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Microsoft

"I never thought I would cry at a tech conference, but I did."

 

This was a phrase that was mentioned by attendees many times over as they participated in our Humans of IT sessions – pre-day, breakouts, theaters, Unconferences and story hours – throughout the week. In just six days, thousands of attendees found a safe and welcoming space for them to connect with one another on a personal level, develop valuable insights and skills on complex but critical topics including examining the intersection of race and gender, accessibility and inclusive design, mental health, parenting in tech, transitioning from military careers to tech and more. Above all, they learnt the importance of embracing their humanity as technical professionals.

 

Sessions were consistently packed, which goes to show how open, honest and oftentimes deeply personal topics like these resonate with all of us as #HumansofIT: 

 

packedsession-stephk.PNGPacked session room at a Humans of IT session at Microsoft Ignite 2019

 

Diversity and Inclusion Pre-day (Sunday, November 3)
Approximately 300 attendees gathered on Sunday to spend a full 8-hour day, eager to dig into the complex topic of intersectionality. Attendees were also keen to better understand the impact of both race and gender, amongst a host of other qualities that make all of us unique.
 
race and gender panel.PNGHonest conversations about Intersectionality - Race x Gender, moderated by iUrban Teen Founder and White House Champion of Change Deena Pierott

 

Other topics include neurodiversity, with Dona Sarkar leading the “Neurodiversity as a Superpower” panel featuring individuals sharing about their neurodiversity superpowers and kryptonites. Finally we wrapped up with a topic on WITH vs AT communication, and how to communicate effectively as #HumansofIT.
 
neurodiversity panel.PNGNeurodiversity panel discussing the #Superpowers and #Kryptonites of various neurodiversities including ADHD, Aspergers', Bipolar Disorder etc

 

Speakers shared deeply impactful stories about their personal career journeys, real-life struggles with mental health, neurodiversity, parenting, experiencing bias and more – all of which greatly touched attendees. These sessions were truly empowering, emotional and heartfelt. 
 
They were truly... human
 
communitylove.PNGThe power of community: Lifting one another up, and building a kindness-driven, supportive network

 

In the Humans of IT Community, the power of community is truly palpable - to many of us, community is the extended family we never knew we had (till now!). 

 

Main week sessions (Monday-Friday, 4-8 November 2019) 
Just like the pre-day, emotions continued to flow freely during our main week sessions – at times, both speaker and attendees were moved to tears.
 
iasia.PNGMilitary veteran and current Microsoft employee Iasia Brown shares a deeply personal story about transitioning from the frontlines of battle to a tech career

 

One particularly memorable moment was when an attendee shared that speaker Iasia Brown’s military unit literally saved the lives of his brothers, and was so overwhelmed with emotions that he ran onstage to give her a hug of gratitude, and both of them wept together:
 
session hug.PNGAn emotional moment when an attendee ran on stage to give speaker Iasia Brown a hug of gratitude
 
If you missed this incredible session, be sure to watch the session recording here.
 
There are plenty of inspiring sessions on the Humans of IT track at Microsoft Ignite. Attendee favorites include Haben Girma's talk on inclusive design - browse all the session recordings here!
 
haben.PNGHaben Girma, Harvard Law School's first deafblind graduate and disability rights lawyer speaks with an attendee at her session

 

scottgrace.PNGScott Hanselman and Grace Macjones talk about how to be a social developer and build your social media presence

 

 jess dodson.PNGJess Dodson aka GirlGerms gets real about stories from the trenches as a #WomanITPro

 

panels1.PNGWomen in cybersecurity panel

 

military veterans.PNGMilitary veterans in tech panel

 

mental health session.PNGRyan Yates' session on mental health

 

Giving back to the community
At the heart of the conference was the theme of giving back and supporting organizations that are working tirelessly to bridge the equality gap, and help foster diversity and inclusion in the community. 
 

Investing in nonprofits and underrepresented communities

This year, we were able to provide 150 complimentary conference passes to nonprofits working tirelessly to foster greater equality for all in tech. Under our new Humans of IT Fellowship Program, we worked closely with the Microsoft Tech for Social Impact team to identify deserving beneficiaries from organizations including Black Girls Code, TechGirlz, Women Who Code, Girls Scouts of the USA, World Vision, Boys and Girls Club of America, Sesame Workshop, Make a Wish Foundation, Human Rights Watch etc.

