The organizers of self.conference, held in Michigan, believe that a technical conference should present a mix of human and tech topics. Since one of the organizers is Test Double’s own Amber Conville, there are usually a handful of agents in attendance.
This year’s conference concluded with the announcement of selfdotorg, a nonprofit that will contain self.conference and other initiatives for tech and humans.
Here’s what we had to say about self.conference 2019:
In the keynote titled Mid-Career Survival Tips for POC, Byron Woodfork offers advice for mid-career developers of color to find mentorship, keep progressing in their careers, and get paid what they deserve. He also makes some clear and important statements about diversity in tech: that it’s leadership’s responsibility, that it should be compensated, and that existing as an underrepresented engineer is diversity work on its own. This talk reminded me that I’m fortunate to have had strong mentors throughout my career, and that part of leadership is helping other mid-career engineers achieve their goals.
I was also really excited to see Jennifer Tu’s talk You Can’t Bubblebath the Burnout Away on the line-up. Using the ubiquitous this is fine dog as an analogy for burnout, or “the room on fire”, she describes how to notice when your room might be on fire, and what your options are once that happens. It’s a great visual comparison, because burnout often seems manageable until it very suddenly isn’t. I’d recommend this talk to anyone whose room is starting to feel a touch warm.
Bonus Round: the lunch spread at self.conference was delicious.
This is my second year attending self.conference. What I love about it, from both years that I’ve gone, is the acknowledgment of—and focus on—the aspects of the technology sector that are not at all technical (as hinted at in the intro to this post). The through line on the talks that I attended this year is the topic of inclusion. Some of that is probably a function of which talks I chose to attend, but it also says something about self.conference that I had so many to choose from!
My key takeaway across several talks was that, while improved diversity is a laudable goal, it must also be paired with an inclusive workplace. That was very much the message in I’m Still Black and You’re Still Racist (aka why your pro-diversity culture is hiding toxic racist parasites). In it, Brandy Foster notes the high attrition rate among people of color in tech. As an industry, we’re going to have a hard time improving diversity if we keep marginalizing people after we hire them. And lest we think the lack of inclusion is due only to someone else, Megan Boczar’s talk Microaggressions in the Workplace went over many subtle (and not-so-subtle) ways that we marginalize each other.
Bonus Round: Trans Eye for the Cis Ally: Ensuring an Inclusive Community shared ways to better include trans people in the workplace.