Life after serving on the PASS Board

I didn’t put myself forward for re-election to the PASS Board, and I officially step down on 31st December. I’ve always struggled with the question – why get involved in the tech community? If tech community is something that you think about, I can’t say it enough – it will change your life for the better. Please, don’t hesitate. I’m not leaving the community. I’m just going into a new phase and I’ll contribute in different ways.

About 8 years ago, I started to speak at technical events because I wanted to tackle my fears head on: standing up in a room full of people, everyone looking at me, in a very male oriented environment. So my first session was one hundred people, and since then, I’ve spoken all over the world, and my largest in-person audience was over six thousand people. I did lots of technical community work and I began to find my home there; I found friendship, and I’d specifically like to thank the community men who treated me as a person and an expert as I proved over and over again that I could teach and be relevant. I stopped being this afraid, shy, nervous thing. I also learned from other people and I found some friendship, simply from being part of the technical community. Gentlemen – you have such an important role to play in small and large ways and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. For those of you who care about these things, your voice and actions carry further than mine and, simply, thank you.

I want to deeply thank the informal tech community of Microsoft and the Tableau community for giving me the opportunities that you have, and for helping me to find some friendship there from the mostly great people I met. I have given a lot, but you have given me far more than you will ever know. Thank you.

Eventually I was elected to the board of PASS as a Non Executive Director and I hoped to make a difference, primarily in the fields of analytics and diversity. Thank you to everyone who voted for me. I thought that the influence would give me the ability to do good things for others. These are my passions. This didn’t work out as I’d hoped and, after four years of my life, I’ve decided that I won’t be putting myself forward for re-election. Hopefully the next person will find it easier to make a difference for EMEA, and be empowered to do things where I just could not have an impact. I’m going to do other things instead, and I’ll come on to those at the end.

I want to move past this, so let’s talk a little about what’s next for me?

  • MBA – I’m going to do my MBA. Academic success is something that I value. I learned a lot over the past four years but it’s time to spend time and effort on something that is for me. I’ll share my experiences in data-driven wisdom and I hope you’ll find it valuable as you grow in your careers.
  • Diversity Charter – I’m trying to set up a Diversity Charter so tech community orgs, such as user groups, can show that they are truly welcoming to people of different backgrounds. I’m hoping to be a part of the Diversity party that Microsoft are having. It’s easy for Diversity to start to mean ‘sticking pretty babes up on a stage’ and I’m hoping that the narrative doesn’t start to focus only on young women; it involves other aspects of people, such as age, disability, transgender identity, sexuality, race, faith and respect for other people.
  • Thought Leadership – I’ve also become attracted to thought leadership and I do industry analysis as a freelancer. PASS do Tech Leadership but that is not real Thought Leadership, which transcends technology. My efforts to have real Thought Leadership podcasts fell by the wayside and I only got two produced and the third one was never processed. I thought it would be a great way for PASS to connect, learn and share with industry thought leaders (not tech leaders) to promote the community at a more strategic level.
  • Events – I’ll continue speaking for as long as people want to hear me.

Diversity is important to me because it means I want to focus on something positive. I know what it feels like to be powerless and have your voice taken away from you. I want to be able to find some meaning in life and how we can help one another.  I’m doing it now because my voice is all I have. I want to try and make something good out of it. Diversity makes sense to make because it’s all about trying to make sure that everyone is included and they aren’t isolated from doing a job or a community activity that they love. And techies do love technology and everyone’s inner geek should be welcome.

 

Diversity Charter

For those of you looking for the Diversity Charter effort, you need to go here: https://diversitycharterblog.wordpress.com/

It is a team effort, not just me!

I’d love to see a Diversity Charter that user groups and communities could use, to show that they are welcoming and open to all members of the technical communities. I think that the charter could look something like this draft:

We believe that all members of the technical community are equally important.
We are part a tech community where we value a diverse network, and learn and share from one another:
regardless of age,
regardless of colour,
regardless of their ethnicity,
regardless of their religion or beliefs,
regardless of disability,
regardless of gender,
regardless of sexual orientation,
regardless of their race,
regardless of their ability or lack of ability,
regardless of nationality or accent.
We are a diverse tech community where we are all individuals with differences, but we are all members and we can all learn from each other.

I have other ideas:

  • A logo for the Charter. I have some ideas, but I’d be delighted for help
  • I have set up a Slack channel for people to discuss the Charter – please ping me on jen.stirrup@datarelish.com to find out more
  • I would love forums where people can ask questions and have community-led answers on how to be open and welcoming to people from different backgrounds. No question is a stupid question. The main thing is that you are talking about it with enquiry and openness in mind, in order to understand other people better. Nobody can fault you for having a kind heart that is trying to learn.