This summer we had the opportunity to attend the first annual REFACTR.TECH conference in Atlanta. REFACTR.TECH is a conference that supports inclusion and diversity in technology and offers actionable recommendations on intersection of people and technology development. Sessions varied from rebuilding websites using GatsbyJS, building devices to navigate high-anxiety social situations, and uncovering whitespace for new app development. The stories told throughout the conference served as a powerful reminder that, even in technology, people are the critical enablers. There were a few key examples from the conference that brought this to life:
- Overcoming Anxiety with Technology: We attended a session called "IoT for the Introvert" hosted by Chloe Condon of Microsoft, who like many people, is an introvert and deals with social anxiety. Chloe found herself always looking for ways to get out of uncomfortable social situations. So, using Twilio, Azure, and a Flic device, she created an app that, at the click of a button on her Flic, triggers an incoming phone call from her boyfriend which then gives her an excuse to step out of uncomfortable conversations. Chloe used Twilio to generate a phone number for a contact in her phone labeled “boyfriend” and then ran an automated script featuring a man’s voice talking. That way, if anyone saw her phone ring, they would see and hear it sounding like a real call.
- An App to Escape Domestic Violence: Another inspirational session was led by Alicia Carr. She created an app called Pevo, which helps women escape domestic violence. Alicia had never created an app before, but when she came up with the idea and couldn’t find anyone to help her build it, she took charge and taught herself how to code—on both Android and iOS. Not only that, but she’s taken on the impressive task of hardcoding all the data and information for the various state domestic violence laws into the app, to be available for use with or without an internet connection.
- The Power of Support: While the conference showcased countless emerging technologies on a range of technical topics, the central message throughout the conference was that we all need to support each other. There are a lot of great ideas out there, and with the help of our co-workers, friends, and those we meet at conferences, we can bring ideas to life. It’s a common story that we heard time and time again: someone recognized a need and created something to meet that need. Sometimes it’s hard. If you’re in a minority in tech, it’s not as easy to find the support or resources you may need. Attending REFACTR.TECH showed us that we’re all one supportive, unified community. It was a powerful reminder that, even in the world of technology, people – and the care, inclusion, and compassion that they embody – are key to unlocking its promise.
As demonstrated by the topics at the conference, inclusion and diversity play a fundamental role in the technology industry, and it’s important to celebrate and showcase some of the great work created by marginalized people and allies in tech. When it comes to celebrating diversity in technology, there is so much more yet to come. To unlock the promise of that future, we can all start by working together, embracing differences, and helping one another with our projects, goals, and more.