Richtung Süd: Web Summit 2018, LX

You know my other (blog) half already, and therefore you probably know the other part of my mind, which lives somewhere in the Southern sphere without moving from Berlin. Or at least escaping a few times per year to where it belongs.

This month I travelled to Lisbon aka LX again, partly for business and to connect with new people, partly for being with my best friends and to reconnect with them. The business part of the trip was due to the annual edition of the Web Summit – my first experience at the conference thus far. I expected big hype and crowds, but what I saw was really intimidating in numbers (not only to me), especially in a city that is one of the tiniest European capitals: almost 70000 participants!

The less intimidating, and rather promising one, was the ratio of women attending the event: 43%. It was not only visible in the crowd, but also in the networking focus and number of female speakers and panelists, as well as politicians attending, giving a good role model aspect to the aspiring professionals in various roles in tech.

The number of talks and its focus varied and was obviously impossible to track everything. Some of them stating the obvious, some of them: mind-boggling. I felt a lot of the questions I have for various branches in tech were not necessarily answered but at least well posed. It’s good not to feel alone, but less assuring to see same question marks and not too strong answers on how to move forward. Same comes for democracy, privacy and generally: staying human in technocratic world, while taking the best out of it.

I feel that getting to know inspirational entrepreneurs, mostly women, sharing experiences and ideas, looking for this positive needle in the stack, was my highlight of the event. I left with a few new ideas on my mind, good feedback and hope for the tech industry.

Last but not least, contemplating ocean waves from the Westernmost continental part of Europe was a bliss like always. Sharing this time with my best friend and great business mind in one person, and gave me a lot of hopes for women and for tech, together.

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My summer of changes

A month ago I would not expect that my life would turn upside down and back again, and that at the end of it I would relax, unwind on a hammock and look back at it in peace. Maybe slightly exhausted, but still: feeling very lucky. Here is what happened.

My summer started in an operation room at the biggest Berliner hospital: Charité. It was my third surgery this year, and hopefully the last one (leave me alone, all you voodoo people). Looking back, the injuries hit me quite hard in 2017 – partly due to amazing exploratory life I’m living; partly because I ignored them for years, working way too much and not willing to take any time off to heal. While the leg operation was not such a terrible experience, the recovery was super painful. The painkillers available in the hospital were not helping me at all, and I had to rely only on my visitors to bring me the stuff that would actually put me at ease. I shared a room with a funny German lady who would not let me speak English even if I was terribly tired, so my linguistic skills must have evolved then more than ever during the past couple of years spent in Berlin. After a few days I was sent home, with a note that I should avoid walking for 2 more weeks. Walking was an incredible luxury anyway and I had to learn everything from the scratch.

I have come to terms that I will need to really slow down and unwind during these weeks and rely only on my friends. This was the most beautiful surprise of all: learning how many people would care for me, pay me a visit, bring me delicious food, or food for thought. Finally, on 6th July I could walk like a person and was getting ready for returning to work the week after, all recovered and with a lot of energy.

This is when I received dreadful news that over 40% of my colleagues were laid off: the employees I hired, I watched to develop, some of them being my close friends. I could not talk to anyone for the next couple of hours, being in a state of shock and disbelief. I have gone through the lay offs in different companies, but this time it was a place that was more than that. It was a company which created an incredibly human and open culture for the people who cared and loved the product they worked for, and contributed to initiatives like diversity and inclusion, or mental health at workplace, which I found very progressive in the tech industry. I could not believe that this cut has to be made, but apparently it was the only solution for moving forward. More importantly, I was not directly impacted by the lay offs, but most of my team was and this was very difficult for me to accept.

As it comes with the state of grief, the shock was substituted by anger, sadness and finally: acceptance. The business reality is what it is, and not always one can influence that or control it. I made a conscious decision to move on though, given that I’ve been already in talks with another music tech company which I admired and had an offer from, for a role in an exciting team with good outlook for my career development, closing an important chapter for me in a right moment. Within one week my whole life turned upside down, and I found myself in a loop of accepting/resigning and opening my network of contacts to try to connect the dots between the affected people and companies that may be of help.

I was stunned by the solidarity, speed and involvement of the tech community, although there was some chaos involved and it took some time to analyze the mutual needs from both the affected employees and companies offering jobs. It’s been hectic yet rewarding experience, and I am convinced that everyone will be able to move on to find an amazing opportunity. This situation has made the dissolved teams bond and get to know each other in the times of chaos. And to enjoy some bits of the summer too!

I was also very lucky that some of my Berlin friends joined me on a spontaneous visit in Poznań, my home town in Poland which was a great experience, even though it the political events and protests shed light on our stay a lot. Still, I felt proud I could speak up and stand up for the important cause in my country.

So, here I am, writing this all on 31st July, having spent an amazing month of sharing & caring, learning to walk & to dance again. Right before it all happened, a friend of mine shared her thought that she had a strange feeling this will be a remarkable summer, in many ways. There were indeed a series of turbulent events at many levels, and the weather has been dramatic too (also in all ways: from wetness to hotness), so tomorrow I’m leaving Berlin for some period of time to rest, retrospect and regain my physical and emotional balance while sailing in the middle of Atlantic Ocean. See you all in Berlin in the second half of August.