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When Tanya McGinnity first told me about her idea, I was thrilled. Who wouldn’t be? The premise is simple: find a girl geek to speak about an exciting project, hunt down a restaurant that will host a group dinner, and let people mix.

Now simple as that sounds, it isn’t easy to organize. So after the first Montreal Girl Geek Dinner ended in a resounding success, Tanya’s been working hard to host one a month.

There have been talks ranging from starting your own business to hacking on open source software to innovative computer games. Because Montreal is fast becoming an exciting place for technology, there’s no surprise that it’s full of talented geeky women.

Recently, I found a chance to interrupt her busy schedule to ask her a few questions.

Tanya McGinnity
Originally uploaded by Simon Law.

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m a transplanted Maritimer who, due to cod-overfishing, needed to find a new job. So I landed a gig with Matrox Graphics way back in the pre-bubble days.

After the bubble burst, I got into digital marketing and project management with some cool web firms here in Montreal. Now I am currently freelancing with ihaveanidea.org as their Director of Social Medification and webology.

How did Girl Geek Dinners get started?

Montreal Girl Geek Dinners are an offshoot of the London Girl Geek Dinners, started by the awesome Sarah Blow who also runs the Girly Geekdom blog which I contribute to (albeit sporadically!)

What inspired you to start Girl Geek Dinners in Montreal?

Montreal is an incredible city and there are so many interesting and innovative things going on in all sectors—the music scene, startups, film, arts and so on. As a tech geek by trade, I would attend tech events and see that there weren’t too many girls in the crowd. I came across a video clip from one of the Barcamp events where Martine Pagé asked the crowd “Where are the Women?” and I felt like maybe there was something to be explored in creating some smaller scale mixers where girls could hone their presentation skills and meet other people who are as jazzed about being geeky.

Originally uploaded by Simon Law.

Who shows up?

Mainly girls, but we do get quite a few guy geeks too. Most people who attend are invited by someone who has attended a previous event and many others are new Montrealers who are looking to meet new people. There have only been four dinners, so we are a new group but we’re looking to grow and evolve.

What happens at each event?

We eat. We talk. We network. We exchange business cards. A featured speaker gives a presentation on a topic. Then dessert and the cheque. So far, we’ve had dinners featuring Heather Kelley, Angela Byron, Aleece Germano, Kim Vallee and Bronwen Zande.

What topics are you looking for?

Absolutely anything, as long as you are geeky about it. There are plans to do sessions on time-management, comics, nutrition, rock-bands, developing negotiating skills, crafts, as well as some “surprises” in the works.

How can people get involved?

Visit the blog or our Facebook group for more information.

I’m looking for speakers, restaurant suggestions, translators, event planners, help with promotion and anything else that could help this group evolve and meet everyone’s needs. It takes a village to grow a nation of geeks.

Girl Geeks
Originally uploaded by Simon Law.

Special article for Montreal Tech Watch by Simon Law.
Photographs by Janina Szkut and Simon Law,
used under Creative Commons licenses.