I've been on the Systers mailing list for a while, and I've learned a lot from all the wonderful tech women on the list. 2012 marks the 25th Anniversary of Systers, and there are worldwide meetups in celebration. I volunteered to organize the dinner for the Bay Area, which was quite a ride.
Initially we were going to Amarin Thai for dinner. I was happily watching the RSVP number go up on the meetup page, until it hit 35. That's the capacity of the private dining room at Amarin. At that point I was really torn. On one hand I wanted to meet as many cool women as possible, on the other hand I didn't know how many no-shows I can count on. It would be bad if we had to turn people away at the door, so I started looking into Plan B, which involved asking Amarin to cater to a larger venue. Getting Amarin to cater was easy, but where do I find a place to host the dinner?
The solution came to me after I went for a swim at Eagle Park Pool. On my way out, I saw the Masonic Center, and I remember seeing people going there for a folk dance night some other time. Maybe they have a meeting hall for rent? I checked their website afterwards, and indeed they do! A phone call later I confirmed that the 100-person dining hall was available on Jan 26, so I knew there would be a Plan B.
Once the RSVP number crossed 40 I decided to switch to Plan B. Since the cost of the dining hall was fixed, the more people came, the cheaper it would come out. So I started sending emails to my friends at different companies to invite all the women engineer to join us for dinner. At the end we had 80 RSVPs!
55 Systers showed up for dinner tonight, and we had a wonderful time. Robin Jeffries, Her Systers' Keeper, shared with us the history of Systers, Grace Hopper Celebration, the Pass-It-On Awards, and other interesting tidbits on Systers and women in computing. BJ Wishinsky then told us the different ways we can be involved with the online communities around women in technology.
I also gave a little speech, but that's because I forgot to include gratuity in the initial calculation of the cost of the food, and came short on money. Fortunately everyone was very generous in chipping in, and we ended up with extra money for the Pass-It-On Awards Program.
I'm exhausted from all the excitement right now, but I'm very glad that I did it! I made some awesome new friends tonight, and I hope that there will be more meetups to come!