and heaps of data and compiling, organizing, and applying it to whatever it is that you want it to do- the idea that eventually it will become an autonomous compiling and applying.

This is the thing I don’t understand- why hide it in secrecy? If you can’t explain to someone in a way that they understand you are creating a level of exclusivity that is inherently discriminatory. If you laugh at someone trying to understand the applications of AI that may benefit their entrepreneurial aspirations- the buck stops there. Right?

I don’t know- something about that just rubbed me the wrong way. Especially when it came to online networking- speed networking by the way that made it good if you weren’t clicking because you didn’t have to and also good in figuring out quickly if you wanted to continue the conversation.

For me, it was a great way to validate some things- I was able to quickly introduce myself and judge reactions to what words I used. (Always a research at heart).

My Online Roundtable Experience

This was fun! I was on a panel on Leading your Organization with Empathy and Abundance. It was riveting- you know I’m a big fan of empathy at work! We had an engaging discussion led by Danielle DeRuiter Williams, from the Justice Collective in the US, on intersectional inclusivity, what companies were doing right in 2020, and what they still needed to be doing moving into 2021.

We covered neurodiversity, flex scheduling, mental health and accessibility! It was a lot for an hour but everyone was contributing left and right and doing so in a way that inspired me! I was so glad to be a part of it.

There were other panels: Inclusion in Tech, AI possibilities, etc. There is so much happening right now in people trying to create change in the tech industry which is amazing to see, but let not the momentum fizzle out.

Even the speed networking mingle, was entertaining- if it was on the verge of awkward at least it was only 3 minutes and if you were enjoying the conversation you had the option to connect and if they felt the same way you would be given each others’ contact.

Some Parts that Always Disappoint

Pre-recorded interviews are boooooring! There’s little engagement unless you count people in the chat complaining about the fact the video was pre-recorded. Once they move on from that there tends to be criticism- no point in keeping it quiet, the speaker isn’t going to see it.

In order to make up for it, there were often Q&As after the pre-recorded session which was live but depending on the notoriety of person, some or most Q&As like Microsoft or Facebook still left much to be desired. Which was understandable, it’s not like the audience always get their questions answered in person at the conferences.

The Greatest Disappointment

This was something that although it’s talked about in many circles I had yet to experience it, not having had to pitch in front of investors before. Throughout the conference, several startups pitched their ideas throughout various portions. There was one block that was all about the 40 word pitch. Man, condensing your startup’s business into 40 words? That is a feat unto itself.

There was a healthcare startup led by a male founder, who pitched to an all-male judge panel. Now that is not the biggest issue, I get the numbers are not in our favor for much diversity in VC firms but the kicker was that after the healthcare application and the judges questions were presented i.e. their interest in the startup or their reservations.

The second startup was a female founder speaking on recycled fashion- and immediately the mood changed for the judges. They were no longer jovial and with an air of ease. The founder, albeit was very excited about her venture and it showed, the judges’ response? Make an off-putting remark about being a zodiac sign- apparently making a joke in some way of the founder?

It was the most disgusting display of professional misogyny I have ever seen!

It was like they forgot they were on-screen and had slipped into private boys clubs where girls weren’t allowed and with a clearing of the throat remembered where they were. They then proceeded to ask completely ridiculous questions predicated on the fact that none of them knew anything about fashion-duh! I could tell by their polo-induced comas. And the second hesitation was that they weren’t sure of the validity of recycled fashion and whether or not people would be into it.

Really? Ever heard of Rent the Runway or Posh? and others I’m sure.

It was as if they heard fashion, saw it was a woman and grumbled to themselves, “Oh no no no, can’t touch that- fashion doesn’t affect everyone.” I’m hearing the voice of that Oh no no laugh meme that was flying around a while back.

It was like seeing a real life pig fly across the sky- I’d heard the expression but didn’t believe it really existed.

Now I’m not an expert on body language but since being at home for 9-10 months, a year- I’m not sure. But it’s made me super paranoid about my background and surroundings- something I take note of while I’m on a call- oh and how I’m presenting myself, if I’m not the one talking. No booger scratches here please 🤦🏽‍♀️!

Other than that it was a great opportunity to learn all about Europe’s tech, its limitations and opportunities and to meet and speak with people I normally would not have come across. It’s always a learning experience I love.

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Would love to hear from you!

Yours in kind,

Jessy Santana, Founder & Principal, The Way We Work

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