For those unfamiliar with Jelly, it was started in NYC in 2006 by roommates Amit Gupta and Luke Crawford for people who work remotely and don’t regularly get to experience the “creative brainstorming, sharing, and camaraderie of a traditional office.”
Jel·ly (noun) “…a casual working event…where people have come together (in a person’s home, a coffee shop, or an office) to work for the day. We provide chairs and sofas, wireless internet, and interesting people to talk to, collaborate with, and bounce ideas off of. You bring a laptop (or whatever you need to get your work done) and a friendly disposition.” - workatjelly.com
In November 2015, Elle Meredith, then a thoughtbot Development Director, introduced a Women’s Work Jelly hosted in our NYC studio every other month, with the intention of letting other women in tech know that they weren’t alone. Because of tech’s gender imbalance, and as a counterweight to environments hostile toward women, we see the need for events where women are not outnumbered. We’ve seen this allows for more commonalities and shared experiences, and the opportunity to be readily included, heard, and understood. thoughtbot’s Women’s Work Jelly maintains the original Jelly benefits and adds the explicit layer of being a safe and female-friendly space.
I might prefer a female-focused Work Jelly because I am typically outnumbered at work, and there’s a kind of comfort in seeing a concerted effort toward being prioritized and made to feel welcome and encouraged. I come to Women’s Work Jelly because it feels like a community…the thoughtbot team has cultivated a sense of camaraderie that makes me feel like an honored guest and not an outsider. It’s a nice reprieve from the isolation of typical remote work, and I feel like I can ask anyone for help. - Asia Hoe, Product Designer & Jelly attendee
As an attendee, you can make connections, ask questions, find inspiration, find a collaborator, and share advice and common experiences. Additionally, whether you’re an individual or a company with a far-reaching platform, hosting allows the chance to build community, gain insight into challenges, share expertise, learn from others, promote brand, and encourage inclusivity.
Sometimes you know there’s more to do than sit on the sidelines and watch, and and we value everyone’s interest and willingness to participate. Over the past two years, we’ve embraced this opportunity to provide a space and initiative in the movement toward parity. Having hosted 12 events of around 10-30 attendees each, we want to share some of our learnings to help both future hosts and attendees have a successful experience:
- Maintain a team of event hosts/planners who can rotate and share responsibilities. Our current team comprises a thoughtbot designer, developer, and office manager: Brenda Storer, Avielle Wolfe-Thomas-Gilligan, and Stephanie Kuroda.
- If hosting at your office, make sure to get buy-in from everyone on your team. Your co-workers are your co-hosts and creating a great environment only works with everyone’s support.
- Display your Code of Conduct at the event and share it online.
- If you have a large event and cater lunch, use a food-donation service like Rescuing Leftover Cuisine (NYC), who will pick up qualifying food from your office and distribute it to those with food-insecurity.
- thoughtbot starts the day with Standup. This is your opportunity to introduce yourself to everyone at once, let them know what you’re working on, and find a collaborator if you’re interested. You’ll definitely talk with more people throughout the day, but at Standup you can reach most people in attendance.
- If you’re nervous, step out of your comfort zone and talk to people. I’ve heard from many attendees that they were anxious about coming because they didn’t know anyone. thoughtbot’s Women’s Work Jelly is an explicitly welcoming and safe place. Roughly 50% of attendees have never been to a Jelly, so you are not alone.
- thoughtbot also holds lunchtime lightning talks, pulling speakers from both our employee and Jelly attendee pool. Volunteer to give a talk! Presenters frequently use this time to gather feedback or improve their speaking skills when preparing for a conference.
thoughtbot’s next Women’s Work Jelly is in the NYC Studio on Friday, January 26th, 2018.
Register and come join us.