Women Leaders Unite: Report from Lean In Leadership Conference 2019

by: Fanny Surjana

August in San Francisco is perfect for a lot of people – nice, sunny weather with few humidity in the air. For 2019, I went representing Lean In San Diego for the 2 days Lean In leadership conference in the city where the headquarters (HQ) is located. All my expenses are paid for by the organization – hotel, domestic flight and food.

I arrived at SFO in Harvey Milk terminal, passing by historical stories on the wall about Milk to remind me that I’ve arrived in one of the most important places in the world. In here, people thrive on making change happens.

I arrived late at night around 730pm, then within 10 short minutes using a shuttle I’ve arrived at the Hyatt Regency SFO hotel. Check-in was smooth, the hotel staff were nice and friendly.

“We have something for you, hold on.” The hotel staff asked for my name, then he shuffled around a big pack of white envelopes. “Here you go,” he smiled when he found my envelope with my name on it, “Have a nice stay!” The hotel room was nice and comfortable. Exhausted from airport craziness, I laid myself down the bed while checking out the envelope that was given to me. It’s handwritten. What a really nice, personal touch. I freshened up to get ready for tomorrow morning.

First day

The next day, around 8am I went down to get breakfast and had a great talk on my table with a couple of women. “This is my second time”, one of the leaders say during breakfast on the first day. I mentioned that it’s my first time – last year Jennifer, our interim president, was there. “She decided to rotate the conference between us in the group”

“Oh, that’s great!” she said. We then discussed the logistics of the conference. Apparently there are more than 90 women leaders from 32 countries present. Some had more than 20 hours flight just days before and still suffering from jetlag.

The first day of the conference, we were treated to great women speakers and several workshops. I especially like Dr. Berry’s talk about how she managed to overcome her challenges and urge us to tell our own story to make a difference in the world. We also have #IamRemarkable workshop by Google, a presentation by Emilie from Getty Images regarding their LeanIn photos collection, and finally a design-thinking workshop by IDEO SF which is one of the best design firms in the world.

For dinner on the first day, we visited Sheryl’s house to celebrate her 50th birthday with the LeanIn team. Sheryl lives in a beautiful modern compound, housing a garden with a pavilion and a pool in the middle where we had the party. Dinner is served buffet style with free-flowing wines and appetizers. Satays with peanut sauce are especially good – I took at least three. We had great conversations with Sheryl and took a lot of photos with provided professional photographer.

Second day

The next day, after breakfast we had an inspiring talk by Dr. Julie – former Dean of Freshmen at Stanford – on becoming yourself. Following through is a very energetic, funny talk by Lisa Fetterman – Founder and CEO of Nomiku – about how having a community save her startup several times. We then have a discussion about setting network goals for 2020 and plan necessary resources to get there.

Next is a panel discussion continuing on the same community theme. The panel consists of experts from Facebook, Survey Monkey, Eventbrite and Slack. They were on stage to share their insider info on how to manage and engage communities online using their tools with a lively Q&A followed after the panel. After that, on a social media workshop by Nikki from HQ, we were introduced to special hashtags that will notify them so they can repost and amplify our social media posts further.

We were then given several workshop choices to help us with engagement for both leadership team or circle/network members, finding sponsors or organizing large network events. For closing, all the leaders were instructed to define their “One Action” to take home. I’ve decided to write “go for corporate sponsors” as our one action – to be discussed by the other team members on our next leadership meeting. Then we have to share it out loud with our group and close it with one hand clap for each declaration. Once we had our turns, our workshop leader then closed it down with a huge round of applause.

Dinnertime spent in downtown San Francisco at Sens, a restaurant overlooking the Ferry building and the Bay. At night, the building glows, prompting women to memorize the sights. After Rachel gave her appreciation to the fabulous team behind the conference, we then merry our way into even more conversations, exchanging contact information or dancing to the energetic music beats.

After having enough goodness, I said my goodbyes to the nearby women, gratitude to the Lean In HQ team and went back to the hotel.

Where to go from here?

After the conference, I feel inspired and valued by the Lean In organization. I feel the momentum growing worldwide up-close by the women leaders. There’s a huge demand for the work that we are doing. Getting to equality is a long hard work and we can’t do it efficiently unless we work together. On behalf of Lean In San Diego, I want to say thanks again for the great conference – Lean In HQ, you rock! Until next year!

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