Thursday, September 24, 2015

Beyond the Code: A Day of Diversity and Inspiration

Monday was a day of inspiration and diverse voices.  It was the second annual Beyond the Code conference in Ottawa, a labour of love for a group of volunteers mostly from Shopify.  As described on the official webpage, "Beyond the Code is a positive, solutions-driven conference for anyone interested in diversifying the technology sector. We’re building a supportive environment for underrepresented groups in tech, to help you build a fulfilling career and feel empowered to make positive changes in your community."

The speaker lineup this year was spectacular, and you can read my lives notes for a bunch of the sessions.

The keynote this year was Hilary Mason, lover of data, cheeseburgers, and apparently Red Bull pancakes.  Mason is a self-confessed optimist: she is a believer in technical progress and in the underlying goodness of humanity.  In her talk, she focused on technology, organizations, and people.  Some of the biggest takeaways for me included that data is exciting, machines are getting more creative, and people aren't fungible.

My job at the conference was to introduce workshop speakers and see if they needed any help.  The one I participated in most was a design thinking workshop lead by Barbara Spanton of Macadamian.  It was a really well organized workshop that had participants work through each stage of design thinking to design a new wallet for their partners.  The prototypes everyone created were really quite good!

All the other speakers I saw were equally as awesome – like Kelly Shearon, who taught us how to better value the "less technical" roles on our teams, Safia Abdalla, who shared her insights on how to effectively teach, and Jen Myers, who shared her wisdom on how to be awesome.  The closing panel of the conference, however, was a perfect way to wrap up the day.

Lead by Cate Huston, the panel featured Omosola Odetunde, Kat Li, Tai Dickerson, Lori Olson, and Marco Rogers.  The coolest thing about it was that it did not cover only women as a diversity issue, but also issues of ethnicity, sexuality, gender, etc.  Cate did a really good job of starting where most panels end, and pushing discussion of the issues further than usual.  For example, instead of the conversation devolving to be all about the pipeline, panellists talked about not just hiring, but retention as well.

Again, you can check out my live notes for the conference, which include quite a bit on most of these talks (only the workshop is missing).  Be sure to watch for next year's Beyond the Code, which I hear might even have a new location.  Hope to see you there!


Anonymous said...

Gail, this is amazing. It is very inspiring to see someone so dedicated to really helping push minorities so that they can have their space in tech. I'm a minority in the tech/STEM fields, thanks for spreading such a wonderful message :)

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