It seemed too good to be true. The website promised three incredible days of raw, gritty, authentic “TedX-style” presentations from some of the most revered women in tech, business and leadership. When I saw that Jennifer Hyman was going to be a keynote speaker, I basically bought the conference ticket on the spot. It was four months away, I had no idea how much the plane ticket would cost, and I hadn’t even enrolled in a coding bootcamp yet. But I knew I had to go. After several months of teaching myself to code and harder yet, self-reflection to realize I wanted to make a major career change, I knew I needed to start taking bold action. Like taking vacation from work to fly halfway across to country to attend a tech conference when I’m basically not in tech…yet. I literally did not know a single person that would be attending, but even that didn’t faze me. Something inside was pulling me to just do it. This would be my grand entrance to the tech field, and I pictured myself confidently walking into the conference and leaving with new connections and full of inspiration.

Skip ahead four months to the day I am flying to San Francisco for the conference, and let’s just say a lot of that early confidence had faded into me being a nervous wreck. I didn’t quite have buyer’s remorse, but I did feel a little ridiculous. Who was I to do something like this? I’m 31, have two kids, and am supposed to be in the phase of life where I’m thinking about whether to make mac and cheese or chicken nuggets for dinner. I was so scared that I even debated skipping the conference all together and just doing some sight-seeing…no one would ever have to know. Except that I brought my husband along. I had convinced him to turn this into an anniversary trip, and being the wonderful guy he is, he agreed to it even though we wouldn’t be together for half of it. During the flight, he talked me off the ledge and reminded me why I wanted to go in the first place. And while I didn’t feel any less nervous, I realized that this was exactly the type of thing I needed to be doing. Sure, it was a tech event and I want to be a developer. But it was bigger than that. It was something completely out of my comfort zone. It was doing something that scares me. It was not worrying about what other people think of me and following my heart.

And so when the morning of the first day came, I gave myself a quick pep talk (after drinking a lot of coffee of course), and walked as confidently as I could manage over to the check-in table and then found a seat in the main room. Within a few minutes of the first speaker, I knew I had made the right decision. It’s hard to put into words how I felt sitting in that room, looking around at the hundreds of women of all ages gathering to talk about technology. Even though I was still nervous and had not talked to anyone yet, there was a feeling of warmth and acceptance. A feeling that each person, while coming with unique backgrounds and experiences, was there less because of the differences and mostly because of the common thread that connected all of us together.

Stay tuned for part 2 where I share some highlights from the conference…