 

nonprofits supported.JPGThese are just a few of the many nonprofits organizations that we were able to support through the Humans of IT Nonprofit Fellowship program

 

 
Most notably, we deepened our partnership with TechWomen (sister organization to the Fulbright Scholarship Program managed by IIE). This year, we’ve increased the number of delegates from the Middle East and Africa region (cities represented include Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon, Jordan, Nigeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan etc) whom we’ve sponsored to attend Microsoft Ignite by threefold. Through the Humans of IT fellowship program, 20 inspiring and remarkable women tech leaders from many emerging countries were able to attend Microsoft Ignite, delve into the latest technology and return home with fresh ideas on how to leverage Microsoft technology and inspire the next generation of leaders.
 
One of our TechWomen delegates, Ouafa Benterki (standing in the middle in the below photo) who attended Microsoft Ignite last year (and this year!) even became a Microsoft Regional Director — a prestigious recognition given only to top technical leaders in their region. Ouafa is the first Arab and African woman to be awarded the Microsoft Regional Director title, and serves as a tech role model for many other Arab women around the world. We are so very proud of you, @Ouafa benterki !
 
techwomen1.PNGTechWomen @ Microsoft Ignite 2019!

 

Each TechWomen delegate and Humans of IT Student Ambassador was also assigned a buddy group led by a Microsoft employee who warmly helped facilitate conversations and assisted them in navigating the massive conference. Everyone needs a friend (or a few!) at a big conference!

 

HoIT attendees.PNGTechWomen delegates, Humans of IT student ambassador Jin and Microsoft UK employee Angela Bos having fun in their assigned buddy group!

 

Humans of IT Unconferences
These are cozier, intimate settings where attendees get to participate actively, break out into groups for discussion and truly deep-dive into the topic featured. The Unconferences are co-located with the main session room so that attendees could easily pop back into the main room for breakout sessions after the Unconference session was done. These sessions were highly popular, no doubt due to its interactive format!

 

mentoring unconference.PNGAttendees participating in a Mentoring Unconference

 

Interactive Humans of IT Race game
To help attendees foster friendships and hone their teamwork skills, we partnered with an interactive game designer to develop a fun game (powered by Microsoft Kinect, no less!) where attendees formed teams of four to complete a race. The game was fully accessible to participants in wheelchairs too. Teams worked together to move their arms at the same pace to raise flags that read, “Together We Empower Everyone”. The top five teams with the best timings daily won a limited edition Microsoft Diverse and Inclusive Modern Workplace LEGO set, which was a massive hit! Many of you have asked if you can purchase the LEGO set after the event - sorry, it's not for sale! 

 

interactive game.PNGAttendees working in teams for a chance to score the best timings in the Humans of IT race game!

 

inclusion for all.PNGWhen we can all play, everyone wins! Here's an attendee with her Humans of IT prizes!

 

legos.PNGCongratulations to all our Humans of IT Race winners!

 

Humans of IT Story Hours
Attendees participated in a range of informal discussions on topics such as living with neurodiversity, culture exchanges, personal branding, public speaking skills and more. Definitely a great way to get to know your fellow attendees and make valuable connections that last long after the conference has ended. Be sure to check it out at next year's Microsoft Ignite!

 

storyhours2.PNGStory Hours are a great way to make friends at a conference, and discuss topics you're passionate about!

 

storyhours3.PNG

 

In a nutshell

Many attendees reported coming away from the Humans of IT Community activities feeling encouraged, inspired and empowered. Some even said that it was by far their favorite experience at Microsoft Ignite! To others, it has even been life-changing / career-defining.

 

hoit crew2.PNGHaving fun with our Humans of IT Student Ambassadors + volunteers!

 

Want to know what some of our Microsoft Valued Professionals (MVPs), nonprofit delegates and attendees think about their Microsoft Ignite experience? Read on!
⦁ Chris Gill: Being vulnerable and finding my tribe at MS Ignite
⦁ Christopher Clai: How Community Comes Together with #HumansofIT at Microsoft Ignite
⦁ Jess Dodson: MS Ignite 2019 is Done
⦁ Akanksha Malik (WomenWhoCode Melbourne): My First MS Ignite – 2019 Edition
 Fatima Benhamida (TechWomen): Triple Agent Microsoft Ignite 2019: My Mission (Im)possible
⦁ Salma Bekkouche (TechWomen): My Story with Microsoft Ignite 2019

 

You can also watch an interview conducted by community reporter and MVP Heather Newman about Humans of IT on the Microsoft Ignite Day 1 Live Show.

 

all enamel pins.PNGThere's no such thing as too much #HumansofIT flair! :)

 

What were YOUR favorite parts about Microsoft Ignite? Whether you were there in person, or following along online, we want to hear from you in the comments below! :)

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Adding @Angela Bos's #MSIgnite recap here, which I personally thought was a great read! :)

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/highlights-from-microsoft-ignite-2019-angela-bos/