How the lessons I learned playing basketball shape the colleague I am today

It’s a running joke at my office that at least once a week I’ll start a sentence with “when I played basketball…” or “I once had a coach who would tell us…” My colleagues have learned to accept it, and there is in fact now a book of sports metaphors kicking around because of an argument I once instigated about whether a “full court press” was an appropriate analogy for something that happened in a meeting.

A photo of women on a basketball court, huddled around their couch during a timeout.
A photo of women on a basketball court, huddled around their couch during a timeout.
A timeout when I played at Saint Mary’s University. I’m number 12, with the white headband on.

So with all that in mind, here are some things my coaches have taught me, and how they continue to echo in my actions…

(Or a series of terrifying wins)

Occasionally, driven by simultaneous desires for nostalgia and for procrastination, I’ll look back at my calendar to see what I was doing one year ago, or two, or five. As it happens, one year ago right now, Gabe stood in front of a crowd in Toronto to say “it’s time for Code for Canada.” I sat in the back of the room with Twitter open, trying to keep up.

Since then, we’ve done a lot.

Executive Director Gabe Sawhney introduces Code for Canada to the world at our launch event in Toronto on April 5, 2017.

When we launched, our…

On partnering with humans

When we talk about our partnerships, we often talk about the amazing organizations we partner with. And that makes sense. But I want to highlight something else about them: a great partnership is all about the humans behind it. MOUs, charters, and contracts are important, but at the end of the day, you live and die by the humans on the other end. Luckily at Code for Canada, we’ve done a whole lot of living and no dying. …

(Or, how to bring different work cultures together and prepare them for success)

The inaugural Code for Canada fellows have touched down with their government hosts after four weeks of onboarding. While it’s tempting to look ahead toward everything the fellows will accomplish, we think it’s equally important to look back at onboarding itself. When we were designing training, we started by doing research with our friends from Code for America, Code for Australia, and other members of the Code for All network that run fellowships. We also did some inquiry into the onboarding processes for other fellowships and related programs in Canada, like the Studio Y Fellowship at MaRS and several public…

I’m thrilled to have helped launch Code for Canada. As I write this, we are days away from our public launch, and I’m thinking about all the exciting things that this organization will make possible.

And whenever I think about the possibility ahead of us, I’m also reminded that it is matched by an equally immense responsibility.

We have a responsibility to be Code for all of Canada. We have a responsibility to push back against exclusionary norms around gender, race, and other identities that are all too common in the tech industry.

As we scale our organization and develop…

I spend a lot of time feeling grateful to be part of a community like Civic Tech Toronto. It’s a group of people with diverse backgrounds who get together every Tuesday night to work on projects that use technology, data, and design to address civic issues. While I’m there every week the energy seems normal, but occasionally I am reminded of just how special this community is. It’s pretty remarkable to see how much people care about civic life, and how much energy and creativity they bring to improving it.

Recently, Civic Tech Toronto played host to the Youth Employment…

The civic tech movement is experiencing some growing pains. This summer, Daniel X. O'Neil provocatively declared that the movement “should be shelved” and Joshua Tauberer countered that critics’ dissatisfaction with the movement comes from unreasonable expectations, not inherent problems with the enterprise. It became clear to some of us that we need to set realistic expectations for ourselves by being clear about what exactly we’re working towards.

To this end, a group of organizers at Civic Tech Toronto decided to create a “theory of change” model to describe how we see the impacts of the community’s activities. A theory of…

Lia Milito

Cheerful, curious, and tall. Managing Director at @code4ca.

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