Building a conference to break down walls
For the past few months I’ve been planning the first conference in the north west centred around diversity in tech.
It began as an idea I had in January when, still on a high from Tech Inclusion, I was unable to take my sons to AfroTech Fest because it was in London and I’d found out about it too late. The Diverse & Equal Tech Conference NW is now just over 6 weeks away. Back then I had the determination to make it happen but I was less clear on the HOW.
As Martin Luther King said: “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” Here’s what I’ve learned from the steps I’ve taken so far.
1. You can’t do it all by yourself
I’ve planned events before and I know how all-consuming they can be. I started off by pulling together a team of people with complementing skills that I knew would be able to help me bring this vision to life. Most of them I’d worked closely with before, all of them trusted — Rachel Murray, Fiona Linton-Forrest, Asha Joseph, Marisha Wisdom and Rachael Goodwin.
2. You can give yourself a head start if you begin with the end in mind
One Saturday back in April, the team sat down for our first planning session. This is where the conference started to take shape after living in my head since January. One of the most valuable exercises we did was a pre-mortem where we envisioned what failure would look like if the conference were to go wrong. Although seeing all of these nightmare scenarios written down on paper almost made me cry — with most of the risks identified, it enabled us to create a plan that took them into consideration, ensuring that the bases are covered.
3. It’s not as easy as it looks
Planning a conference is a LOT of work. Finding and securing the venue and deciding how the day will run is the easy part. There are a million details that you don’t even think about until they’re stopping you from moving on to another step. What’s working for me is dedicating a couple of hours every morning to run through my to-do list. I also am fortunate to be around people who have organised events before — their tips and advice help to keep me sane.
4. Talk of diversity initiates intense conversations
In my journey over the past few months, I’ve come across some of the most passionate and interesting people I’ve ever met. They all realise how important diversity is, but recognise that collectively, the tech industry isn’t doing enough — especially in the north west. In pockets across the region, these people are doing amazing work and really making a difference.
5. Passion opens doors
I am what is referred to as an ‘ambivert’ — extrovert in some situations, introvert in others. My passion for this conference, however, and the ability to speak about it (for hours and hours if unchecked) has reduced the majority of the stress I sometimes feel in social situations. I even spoke at the CodeYourFuture conference in June, in front of an audience of 130+ and loved every minute of it.
6. It’s busy, busy, busy
All the tasks myself and the team are doing on this conference are outside of work — and most of the speakers and sponsor contacts typically have day jobs too. Consequently, following up has been the most time consuming part of the planning, so next year, we’ll reach out to multiple potential keynote speakers at the same time, and also enlist PA help from the very start.
7. People REALLY want the tech industry in the NW to be diverse and inclusive
I have been embraced and aided at every step of this journey. Thank you to Danielle Haugedal-Wilson, Gemma Cameron, Andy Pipes, Kirsty Devlin, Emer Coleman, Beena Puri, Rebecca Rae Evans, Ben Aldred, Vimla Appaddoo, Amy Lynch, Liz Scott, Patricia Keating, Naomi Timperley, Neil Vasser, Matt Weaver, Marketing by Asha, Alex Lynham, Oliver Quaye, Ruth Ibegbuna, Karen Lindop, Gail Lyons and the many more lovely people that have offered their support.
We are SO excited to share this event with you.