Yahoo! Women in Technology were very pleased to be invited to join the Annual Women at Intel External Networking Event, on December 8 at Intel headquarters in Santa Clara. Our Intel sisters really went all out to encourage socializing, with poker-networking (each person was given a playing card and you had to go find others with whom you could make a good poker hand); team-building over ginger-bread houses (exercising those engineering skills - the winning team made theirs have solar panels). They served delicious food, for those who had an appetite after eating tons of gingerbread house trimmings (ok, I'm guilty!). A raffle topped it all off, and it was just an all-around fun event.
But it was educational too - the panel theme was "Virtual Relationships: Impact and Effectiveness in the Workplace." The panelists were excellent : Erin Hintz, VP Global Marketing and GM eCommerce, Online Services Division, Citrix; Kirsten Arpajian, Director of Global Communications, Linden Lab; Jennifer Lashua, Social Media Strategist, Intel; Angie Ruan, Director of Engineering, eBay; moderated by Barbara Nicewonger, Account Manager and Producer, Intel. Questions for the panel included: "Will virtual communications ever replace in-person?"; "What are the pitfalls of virtual communications?", "What virtual technologies do you use day to day?", "What's your one piece of crucial advice regarding virtual communications?".
Many of the answers dovetailed; for example, all the panelists agreed that virtual communications will not replace in-person, and that it's best to establish an in-person relationship first and then use virtual to regularly stay in touch. Angie Ruan, who manages a large, worldwide engineering team that is structured in a follow-the-sun 24/7 model, emphasized the need to plan regular, in-person visits to keep remote teams feeling connected and motivated. Most panelists used similar virtual technologies, such as webcams and LinkedIn...except for Kirsten Arpajian, who showed us a picture of the Second Life virtual conference rooms where she and her teammates meet as avatars (who can fly around the room when they get bored!) On potential pitfalls, Kirsten and Angie both warned against having too many connections and spending too much time online, and Jennifer reminded us to consider all virtual communications as potentially public, and to be appropriately cautious. Erin cautioned that, when webcam meetings are part of your home office toolkit, you still have to make sure you look good for the camera and also need to warn your family / housemates when the webcam is on (yes, there were some good stories to go along with that one!). When it came to advice and tips, the input was varied: Jennifer advised beginners to pick one network to start with, listen and watch carefully to understand how to fit in, and then to be your authentic self in your interactions. She sees fewer and fewer people having separate profiles for their professional versus personal selves - it's too hard to maintain the dichotomy. But Erin and others do tend to use LinkedIn for professional interactions and another network for family/friends. Erin advised, when working virtually with global teams, to spread the time-zone pain, so it's not always one group taking the hit. Jennifer suggested, when working virtually with multicultural teams, to pay special attention to speaking clearly and slowly, and add chat tools or supporting documentation into the mix so that global teams can see the topics in writing too. Erin summed up the session elegantly, saying "Work is no longer a place you go; it's what you do".
I and my fellow Yahoos were very pleased to be guests at Intel's event - they did a fantastic job, and everyone had a great time learning, meeting and talking. Congratulations and thanks to Intel for being such excellent hosts!