It is fair to say I am the very embodiment of ‘pale, male and stale’ — a 45 year old white bloke who perhaps likes the sound of his own voice a little too much. I am at least self aware enough to realise this :)
In recent years I have been doing quite a bit of public speaking — I’m probably solid ‘C-list’ — I’m rarely in the big rooms but I don’t let the organisers down, the people who attend usually enjoy my talks and go away with a few things to think about if nothing too life-changing. I still find the run-up to speaking horribly nerve-wrecking but I cope much better now and continue to enjoy the process of creating a new talk — and iterating on existing ones based on feedback.
That said I am aware of my privilege and the last couple of years I have refused to speak on ‘manels’ and generally try to speak at events that try to deal with their diversity issues. I also have taken to trying to recommend people who aren’t white males for talks when I’ve been asked for suggestions or when I’ve been asked to speak and it doesn’t really work for me.
I’ve been thinking this still isn’t quite enough so my idea for 2019 (and onwards maybe) is that I am going to try and do ‘pair presenting’. Basically this boils down to this; any idea I have for a talk I will ask someone who is not a white male to partner on it with me (working it up from the initial stub of an idea — if that means it changes ¯\_(ツ)_/¯). I’ll take the burden of handling the ‘calls for speakers’ etc if that helps, the slide wrangling, when there is only cover for expenses etc for one speaker I can forgo that in favour of whoever I am speaking alongside as I have more flexibility around that sort of thing than most and generally I’ll try and take as much of the burden on to encourage people who wouldn’t usually apply to speak to get the opportunity.
This will I’m sure lead to better talks, will bring new voices to stages and generally I hope just be a good thing.
First up is ‘Service Design in Government’ where I am speaking alongside the amazing Jenny Vass on the topic of improving hiring for digital teams in Government (and the wider public service). Jenny brings so much knowledge, experience and war stories on this topic I totally believe this will be miles better than if I had done it solo.
I am also hopefully working on something about agile teams and ways of working themed about the Westrum culture stuff with the brilliant Ann Kempster — somebody who totally needs to be out there speaking on these topics. Just check out this recent Twitter thread — she has so much hard earned wisdom to share. It is safe to say Mark Dalgarno and friends might see a proposal at a future Agile in the City event.
While I haven’t even mentioned it to her I also have an idea on a new take on my working in the open themed talk that I would love to get Amanda’s take on — I would really like to move beyond the ‘why’ and ‘who’ and starting getting down to the ‘how’ much more.