Happy Birthday Berlin Geekettes
Happy birthday BGs! In five years, our Berlin community has grown and blossomed into something more than just a network — it feels more like a movement. It’s been an honor working alongside an incredible group of people who have volunteered thousands of hours to help build our talks, workshops, hackathons and mentorship programs. These basic building blocks have connected women through a grassroots structure and created a space to share wisdom and experience. It’s been a pleasure to watch the interaction between the women in our community and to see the shared value in helping one another. We’re one step closer to closing the gender gap but still have a lot of work ahead of us.
I often get asked by people how Berlin Geekettes was born. Our blank canvas began with a very simple idea that was presented at a dinner gathering of eight women. I had met an incredible (yet small) group of women over a short period of time when first arriving in Berlin back in 2012. We were an international crew that was comprised of two Americans, one Iranian, one Brit, two Germans, one Spaniard and a Canadian. < cue… It’s a small world world after all…..>
On February of 2011, we gathered in a small Thai restaurant in Mitte and somehow I felt quite at home, I finally found my tribe. Towards the end of the meal, I looked up and asked “what if we were to form a group? A support network of women and call it…..Geekettes?!” And I still remember Jeannette Gusko’s eyes lighting up with an enthusiastic reply “YES! We must! We will!”. It was a no brainer, the women at dinner fell in love with the idea and within 24 hours we had a private Facebook group, invited our friends and a logo was created by a very talented Berlin-based designer Nadja aka Artcore. Et voila. Geekettes was born.
Once we recruited more women into our Facebook group, we reached a critical mass and hosted our first event at the beautiful home of Zoe Adamovicz. Women from all corners of tech joined for mimosas in the sun. Together we shared our personal stories and mapped out some initial plans for the year.
So we threw everything at it, our energy, time and resources to grow this community. The Berlin hub origins began with designing and experimenting using new formats. Our vision was to create an environment that was reflective of Berlin. How do you build an event that attracts and delights? How do you build a workshop that unites and educates? We asked women around us and their responses ignited a laundry list of ideas.
Fast forward to winter 2012, I partnered with Geekette’s first co-founder Denise Philipp and lead evangelista Lisa Lang. We met at the first Rails Girls meetup in Berlin and there was a profound connection between the three of us. Denise also joined me at General Assembly and we created hundreds of workshops around coding, design and entrepreneurship. And guess what? Half of our classes were filled with Geekettes! Our journey felt like climbing a mountain, as each week presented new challenges & higher peaks. The resilience and teamwork from the Geekettes enabled a trust system for us to lean on. We built a community of teachers and learners by uniting them in a thoughtful way. We wanna give a big high five to all of our hardworking instructors and volunteers, none of this could have happened without you. And of course thank you dear Lisa for being so supportive of the Geekettes not just in Berlin but all over Europe and the United States.
“It’s been the most rewarding, life-changing and supportive community I’ve ever been a part of. I am endlessly grateful for the people I’ve met through Geekettes and the impact they still have on my life. — Denise Philipp (Co-Founder of Geekettes)
“I can still see the impact of the Geekettes in Berlin on almost a daily basis — all of the connections, the friendships and careers which came out of this network have impacted and inspired a lot of lives, mine included. I’m very proud of our work and very humble to have worked with so many amazing people — you can clearly feel the awareness which has been created, it’s a solid foundation to a fundamental change, there is still lot of work to do, but it is definitely a start.” — Lisa Lang (Geekettes Evangelista)
Not everything was perfect. We also had our fair share of doubters but we chose to ignore them and pushed forward with our plans. We found willing collaborators, passionate sponsors and we were able align our personal goals with nearly everyone around us. From techno producers to HR heads at major corporations, we discovered a deeper connection to the movement and an urgency to drive more women into our industry. Berlin’s DNA played a critical role in how we constructed programing & outreach. Art, tech and mentorship were some of the key ingredients that resonated most with our community.
We didn’t know what we were doing or where we were headed, it was all so organic in the beginning. We filled gaps and provided support for women at all levels of their careers. Again, not everything was peaches and cream. There was an element of anxiety that went along with this process. Denise and I were unsure if we’d raise enough sponsorship money, if we’d be able to feed ourselves each month, or if women would continue showing up to participate. After trials and tribulations, we finally hit our stride and women were coming out of the woodworks to join us and companies were supporting us left and right. Then came the next generation of ambassadors, Anita Heiberg and Alexa Shoen. And as true community builders, they set out to continue what we had started but added their own personal touch and approach. Berlin continued to evolve as did the Geekettes community. Thank you for all your amazing work over the years and carrying on the torch for us!
“The Berlin Geekettes are probably the single biggest reason for my success in Berlin. I was lucky to be introduced to the group shortly after their first anniversary and join into their 2nd Mentorship program with Google. In a very practical sense, the experience of going through the program, meeting other Geekettes and joining events and fireside chats (and even the odd karaoke session) always made me think, “this must be what it feels like to be one of the guys in that all boys club. Finally we have something for ourselves.”
In my four years with the Geekettes, I’ve seen the value it brings to women’s lives. Getting that job they wanted, negotiating a better salary, finding mentors and collaborators and more often than not, great friends. Just being in the presence of such incredible women has inspired me and given me strength — a community. As an ambassador, this is the feeling I try to pass on to the next generation of Geekettes — to give someone else the feeling that, “we’ve got your back.” Alles Gute zum Geburtstag, Berlin Geekettes! And here’s to many more!” — Anita Heiberg
SOME OF MY FAVORITE MEMORIES:
Over the years, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to build personal relationships with brilliant women of tech across the globe. Women pioneering their own businesses, building their own products, creating communities and inspiring the next generation to follow in their footsteps. After much consideration, we’ve decided to slowly expand the Geekettes footprint beyond Germany and unite women across Europe, America, Middle East with hopes of someday expanding to Asia, Latin America, Africa and further beyond. But we will never forget that Geekettes was born in the city of Berlin. A city that continues to push forward, to build, to unite.
I’m really looking forward to 2017, this is the year that I believe we will see a continued evolution for women in technology. With programs and funds sprouting all over the world to support women, we’re definitely going to see some big progress. More women will begin starting their own businesses, breaking into engineering roles and pioneering fresh ideas within the industry as a whole. I’m more confident than ever before and very excited to see what our new ambassadors will create in Berlin. (announcement coming soon). Until then, join Lean In’s newest Regional Ambassador, Irina Botea on International Women’s Day for a session “Body Language in the Digital Era”. RSVP HERE.
Prost, danke schön und tschüss…… xo
If you want to join our community, please sign up for membership today: http://www.geekettes.io/membership/