New Stars of Data

It’s the beginning of 2020. I’ve been to a number of conferences, gotten a feel for what’s going on and what the different sessions are. From the short sessions to the full hour ones where speakers dive deep into a subject or explain in normal words what some feature can accomplish. Usually I’m learning something new or I’m reinforcing something I’ve learned earlier. All in all I’m leaving any event with more knowledge than when I walked in.

Along the way, I’ve heard and read that the data community is looking for new speakers. And something ‘itches’ that maybe I could do that. Then again, I’ve woken up in the middle of the night from a dream that I was standing in front of a crowd and blacked out. Or just couldn’t deliver what I’d promised. The worst one was where I got heckled and called out for not knowing.

Do you have the same ‘itch’ but at the same time the same fears? Read on!

A bit later in 2020 I saw a post on Twitter from an event called New Stars of Data. I read it and thought “too soon for me”. I saw more tweets, read the call for speakers and some serious doubt entered my mind. Should I?
In the end, I decided to create a profile on the Sessionize.com website and just submit. Without any expectation other than not being selected, I wrote an abstract and, one day before the call closed, submitted.

A few days later, an email from the organizers. I got selected.

Wait, what?!

Ok, so I got selected but now what. Sure, I know how to PowerPoint a bit, but creating a 50 minute session?
Now, when you are selected for New Stars of Data, or any other newcomer track, you get a mentor. This person is there to help you out in any way possible. With tips, tricks and anything else they can help with. I was the lucky one who got Jess Pomfret. She’s an amazing person who was welcoming, reassuring and knew a lot of good tricks. When you ask any other speaker who’s had a mentor, they’ll tell you a similar story. The people who mentor are amazing.

In the run-up to the event, Jess helped me out a great deal and gave pointers where needed but mostly helped building confidence. At the day of the event, I was prepared. Nervous as hell too but that’s to be expected. Kendra Little once wrote that if you’re nervous, it’s because you care about the session and the content.

With Jess in the background sending me supportive message just before the start I met my moderator. Erin Stellato seemed to know exactly what to do, she started a conversation. This eased the uncomfortable silence that can occur in the last minutes before the start of the session. This eased some of my nerves and the ones that remained kept me on edge.

About 50 minutes later my session was done. I was as well. But the feeling when Erin proclaimed me to be a speaker. Wow.

The next step was to submit to more events. And I’ve had the honour to speak at multiple events. Online and in person. And you know what, the warm welcoming feeling is everywhere. And I’ve not been heckled, not been called out nor blacked out.

The bad dreams, were just bad dreams.

PS. Sign up for New Stars of Data, no matter the outcome, you’ll grow as a person and will have an excellent time.

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