Sometimes you know you are in the right place at the right time. TechChill 2018 was the right place and just the right time.
After moving to Europe and trying to find a footing, TechChill was where I needed to be. Suddenly I realized that the Baltic region is small, connected, and very welcoming to new people and new ideas. Everyone was super friendly and wanted to connect me to someone else. As always, lunch and coffee were the best place to meet people and interesting conversations were had (sometimes resulting in missing a presentation). Events like this are a great way to meet people and learn how you can help them – or they can help you. Despite not knowing anyone there, I was able to talk with many interesting people and started to feel like I belong here.
But something else happened at TechChill 2018 and that was the content. Often I wonder around conferences and pop into a session, only to check my phone and leave because I can’t connect with the speaker or the topic. But some of the speakers at TechChill had me glued to my seat and wanting to hear more.
I do wish conferences would engineer opportunities to deep dive into some of the topics that speakers address. Learning how awesome a project or start-up is can be inspiring, but the so-what and now-what are just as important. How can I take your experience and apply it to my reality? How can I bring your message about diversity to my community? Who can I talk to if being a solopreneur takes a toll on my mental health? Can I use blockchain (not just as a crypto-currency) and what do I need to do to apply it to my business?
Speakers left me wanting to ask more questions. The sign of a powerful and dynamic speaker is that they leave you with more questions than you had when you arrived. So well done to the team behind TechChill for curating a great line-up.
A few highlights for me:
- Viola A. Llewellyn (Technology is the new democracy). This one I stumbled upon and have to say that my mind was blown by her passion and also her success. I admit that I was so captivated by her that I failed to take any notes, but I did leave the room knowing that while most of what I see right now is an abuse of technology to undermine democracy (fake-news), technology as a platform for good has so much potential in countries outside of my normal sphere of understanding. Thank-you Viola for waking me up and reminding me that technology is a tool, it is only good or evil in the way people (ab)use it.
- Ramzi Rizk (Life in a Machine-Driven World). Ramzi left me wondering about the 2nd and 3rd order impacts of start-ups. Who is asking the ethical questions regarding the cost of building technology into everything, especially the human/social cost. There are some big questions that remain unanswered for me and I wanted to unpack the ugly of this potential conflict between technology and humanity. I was left with a happy idea; AI will never be human because humans are imperfect. I love imperfection!
- Roberto Bonanzinga (Do’s and Don’ts). I wish I had seen or read Roberto’s work before I launched REStrukt™: Serendipity as he laid out many of the do’s and don’ts for entrepreneurs in seeking start-up support. His list of the good and bad was simple and challenged many of the current paradigms (like pitch competitions and the contestant sell). But for me the two points that made me want to stand-up and cheer were his disdain for PowerPoint* and his believe that everyone needs to read more!
- Panel (Failure: Detour or a dead-end street). Apart from being one of the best moderated panels I have seen in a long time (shout-out to Steward Rogers for his skill in providing space for each of the speakers to engage in a real discussion), I loved that this panel was intimate, honest and sometimes brutal. I have recently wrapped up a project on mental health in large organizations, but had not done much to think about how these issues impact start-ups or solopreneurs. It was amazing to hear start-ups talking openly about their failures and their state of. The first step to helping people with mental health issues is to create a safe and open space to talk about them. So glad that the speakers felt safe enough to be honest with us.
- Y-Vonne Hutchinson (Building ethical empathetic tech). I loved Y-Vonne’s thesis that for technology to truly be ethical and empathetic the teams developing it must be as diverse as possible. Differing ideas and approaches in development make for stronger outcomes. I was wrapped by her examples and the model she proposed to ensure that new norms allow for emergent processes instead of established practices. I have been wondering a lot recently about echo-chambers and group think juxtaposed with emergence and complexity theory, Y-Vonne provided a new model to apply to this.
TechChill 2018 didn’t disappoint.
* Little side story: I Tweeted a paraphrase of his disdain for PowerPoint and I was retweeted by a bot selling PowerPoint templates! Proof that bots have a long wait to go if they are going to triage and then share appropriate content. Although this leads me to wonder if there is a way to game the current reliance of bots to propagate fake news!