An Interview with two Aspiring Speakers — Dominika Malinowska and Carly Richmond

Carly Richmond and Dominika Malinowska

I recently got the chance to talk to Dominika Malinowska and Carly Richmond about their experiences with the Aspiring Speakers program.

At RecWorks we have seen the benefits of public speaking and watched numerous tech professionals grow both personally and professionally. This is why we built the Aspiring Speakers group as one of the initiatives we are involved with under the ByRecWorks umbrella.

Starting the group came from a desire to help tech professionals get into public speaking and reap the rewards we’ve seen so many experience in our time leading user groups and communities. We designed the program as a safe and encouraging way for people to begin their speaking journey… or just to dip a toe. Like all the initiatives in the ByRecWorks network, it is completely free to join and participate in. We run the program as a focal point for tech professionals to learn, exchange ideas, and challenge themselves.

Here is what Dominika and Carly had to say after their recent experience:

Why did you decide to do a lightning talk?

Dominika: The main reason was to dip my toes in the water. I’ve wanted to get into conference speaking for some time but did not really know if I had it in me. Doing a lighting talk was a great way to try it out, without too much time commitment. After all, five minutes is not that long!

Carly: I’ve done a few lightning talks since joining the Aspiring Speakers group in summer 2020. From my first talk to this latest one in February 2021, I’ve had the objective of wanting to build some confidence in speaking and get some validation that the topic I’ve selected is interesting and useful to others.

What were your expectations going into it?

Dominika: Although I have done some virtual teaching in the past which is kind of similar, I was still very nervous. I was worried I would choke, or the audience would not care for my talk. Equally, I knew the LJC [London Java Community] are a supportive community, especially to new speakers, so I had an inkling that whatever happened I would probably be fine.

Carly: I was probably just as nervous about this talk as I was for the first lightning talk that I did! It’s the first time I’ve done a lightning talk referring to code snippets, so I was worried about overrunning. My practice sessions that I did myself overran too, which didn’t help!

How did you feel it went, and how did you feel afterwards?

Dominika: Most of my nerves melted away as soon as I started the talk. It helped that those audience members who had their cameras on looked interested and smiled when I tried to be funny. There was positive feedback straight after and questions which further reassured me that people actually listened and maybe even liked what I had to say. Overall, I think it went much better than I expected.

Carly: I felt really accomplished after the talk. I received a lot of positive feedback, and some great questions were asked afterwards too. It was a nice validation that I knew what I was talking about!

Did you get any expected or unexpected benefits from it?

Dominika: I guess the unexpected benefit was how much more confident I feel about doing my talk. I was hoping to just validate that I could do public speaking but instead ended up feeling great and excited to do it again.

Carly: I definitely finished wanting to build a longer version of the talk, as well as potentially another lightning talk based on some of the questions that were asked. I also had a couple of people reach out to chat about BDD practices and my experiences. Those conversations turned out to be very interesting indeed, and I feel both sides learned something new from those discussions.

What are the next steps looking like for you?

Dominika: I have already signed up for my next talk. This time, I will be doing a longer talk of around twenty to thirty minutes and on a more technical subject. I might have just caught the speaking bug!

Carly: I’m given a longer talk on the same topic to Front Endgineers next week, which I’m really excited about. Thankfully, those questions people asked helped me build out the talk with more content. I’m also on the lookout for other meetups and potentially a conference to give the talk at too. Watch this space!

Any final words about recommendations for others to do it?

Dominika: One of the biggest motivators for me was to just sign up to do a talk. I knew that I would never be ready to do one, and I would probably find a hundred different excuses why I could not sit down to write a talk. Committing to speak at an LJC event gave me something to work towards. So, if you are unsure or not quite ready, just sign up for one anyway. Having that hard deadline will allow you to get everything in place. Plus, you will never be ready until you actually do it!

Carly: Before I started giving these talks, I didn’t think I had anything interesting to say. Or that I wasn’t enough of an expert to talk about tech outside of work and my personal blog. It’s a nice feeling realising that my experiences, technical or not, can help others if I talk about them more widely. If I can give a lightning talk, or even a longer meetup talk, so can you!

It’s a pleasure to know that tech professionals like Dominika and Carly are enjoying the benefits the Aspiring Speakers program set out to provide. If you’re wondering about taking the plunge, just listen to our speakers and do it. We schedule events on a regular basis and welcome anyone who wants to give it a try. The ByRecWorks network is set up to give you a tech environment where you can share, discuss, and meet new contacts in a friendly and supportive atmosphere. I hope to see you there.

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