Report from the Women-in-Tech Front (a.k.a. GHC19)

Things I learned at Grace Hopper this year:

  • I cannot do basic arithmetic while standing in front of an audience of 200 people. 100 x 1000 really should be doable.
  • Yes there is a wrong way to hold the slide clicker, Mr. “You can’t mess it up” A/V guy. Just Watch Me.

  • It always pays to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger over the Complimentary Hot Breakfast at your hotel. I had good conversations with a woman who works on the Azure team at Microsoft, and a professor emeritus who does research on retention in Computer Science programs.

I spoke at this year’s conference about Restricted Stock Units, and my talk had the titillating title of “Restricted Stock Units: Make the Most of Yours.” I really did try to come up with a remotely interesting or clever title (and I’m usually pretty good with words!), but never could. Ultimately I decided that RSUs = Money, and I’m going to rely on that motivating people to come to my talk. And it did! And they did! And I only felt slightly nauseated looking out over a mostly full ballroom

Even though at least half the audience outright bolted the moment my talk ended, enough women—and one man!—stayed behind, so they could pin me to the wall like ferocious predators until I, the adorable bunny prey, answered their questions. They were, thankfully, very well behaved predators, and I emerged unscathed, but for a slightly ravaged throat and a depleted business card case.

During the conference, a few HR folk and managers mentioned that they often get questions about stock compensation from employees. Companies are legally constrained in what they can tell you (they can’t give you any advice), so the help the HR folks or managers can give is often pretty limited.

With tentative hope, I have observed what looks like a growing trend of tech firms bringing in independent financial planners (as opposed to the person who’s attached to the 401(k) plan) to speak to their employees. And I do hope that companies continue to provide this sort of benefit, because I think that’s the only way that most people are going to get advice from a financial planner whose relative impartiality can be trusted. I don’t think we can expect most people to engage a planner one-on-one.

My Dream for the Grace Hopper Conference

Well, I suppose I have two.

My small dream is not having to schlep my middle-aged butt from above Seattle all the way to Orlando.

My big dream is that one day there will be an entire section in the Career Fair hall dedicated to personal finance. I envision it being staffed by a tiny army of Certified Financial Planner™ professionals with expertise in stock compensation.

Conference attendees would book time and then get, say, a 20-minute “speed advising” session about their most pressing issue. What the hell are these stock option things I just got? Should I exercise them? How many? I have extra money that I can save or put towards my student loans. Which should I do? How should I invest in my 401(k)? Should I buy a home or continue renting? I just got a job offer and I can choose between a higher salary or more equity. Which should I choose?

I mean, wouldn’t it be awesome to be able to dole out personalized (if limited) advice to so many women in tech? And the earlier in their career they are, the more decades their good decisions can compound over.

Resources About RSUs and General Finance Stuff

I think the conference is supposed to make all the slides available (that’s why I put all those damn words on ‘em after all, so they’d be useful afterwards), but just in case, here are the slides from my talk, and a few other resources about RSUs, stock compensation, and personal finance in general:

  • For some comprehensive-enough, accessible-to-“normal”-people education and guidance around equity compensation, Wealthfront’s Equity and IPO Guide. I myself have consulted the guide many times for either a refresher or to bone up on something new or a second opinion, so to speak.
  • If you actually want to be a complete stock compensation nerd, you can always check out mystockoptions.com. It, um…isn’t for the faint of heart. But it is incredibly educational!
  • The XY Planning Networks’ consumer blog. The content here ranges from rudimentary to sort of technical/advanced. The thing I like about it is that it features content from hundreds of different financial planners (sometimes yours truly), so you can find the expertise and style that best suits you.
  • Also check out my FAQ for a list of books about personal finance and investing that I like.

The Grace Hopper Celebration is huge. And a lot of the attendees and especially speakers are impressive in that slightly depressing “What the hell have I been doing while they’ve been out there doing Big Things and making Big Changes?” sort of way. But even from my tiny perch, I can see how important this work—helping women in tech do and feel better about their finances—is.

I think I have been the only speaker about finances for the previous two years (my report from 2017 and 2018, when I was on a panel). To be fair, there have always been sessions on negotiating, which is both very important and not my strong suit. So this year I was really pleased to see at least one other session explicitly about money, which I can’t actually find and link to now, to my chagrin.

Maybe eventually there will even be an entire “Personal Finance” track. That’d be nice.

Did getting inspired to work on your career also inspire you to be a bit more intentional about your finances? Reach out to me at meg@flowfp.com or schedule a free consultation.

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Disclaimer: This article is provided for general information and illustration purposes only. Nothing contained in the material constitutes tax advice, a recommendation for purchase or sale of any security, or investment advisory services. I encourage you to consult a financial planner, accountant, and/or legal counsel for advice specific to your situation. Reproduction of this material is prohibited without written permission from Meg Bartelt, and all rights are reserved. Read the full Disclaimer.

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