So, I went to Ela Conf in Philadelphia, PA this past weekend, and, like, I don’t even know. I don’t even know what happened. I’m going to try and write a blog post, but I’m also sure there’s no way to put the experience into words that properly express how amazing the weekend was.
First, some disclosure. I knew I wanted to go to a conference, but every time I heard about one I could even think of going to, it was impossible–either registration had closed, or going would have cost me a thousand dollars, or both (usually both). Even though I make sweet, sweet developer money now, I’m still a single mom with bills and a crapload of debt, so let’s be real: if it’s gonna cost more than a few hundred bucks to go to something, I’m not going. I’ve heard from other people that a $400 conference ticket is “so cheap”, that the associated $800+ hotel stay is “reasonable for the venue”, and it’s totally okay to do things like fly across the country and eat $100 hotel-restaurant meals in the name of networking. Maybe that’s true for people who aren’t nine months into their first real jobs and don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, but for me? Networking doesn’t keep my lights on and my kid fed. (I guess I could set all the business cards I’d collect on fire for warmth, but that seems impractical.)
Here’s the first amazing thing about Ela: through sponsorship, they were able to pay stipends for speaker travel and childcare, and provide grants for ticket cost to any woman who applied. In case you can’t figure out where this is going, my broke self got a ticket grant, which left me enough money to book a motel in New Jersey and buy gasoline to drive back and forth from Cleveland.
Takeaway: if a small, second-year conference in Philadelphia can get sponsorship enough to do this, why the hell can’t conferences with much more name recognition and/or budget do it, too?