In February, I, along with a group of my Course Hero colleagues, attended the annual Watermark Conference for Women. The largest gathering of its kind in California, the event focuses on issues that are important to women: workplace equity, personal finance, entrepreneurship, health, and work/life balance. For us, it was a day to focus on professional development, gather meaningful insights, and form connections.
The conference came onto our radar when two Course Hero employees, Maria Muñiz and Deeksha Talwar, both members of the Watermark Organization, brought it to the attention of executive leadership. They presented it as an opportunity for professional growth for other women at Course Hero. Our leadership was super enthusiastic, which wasn’t surprising. During my three years here they’ve shown a true commitment to diversity and inclusion. And they walk the talk.
The keynote speakers kicking off the conference were the two female founders of theSkimm, a morning newsletter digest of news geared toward female Millennials. They spoke about their struggles to raise money and start a company in a predominantly male venture-capital world. After that, we had the opportunity to network and attend workshops focused on the topics that resonated with us personally.
I attended the conference hoping to gain deeper insights into the issues faced by women in tech beyond what I’ve seen and experienced personally. I also wanted to discover some new tools to help me navigate the workplace, to address the challenges I face, and also to share with others at Course Hero and in my personal network—to bolster other women and support them in succeeding in their roles.
Just as Course Hero gives its employees support and tools to help with our professional development and flourish in our roles, I hope to provide the same valuable resources to those in my network.
Here are my key takeaways from the workshops I attended.
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1. Women of Color & the Workplace
The Women of Color & the Workplace workshop shed light on the unique career challenges facing women of color, acknowledging that even at companies with diversity initiatives in place, there is still work to be done. It offered clear-cut advice about addressing workplace biases, microaggressions, and isolation.
My main takeaway from the workshop was that the intersectionality of both my gender and race is who I am, and both should be valued as assets rather than liabilities. It’s imperative that each of us appreciate what we bring to the table and advocate for ourselves.
2. Recovering Perfectionists
Women especially have a tendency to aim for perfection in everything we do. In chasing these ideals, we often miss out on (or cannot enjoy) the everyday moments of our lives. Setting impossibly high standards for ourselves means postponing happiness for an unnamed future date, depriving us of enjoying the present. This workshop focused on finding contentment and experiencing joy while escaping the perfectionist trap.
The panel provided a concrete set of tools:
- Cultivate a kinder friendship with yourself.
- Surround yourself with a squad of supporters.
- Talk to yourself in a supportive way, as you would to a treasured friend.
- Cultivate skills to deal with rumination and practice self-compassion.
- Develop rules of thumb to prioritize work/life balance.
- Practice the art of gratitude.
I hope to take these steps to heart and share them with those I know who struggle with the same issues I face, such as ruminating on past mistakes in a loop that repeats in my head. I have slowly been replacing those default recordings with self-affirming messages—with much success.
3. Build a Network of Relationships, Not Just Contacts
This workshop focused on networking done right. Rather than simply collecting people you can call upon for a favor, it suggested fostering relationships that will serve all parties on more than just a superficial level. There was also an emphasis on mentoring and preparing the next generation of women to become super-connectors.
The workshop conveyed the importance of asking questions that extend beyond what someone does for a living. It covered topics including being strategic about whom you meet, how to meet them, and how to form lasting relationships. As the most hands-on and interactive of all the workshops I attended, it provided tangible skills that I could immediately use the minute I walked out to join the rest of the conference attendees.
Several weeks after the conference, our group of attendees gathered to discuss our learnings. It was obvious from our discussions that although we were at different stages of both our careers and our personal lives, many of the topics resonated with all of us. I am grateful to be part of a company that truly supports our values of diversity and inclusion, and I appreciate how that commitment leads to an incredibly collaborative environment where each employee feels heard and valued.