How to Turn a Three-Day Conference Into a Year-Round Online Community

We love the Anita Borg Institute for tirelessly advocating for women who work in the male-dominated technology industry. Fondly known as, they convene 18,000+ women at their annual conference to inspire and help them forge connections that last women’s entire professional careers.

Challenge hosts one of the most powerful conferences for Women in Tech in the world. But the energy from the conference wasn’t sustained after attendees went home. They wanted to know: could we provide an equally-powerful experience 365 days a year, in an already-saturated marketplace of social networks and online communities?


Do exploratory research to learn exactly what it is that women technologists need to be successful on a daily basis, and confirm the market viability for such an online community.


Our extensive research produced an invaluable set of six audience personas, confirmation of market opportunity, initial features and functionalities for the recommended platform, and user journey maps indicating opportunities for engagement on and beyond the platform.

Our user research was both in-depth and broad-based.

We began our work by conducting one-on-one interviews with 20 individuals, and distributing a broad-based survey to over 40,000 contacts on the email list. The individual conversations surfaced invaluable qualitative insights and powerfully candid quotes, while the survey confirmed those insights with solid quantitative data.

From this research, we developed six unique personas across life and career stages — including two that had never before considered. We outlined the nuanced needs, motivations, challenges, and success states from our interview and survey findings. As we looked for patterns and commonalities across all six personas, three core needs became apparent.

Smiling woman with bright red hair
Smiling professional woman leading a meeting
Smiling professional woman with fancy earrings
Serious busineswoman in a meeting

Our landscape analysis evaluated competitors and identified market opportunities.

With the findings from our user research in hand, we set out to complete a landscape analysis and determine market opportunity. From our in-depth evaluation of six platforms and high-level evaluations on over 20 more, we identified features and functionality that could be improved upon, and gaps that an platform could fill. Our conclusion was that yes, there was indeed a strong market opportunity for such a platform.

Persona example from

“ThinkShout worked hand-in-hand with us to reveal our blind spots, boost our empathy for our audiences, and provide the information we needed to take decisive next steps.”

~ Genie Gratto, Senior Director, Marketing Communications & PR

Envisioning a new platform: features, functionality, and UX.

Having confirmed market opportunity, the final phase of our exploratory research was to develop a set of requirements for a minimal viable product to launch. We mapped out user journeys for all six of the personas we had identified, identifying opportunities for to engage with their audiences on this platform, at their events, and through other core programmatic offerings.

Serious busineswoman whiteboarding a flowchart
Woman using a smart phone waiting for a train.
Two women sorting through features with post-it notes
Several people ina meeting.

User research is always worth the investment.

While ultimately decided not to invest in a platform for reasons beyond our scope of work, the research we produced has benefitted the entire organization’s programmatic offerings. The insights into their audiences and the greater landscape in which they operate have proven invaluable to as they continue to fight for women’s equal place in tech.

View Landscape Analysis Blog Post

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