Diversity + Inclusion in Tech Summit Recap

Tracy Sternberg

DIVERSITY + INCLUSION IN TECH SUMMIT RECAP
WRITTEN BY TRACY STERNBERG
DIRECTOR OF PROGRAMS + SPONSORSHIP
NC TECH

I joined NC TECH in May 2017 as the director of programs and sponsorship.  At my first large event, the overwhelming number of white men in attendance really hit me like a ton of bricks.   New in my role, I had the official list of items I needed to undertake, but I added diversity and inclusion to my personal list of things I wanted to tackle. 

From there, we hosted several short panel discussions on diversity and inclusion around the state over the next couple of years, but I wanted to do more…have a bigger impact. 

Fast forward to early 2019.   I was meeting with one of NC TECH’s great member companies.  We were discussing ways to refresh some of our programming and build opportunities for meaningful and relevant engagement for our members while improving our community and state.  It was such an inspiring conversation and really gave me the blueprint for developing a conference around diversity and inclusion in tech.  I felt the time was right – right to shine a light on diversity and inclusion in the tech sector and for NC TECH to establish itself as a leader and connector in this space. 

We decided to move forward and from there, we reached out to several influential leaders from companies like APC, Blue Acorn/iCi, Deutsche Bank, Fidelity Investments, IBM, SAS, and Walk West to serve as our planning committee.   I found that they were just as eager to take on this topic as I was.  After several meetings, we had the bones to the agenda for NC TECH’s inaugural Diversity + Inclusion In Tech Summit.  We all agreed we wanted it to be different and engage a different audience than other similar conferences.  We wanted to make sure CEOs, CIOs and other IT leaders were in attendance, but still welcome all levels and organizations.  We also wanted to hit a wide breadth of topics and touch on a variety of different types of diversity that go beyond race and gender.  We built a great summit to be hosted on March 13th at RTP.  And then came COVID-19 and the decision was made to postpone the conference.  After weeks of agonizing over what to do next, we later decided to make it a virtual event rather than cancel because we felt like the topic was too important not to move forward.   Obviously, we did not know that the tragedies such as the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Aubrey would take place and the diversity and inclusion movement would gain this head of steam, but we are grateful for the opportunity to host this event while it is on the forefront of our nation’s mind. 

NC TECH hosted our first Diversity + Inclusion in Tech Summit this week and it has been nothing short of fantastic.  We kicked off our conference with inspirational speaker, John Samuel, Chief Innovation Architect, LC Industries, who not only shared his own experience as a person with a disability, but talked about the importance of allyship.  He shared with the nearly 400 attendees that the key to his success throughout his career has been building a network of advocates and allies who have encouraged and supported him. 

From there, the conference featured six different breakout sessions that attendees could choose from on topics ranging from how D + I impacts the bottom line, to creativity + productivity, accessibility + disabilities, and more.  Each panel, made up of business and tech leaders from across the state, explored diversity, equity and inclusion through a different lens and encouraged the attendees to engage in the conversation.  In these sessions, speakers shared their insights on things like suggested unconscious bias training approaches, personal experiences with and without allies and mentors, ways to build communications strategies to effectively communicate with all, just to name a few. 

The closing keynote featured Raven Solomon who talked about generational diversity because unlike any time in history as many as five different generations are now collaborating in the workplace.  She shared why the various generations are the way they are and what each one’s “leadership language” is which is very helpful in building a successful and productive office environment. 

The Summit closed with a call to action from Donald Thompson, CEO of Walk West, because one goal of the summit was to position it as something to build off of.  Plans are now underway to execute a variety of follow-up activities to continue the important conversations around diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. 

For more information or to access the recorded Diversity + Inclusion in Tech Summit, visit www.nctech.org

 


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