I don’t normally reflect publicly after a session at a conference. However, turns out delivering a keynote was a really big moment. Now I realize that seems “well duh”. Of course it’s a big deal, not everyone gets to do it. Not everyone is given an option to do it. Not everyone can do it. I knew all of that and yes, I knew it was a big deal to some degree but I wasn’t willing to admit it. For example, my friend Doc would tell people at the conference that I was the closing keynote, and I would immediately get embarrassed. I didn’t want to make a fuss about it.
Maybe I did that for my nerves. This was just another session. I wanted to do a good job but I always want to do that. There were differences to what I normally do especially less interactive and more focused on the goal of inspiring vs sharing. Yet I focused in on this being just another way to meet my commitment of sharing back But, I was nervous…I didn’t want to bomb! What if for the first time, I get stage fright? What if for the first time, I can’t remember the stories? What if for the first time, I can’t connect? Turns out I can finally admit: I was REALLY nervous.
I’ve learned how to control my nerves and I did what I needed to leading up to the keynote. However, I’m now fully reflecting and accepting how proud of myself I am. I got up in front of people and shared honest and vulnerable fears. I got up in front of people and shared that despite all the confidence I portray at times, I can be quite insecure. I did it with humor. I did it with honesty. I did it without managing to fall off the stage! There were absolutely people in that audience that probably thought I just needed therapy. There were more that approached me to share a vulnerable piece of them. There were more that approached me to thank me for motivating them to take the step they’ve been afraid to take. There were more that approached me to reassure me that they have those fears too and I’m not nuts. The conference program chair has already emailed me to tell me that I had the best score from the conference…people liked what I did 🙂
Here’s the really powerful lesson: that even as I’m typing this paragraph, I feel myself wanting to stop. I have a responsibility to keep sharing beyond just giving back. One person approached me after and said…how do we get more women doing what you just did? I never thought of it as my responsibility. I thought of myself sharing, as me helping the cause by being a woman speaking that didn’t put people to sleep. I considered the Lyssa Adkins, Diana Larsen, Esther Derby, Elisabeth Hendrickson, Michelle Sliger, Mary Poppendieck, and Pollyanna Pixton of the world to be the women that inspired people to share; that set an example to follow. Women that I personally have learned a great deal from. I never considered myself to be part of that list. Not to long ago, there was a twitter thread about great women leaders, Dan North threw my name in. Despite the rush of feeling extremely honored, it was hard for me to accept the possibility. After this keynote, I am now really starting to accept that others sometimes think of me this way. I’m not sure I will ever consider that completely true but I did think of something that seems to make a little sense. I often reference the ted talk about the first follower by Derek Sivers. Maybe I’m part of the third “woman”. These leaders above have absolutely supported me. These leaders have encouraged me. They welcomed me. Now it’s my turn to help do that for others. That it’s time for me to accept that I belong and that doesn’t mean I have nothing to learn. Far from it…it means I have a whole new world to learn.
So thank you Lee Copeland and SQE for giving me this opportunity to share with others and learn about myself. Thank you to not just the people I listed above but the many supporters that I’ve had in the Agile community who have encouraged me to share my thoughts, my ideas and my stories. To people who wrote on my feedback forms, when are you going to do a keynote, thank you for challenging me. To my friends, who sat front and center at the keynote to support me. To my friends, who couldn’t be there but sent messages of support before and after. I think I finally really believe you and it feels terrifyingly amazing.