Elements of Inspiration - Perspectives on TEDx Peachtree 2017

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This fall, Helpfully asked our friends & followers to nominate women in technology who could benefit from attending the TedX Peachtree conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

We had dozens of wonderful nominations, and it was hard to narrow it down to just two winners - but we’re so glad we chose Samantha Maida (GE Digital) and Natalie Gauvin (Home Depot) - two very deserving bright stars in the technology world.

This was the inaugural TED event for both Gauvin and Maida.  We asked them to share a little bit about themselves and their individual experiences at TED.

Natalie Gauvin

Gauvin is new to the Atlanta area this year - her interesting journey brings her to the South, from Canada, by way of Hawaii!  (We have to admit, we’re anticipating the day when we get to hear her utter a sentence that starts with “y’all” and ends with “eh”.)  She’s an experienced consultant and lecturer on Design & Research, and is currently working on her PhD in Learning Design and Technology (LTEC) remotely, until returning to Honolulu for graduation ceremonies in 2018.

Gauvin’s PhD work focuses on how personas impact perceptions of empathy for users in the UX and instructional design communities.  So it’s no surprise that her most positive impressions of the TEDx event were around the connections she made with other attendees.  (We’re thrilled to give you a taste of that Southern Hospitality, Natalie!)

The range and diversity of speaking topics at the event also dazzled Gauvin.  She told Helpfully that she felt each speaker brought a unique and much-needed voice to the stage.  However, Dr. Krzysztof Czaja’s talk on sugar’s impact to our diets and bodies was a particularly memorable part of the day, because that message is relevant each time we make food and drink choices throughout the day.  (Learn more about Czaja’s research HERE).

“A huge thank you to Zach Pousman and the team at Helpfully for making my attendance at TEDxPeachtree possible, also for my friend Havana Nguyen, who nominated me for this great opportunity in the first place.  I have found that people in the UX community in Atlanta to be very helpful, and it’s people like Zach and Havana who help to promote and uplift others so that we can all share resources, and networks to reach our goals together.” - Natalie Gauvin

Samantha Maida

Contrary to Gauvin, Samantha Maida is not new to the South.  She’s a (rare) Atlanta native and (not-so-rare) passionate Georgia Tech alumna and fan.  Maida has spent several years in product development and management in several industries, and is currently focused on security initiatives at GE Digital.  Because of that current role, Maida was excited to hear from Justin Daniels at this event; she recapped his talk on Cybersecurity with us:  “He talks about how businesses are so motivated by bringing new products to market to increase revenue, but security is an afterthought. Innovation is happening so quickly, that security can’t keep up. He challenges society to slow down, and re-focus – as a group. With proactive collaboration, we can limit the threat.”  Well said, Samantha!

As Maida continues to grow in her career, she shared that she’ll also be applying a critical skill presented by Dana Kanze in her talk about gender bias in venture financing.  Kanze shared her research findings that ideas are more readily supported when a presenter or requestor utilizes “promotional” speech (proactive/positive focus) versus “prevention” speech (defensive/what if focus).

Common Inspiration

“I just wish we could take the positive energy and enthusiasm for change from TEDxPeachtree and live it daily outside the walls of the auditorium.” - Natalie Gauvin

Although our TEDx winners attended the event separately, we found some commonalities when comparing feedback on their respective experiences.

Both were astounded by the first speech of the day from Tejas Athni, a high school student who made a discovery about plant extracts’ ability to shrink brain tumors.

And both women love calling Atlanta their home, but each is headed out west in 2018 for some exciting adventures - Gauvin for her PhD graduation celebration, and Maida hopes to return to her new favorite part of the US, Sedona Arizona, for more hiking.

Here at Helpfully, we loved giving these driven, accomplished, impressive women in technology a chance to hear from others who are passionate about having a positive impact on the world.  If you’re interested in more from TED, check out their site HERE.  And we’d love to discuss your favorite talks at our next Helpfully lunch in Atlanta - if interested, fill out our form HERE.