"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:
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!).
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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
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