The last time I stood at the San Jose Convention Center was four years ago on a stretch assignment in trade shows and exhibits for a Fortune 30 manufacturing company. Despite the good intentions and great mentoring from my executive sponsor, I felt out of place at the office and on that trade show floor. No one looked like me or outwardly valued the same things I did. I left that job not long after and another, then took a leap of faith by stepping off from work, and wandered a bit.
In the days prior to BlogHer 2014, I’d been whispering to my friends about how nervous I was to attend. Then last Friday, I returned to the San Jose Convention Center and as I walked in the familiar physical space, I felt a bit of sadness from my former job. I’ve only been blogging for a few months. Yeah, I fully own that I’m a professionally trained writer, and these women publish regularly AND have followers. No, they have passionate armies at their fingertips. I pulled on the glass door to the registration hall and remembered how it felt to be an outsider.
When I sat down at the Pathfinder breakfast, the women of BlogHer 2014 welcomed me with warm smiles — as if I had been long lost — and they asked where I had been all of these years.
Over the next few days, many women continued asking about my story, something I had written and rewritten for years but as my words left my throat again and again — I learned about myself and being myself. And these women listened. They got it, like, not just polite nodding, I could see it in their eyes, they got me. I met these women (see above) and in minutes, our collective energy at the front table was strong and positive enough to catch the attention of Richelle Parham (CMO of eBay North America, @RichelleParham) while she spoke on-stage.
I met thoughtful women who speak their mind and they care. A lot. BlogHer women believe in civil disagreement. They believe in keeping the conversation going. They are creative and they iterate on ideas. They’re friendly.
They asked point blank questions about technology, culture, policy, politics, innovation, publication, and blog monetization. Everyone was there to figure out blogging and social networking – no one was an expert. When I ran into new friends later in the conference, they offered introductions and to others on a similar path. Giving, sharing, giving, sharing. I offered my help too. BlogHer women ask everyone to have a point of view, jump in, step up now, and be who you really are because the world needs you.
Yesterday, I left the San Jose Convention Center fortified with the smarts, fellowship, and business cards from my new BlogHer family. Today I’m back here alone at the page plotting my own revolution but if or when I need anything, anything at all, this force of sisterhood is just a few keystrokes and click away. Yes, I will return to the BlogHer conference and in some ways, I will never leave.