I'm not a big fan of BlogHer as a learning experience. I guess you can say I'm not a big fan of conferences as learning experiences period. They are great opportunities to meet and bond with people who share your profession and/or interests, or to discover subjects that you can look into further when you get home, or to find some inspiration, but true learning is not a fair expectation of conferences. That's what multi-day intensive seminars are for.
This is why I didn't expect much out of BlogHer. For me, it was more of chance to take a road trip with the girls and see Jen partake in her first panel. In this respect, it was very successful.
Day 1 - Thursday
The Gray Ghost is washed, its oil is changed, and it is ready for its first big road trip. Four girls (me, Jen, Erika, and Megan) load their luggage, their laptops, a cooler and a hat into the trunk with ease. The first test is passed.
We pile into the car and begin the drive North with little traffic and Jen choosing the soundtrack for our journey. Some Kasabian, The Clash, The White Stripes, and a few other bands play in the background and we chow on burritos and potato tacos from El Camino and chat about women in technology and the professional world in general (but mostly technology).
What it came down to is this - As a gender, we're not used to blowing our own horn and pushing our weight around. Jen cited a study that a colleague of hers did on women bloggers. It showed that a woman with the same tech skills as a man would almost always rate her expertise as lower in comparison to a man with the same skill set. This didn't surprise me considering that I often underestimate my own skills and am unconfident and overly modest in interviews which I don't believe helps me in the least.
I don't think we as women have a special "role" in the professional world. I believe every individual has a unique skill set and personal offering to any project and/or organization, but to say that women have a specific workplace role that is different from men is overly general and has no consideration towards true equity.
Okay, time to step off the soapbox - we arrive in Gilroy and stop at the same fresh fruit stand that we stopped at last year. Ah, the cherries. Yum.
We make our way to the hotel in San Jose, check in, see Jen off to her speakers' dinner, and get back into the car to find dinner for us non-speakers. Sometimes, nothing beats Indian food from a strip mall.
Wanda and Liz arrive later that night to partake in the next day's festivities.
Day 2 - Friday
Wake up to a semi-coherent, hypoglycemic Jen rattling on about needing my car to go to Whole Foods for some food that she can actually eat. I love Jen. I trust Jen, but there is no way in Hell that I am giving her the keys to my semi-new car so that she can take it Lord-Only-Knows-Where in a state of muddled brain function.
So we went off to Whole Foods together with Wanda for provisions. A basket filled with four bottles of wine, some cheese, crackers, and gluten-free bread products later we are ready for a weekend of estrogen.
Came back to the conference in time to the later part of the morning tech sessions and lunch keynote with Caterina Fake and Meg Hourihan. Interesting that their products, which are now known for being fantastically innovative and completely changing the game when it comes to content production, were started almost by accident.
More sessions and then its time to party by the pool. The food was horrible, but the wine was free and MommyBloggers was giving away free temporary tattoos. (I still have extras if anyone wants some.)
Off to Japan Town to get some real food. We found one of those sushi places on a conveyor belt that was pretty good and uber cheap, Sushi Maru. The six of us got away with sushi, edemame, sake, and tempura for $60. Hooray!
We came back to the room, grabbed the wine and cheese from the cooler, and called Jenny and Jen to come party with us. We mostly stuck to wine because the truffle cheese was so stinky it killed our appetite.
Day 3 - Saturday
More sessions. Dry burgers for lunch. Time for Jen's speaking gig - Is Your Blog a Gallery or a Canvas?. She did well. She even rolled with it when a caterpillar tried to commit suicide by jumping from the ceiling onto her table. In times such as that, what can you do but laugh and blog.
Key note with Grace and Arianna Huffington. I couldn't understand half of what Arianna said, but what I could make out was interesting and formidable. She knew blogging was powerful from the very beginning and fully accepted the criticism of her peers early in the process, which made her ability to accept the praise for the blog that much more credible. It must be scary to try and prove something on it's own merits when the outcome is so uncertain.
Party by the pool again. This time with weak martinis courtesy of Yahoo. Run into Mhyla and invite her to join us for cheap sushi at Maru again. (I remember that I was supposed to email her about something, but I completely forget what.)
After dinner, Mhyla drops us off at the hotel and our original group heads back to the room to polish off the last of the wine and the cheese from Cowgirl Creamery and head off to bed.
Day 4 - Sunday
The next morning we split up. Megan took a plane back to LA to finish packing for her move to St. Louis. Wanda and Liz got an early start on their ride back to LA. Erika went off to have brunch with a childhood friend. Jen and I drove up to San Francisco to visit with Mea and her new baby.
After we have had our fill of cuteness I drag Jen away from the house of Mea to meet Erika back in San Jose to begin our journey home. But not before we stop in Cupertino for dim sum.
The ride home is more about the music that the conversation. We're all spent and Jen is enjoying the Zen of a long drive. By the time we reach the Grapevine we're famished. We need food, but we made a pact to not settle for anything less than In-N-Out, which was another hour away in Valencia. We finally get there, we park and waste no time ordering food.
Mmmm.... burger bliss. We make it home in one piece and go our separate ways to bed. Satisfied that the trip was exactly what we expected, a fun time among friends.