As I fly home after an amazing conference at BeJs in Belgium, I look back on the the conversations had with the diverse group of speakers.
At this conference we got to give our talk in front of people and have a panel discussion involving the audience which was so much fun and then network after the talks. And as speakers we got to not just have dinner together but also hang out for a full day on a tour of Belgian cities with beer and chocolate. We got to know each other, spend a day together doing non tech things and we got to know the person behind the code.
The speakers tour was very diverse with people from India, Tunisia, Morocco, Israel, Ireland, England, Greece, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Germany and Italy. People of different nationalities, different religions, different skin color, men, women, straight and gay. Nobody felt like the odd one out because we were all different, all unique, all special in our own way.
When you step back from the nationality, the color, the religion the sex etc you just get a bunch of people who become a great bunch of friends. This is tech. This is what tech should be like always, for everyone.
When you meet the people behind the code. When you get to know them and hear their stories. Some who struggle to get visas because of where they were born. People not accepted because of how they look, how they choose to dress, or simply because of their sex or color of skin. How can we make someone feel like they don't belong or the they are not good enough because of these things? It makes no sense at all.
It shouldn't be like this. Not anymore. Yet it is. And we need to fix this. When I talk about trying to get more women in tech I am not trying to have women take over the tech industry and leave men with no place. That is no where near what it's about. I have no intention on forcing tech on anyone who doesn't want to be in this field. But those who do. I want to make sure they know that they do belong, they do deserve to be here and they do have a place in tech because tech is for everyone.
I am aware that it's not always easy and I have also been through tough times. I wanted to give up and walk away but had great mentors who ensured I didn't and thanks to them I am still here. When I write in my journal what my dream is, I always write that I want to be valued and respected. I write this yet this is surely something one should get by default. This shouldn't be something I have to wish for. Yet sometimes it is.
Unfortunately the world is not perfect. We as humans can be selfish, jealous and mean. We have to try harder to be better people. We have to try harder to just create a better world in tech.
I spent a lot of time with very talented developers, some who were almost half my age. They are our future and they are the ones who can ensure that this world is inclusive and diverse. As awareness is created and we begin to hear other peoples stories, we start to see that we still have a long way to go. But the young people of today want to help fix it and I think they really can and will achieve this.
As for minority groups. The only way we can fix this is by being there. By not walking away. By not giving up. No matter how hard it is. And for some it will be hard, for some they will have to deal with difficult managers, difficult colleagues, be treated badly for no reason. We can't stop this just like that.
But we can slowly do it so the next generation grows up in a world where going to a conference won't mean they are one of few women, or people of color etc. It will mean they just feel like they belong, like they fit in.
This is obviously sometimes hard to do especially in certain countries. But when it comes to speakers, we can certainly make sure diversity is covered. And when someone in the audience looks on stage and sees another women, or person of color, or gay person or asian person etc they will feel like they do belong and they too can get on that stage and be the next speaker and help influence others.
I am Irish and have Spanish family, Greek family and Bahraini family. We are all very different. We have different religion and customs, we speak different languages and hold different passports and look different. But to me, I don't see any of that. They are just my family. My cousins. My Irish cousins, my Greek cousins and my Bahraini cousins are just all my cousins.
And thats how you should treat people in tech as if they are all just your cousins from other walks of life.
Let's make a better world. Or at least let's try.
My DMs are always open if you ever feel like you don't belong or feel you are being treated badly by others. Reach out. Let's get through this together. Let's fix the diversity in tech.