Becoming a Tech Conference Speaker

One Softvisioner’s story on breaking out of their comfort zone

Let’s be honest, it can be scary to get out of your comfort zone and the pandemic has not made it any easier. A little over a year ago I started my career in web development at Cognizant Softvision and I have grown a great deal.

When the pandemic hit and everyone began to work remotely, I initially settled into the dreaded comfort zone. Many people struggled to find a new life balance during these difficult times, myself included, but after a while I decided to do something with the time I was saving now that I was working from home, so I started studying for an online mini degree in Digital Psychology and Persuasion. 

Worried thrill seeker 

When the Programmers’ Week call for speakers arrived I was thrilled! A few months prior, I enjoyed my experience delivering a tech talk at an internal event. This time, however, I was well aware that I’d have to step it up even further, given that Programmers’ Week is Cognizant Softvision’s largest technical event. I had to prepare accordingly, and as time went on I began to get worried. Even though I was passionate about my topic, I wondered, who would even want to listen to me, a junior dev? Would anyone find the topic interesting enough to give an hour of their time? The virtual format also had me concerned, as one of my strongest assets is making a connection with the people around me. However, despite all these reasons to give up, I saw this as an opportunity to challenge myself.

Let’s do it!

I knew for sure that the subject should be something special in order to gain an audience and I figured that this could be the perfect opportunity to spread some of my latest knowledge. I also knew that postponing the enrollment was only going to make me think about more reasons not to do it. So, after about half an hour from reading the proposal, I put overthinking on pause and applied with my “Psychology in the web” talk.

I’m in… now what?

I was happy to be accepted as a part of the most important event at Cognizant Softvision, but also overwhelmed with worries. Preparing the content of the talk was the easiest part, as I was already passionate about the topic and eager to not only learn more, but teach others about a “softer” part of the web, which combines psychology, neuroscience, and marketing. 

The most important point that I was aiming to get across is that the psychological techniques widely used in the industry are tailored to make us buy and subscribe through different “mind tricks.” The ethics of these practices are questionable, as nobody wants to be persuaded to spend money on something they don’t really need or want to buy. But knowing more is one way for any consumer to make more informed and conscious decisions. There was lots of information that seemed relevant at first, but as the “spotlight” was limited, I focused on briefly explaining the theoretical concepts while including many examples. 

Good marketing = happiness

Creating the materials which were going to be used for promoting the event and my talk was such an enjoyable experience. It was so fun to get to shoot the videos, and my family was so proud, which fueled me with more motivation.

Days before

The week before the presentation, I started getting messages from coworkers and friends asking me about the upcoming talk and saying that they couldn’t wait to hear my speech. While flattered, I started feeling pressured by expectations and became nervous. However, it was all for the best, as this led me to improve my speech and make the slides even more visual. I rehearsed the whole talk multiple times in front of my plants, but they were a pretty lackluster audience and asked no questions, which I hoped was not going to happen during the actual presentation. 

Unforeseen encouragement

The long-awaited speech day had come, and I was ready but totally terrified. I tried covering the nervousness with a smile and started my video sharing; even before I began talking. Someone complimented me on my “cool” green hair (thank you, kind stranger!) and this made me relax a little bit and start on a good note. Everything went better than I expected and I was very happy to see some questions popping up and people asking for more resources. 

Takeaways

The most important thing I learned from this experience is that we should always pursue new, interesting opportunities, even if they might seem too complicated or a little bit over our heads. Pushing for growth and putting yourself out there can surely be terrifying, but also so rewarding. When the next chance arises, I won’t hesitate, because becoming a tech conference speaker has been so wonderful and fulfilling. I am very grateful for the support shown by everyone involved in the organization of Programmers’ Week and also for my colleagues’ patience to put up with both my enthusiasm and worries. I had the opportunity to meet and work with so many amazing people. It has been a great journey and I am looking forward to doing it again soon!

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