Last week’s first Tech Inclusion Conference, put on by Wayne Sutton and Melinda Epler with the support of Galvanize and lots of sponsors and funders, was one of those events that people will look back on in a few years and say, “You were there?”
The conference not only set a new bar for a great code of conduct, gender neutral bathrooms, wonderful local vendors and suppliers (Go Town Kitchen, Mamacita’s and Red Bay Coffee!), it was truly inclusive, focusing on so many different kinds of humans and their places in the worlds of tech, innovation, entrepreneurship, and work.
For weeks beforehand, I looked forward to going, joking with friends, “Of course it will be great, everyone will agree!” But the actual event was so much better than what I imagined, and the range of presenters was so great, I’m still replaying conversations from the Friday I spent there in my mind.
Some highlights for me:
- Moms being celebrated in a conference not about Moms
- The sensitive discussions of emotional and mental challenges, especially depression—also rarely talked about
- Young people—ages 17-20— being able to speak for themselves about what they wanted and needed in tech
- The lack of separation between the audience and the speakers—and the deep insights of both. Everyone was talking, deeply, and there was so much to say.
- Seeing Christina Lewis Halpern of All Star Code, a NYC program similar in some ways to Hack the Hood, and Felecia Hatcher, Co-Founder of Code Fever, youth workshops in Miami.
- Talking to Abby from Pinterest and Jessica from Automattic about working with Hack the Hood—such cool products and companies.
My biggest takeaway, through, was that inclusion really is a snowball, in some ways.
As you talk about one type of inclusion, and then add another, the snowball gets bigger and bigger, until all the parts fit together in one whole and it starts to seem illogical to not support people of color working in tech, and woman, and parents, and people with mental health challenges, and people who need to, practice better self care (like all of us, right?) and older people and youth. We can make that happen, if we all work on it together, right?
I think I was happy be cause I walked out of the Tech Inclusion conference not only feeling like I’d met some great people and had exciting discussions about plans and ideas, but actually feeling like all of us, through our actions could make the tech industry —and the everyday world we lived in— a better place.
And that has me still smiling, because I want to help make it true.