Friday night I was lucky enough to have grabbed an invitation to the first Girl Geek Dinner in Italy (thanks for the heads-up Deirdr�). I wanted to post about this as soon as I got back to the house – unfortunately that night I came down with a stomach virus that is making the rounds here in Milan (my doc told me tonight after waiting 1.5 hours to see her today) and I’ve been praying to the porcelain god and sucking on white rice for three days now. My dietary forecast apparently is: “Fruit juice. White rice. With a touch of parmigiano if you really have to.” Great.
Scusatemi ragazze/i, volevo scrivere subito dopo la Girl Geek Dinner pero’ mi ha colpito questo virus dello stomaco – ed e’ per questo ho perso Ritalia, sfortunatamente. Mi sono divertita e spero che la prossima volta non saro’ l’unica pazza di andare in giro attacando gli altri partecipanti con i miei Moo card. Scrivetemi e vi aggiungero’ al sidebar o mi aggiungete via LinkedIn.
But back to the Girl Geek Dinner! After Deirdr�’s announcement, I corresponded a few times with the lovely Amanda “WebTwitcher” Lorenzani who had her hands full organizing due to the big success that the event was becoming.
I arrived at EDA (V. F.lippi, 7) alone that night, knowing I would know approximately one person there but excited to see who else would be there in the world of Italian female tech. Since most of my friends in Silicon Valley work in high-tech companies, I feel pretty at home with a happy hour about SAN servers or open source operating systems, but I had no idea what to expect here.
There weren’t very many people there initially and a gracious Elisa took me in and threw me off immediately with a “I’ve seen your blog” as I thought I’d be a non-entity, but then I remembered a few days ago I committed myself to the Sale e Pepe club online (Ho gia’ marcato la ricetta per aprile, fanciulle!).
And from then on, it was a bit whirlwind. The numbers were at about 30-35 when we had the introductory speeches and welcome by Amanda and a few of our fellow female techies. A few journalists had been circulating among the attendees and the atmosphere was pretty informal.
The free dinner seemed to have pulling power and we doubled in size by the time it was ready to sit down. I, in fact, was not quite ready to sit down since there were so many new faces. Here are my dining partners, who put up with me popping around to the other tables in between courses. Deirdr� and Lisa (who I met in 2003 when I first arrived in Italy) who work at TvBlob, Dawn from Trendzine, and a few of the ladies from MarmaLadya.com
Almost all tables were a little shocked at my appearance as they probably hoped to enjoy a nice dinner with their 7 chosen dining partners, but most were accommodating and humored me, and a few even made room for me at their table to sit for a few minutes, which was a relief with those heels I was wearing.
I realize now that certain names should have meant more to me. Maybe I should have even hesitated approaching a few or maybe then I could have correctly read the disinterest that I put down to apprehension on being interrupted at the time. Maybe. Or maybe I would have behaved exactly the same. I could focus on my ignorance this time around but I prefer to look at it as an eye-opening situation that has made me realize how un-involved I am in the Italian blogosphere and I hope to change that. Who knows how differently World Nutella Day might have gone? Ha. I’ve also decided to post more in Italian. Pero’, non oggi. Sto ancora male.
Opposite from the world I’ve been living lately, that is, discovering and then following a blog for a while, and then getting the chance to meet the blogger in person, I met the flesh and blood personas Friday night and I am now having to go back and discover their alter egos. I was surprised how many people came without business cards or another mode of contacting them (though, I know that trick too, ladies). I hope next time they’re more sufficiently prepared and put on their game faces to network. I was surprised how many people were uninterested in an unfamiliar face. Tsk, tsk!
The percentage of men was under 50% but well above what I’m used to at a “women’s” event – in Silicon Valley it’s so closely guarded that the 10% of men who do attend are usually regarded with some suspicion as they are 1) great friends of the organizers and/or 2) there for the “scene.” But I felt the presence of men at the event was welcomed, and even expected. For validation? Maybe just camaraderie. Certainly, the men there have given just as much attention to the event on the blogosphere as the women who attended (though I’m still waiting for Nicola’s video) including Luca’s much referenced-quote (excuse the translation, Luca):
At a certain point, a light bulb went on. I understood the difference between guy geeks and girl geeks: guy geeks show their status by making embarrassing jokes…they talk about the uselessness of the new motherboard, laugh about nothing and usually wear stupid shirts.
The girl geeks have projects, found non-profit organizations, invent new creative uses for Legos, manage companies and know perfectly what they are doing.
This was my dominant impression and for this reason I am always more convinced that we need less men in (positions of) power and more women in Parliament, in the government and in the nerve center of the system. I don’t know if the Rose Quota (percentage of women that must be elected to the government) is the right stimulus to achieve this goal but even if it helps a bit, it is right to go down this path.
I hope to hear more constructive commentary like this in the future.
While I enjoyed it all, I’m left thinking….what’s next? What happens now? Will the GGD serve as a launching point for more concrete initiatives? Or will it help to meld online communities which can also use some further interaction? Will the informal spirit continue and (hopefully) become more sciolto as the group networks more? Amanda, count me in.
A next big meetup is May 26th in Bologna – FemCamp. This is not GGD, but I plan to be there. I’m placing another Moo Card order now.
Some of my other fellow Girl Geeks from that night who left me their cards. The rest of you, show yourselves in the comments or point me to your alter ego! Beatrice from TechneDonne – Frieda from Wikimedia – Chiara – Cristina – Mafe – Aurora – even Nicola
Se ti ho dimenticato, sicuramente hai un modo piu’ veloce di contattarmi che il riverso…mettiti nei commenti!