2018 was a year of experimenting, trying new things and many wonderful new firsts.
This was the year we launched the Diversity and Tech community on the broader Microsoft Tech Community, the latter with over a quarter million users on the platform to date.
Just let that sink in for a moment.
It has truly been an amazing year of fostering community, building lifelong friendships and forming important new connections in the tech world. Register to become a member of the Tech Community now if you haven't already done so - you'll gain valuable information about your technology area of interest, meet new friends and best of all, it's completely free to join!
Our Diversity and Tech community - a community still very much in its infancy stage - now has well over 2,500 members since its inception in January 2018. Since then, we have been traveling the world, connecting people, sharing stories of personal triumphs and struggles, and showing IT Pros (and increasingly, developers!) around the world that you are not alone. For years, many of us in our various corners of the world might have once believed that we were the only ones who felt marginalized at work or in society for being from an underrepresented minority community. Or perhaps that we have struggles as a parent, someone living with neurodiversity, or as an LGBTQ person in tech that we couldn't openly share about before. Yet now, we realize that there are so many others like you, like me, like us all around the world, eager to share our story and find like-minded folks that we can confide in.
Microsoft Ignite 2018 was the first time we've ever had a dedicated Diversity and Tech track, with its own lineup of speakers, topics and even student ambassadors! We had our own breakout room complete with palm trees (because why not?) :) Gone are the days of topics only targeting women but not allies, or meetups catering to only one narrow set of attendees. This year, we covered topics ranging from mental health, parents in tech, support for LGBTQ+ communities, women in tech and equally importantly, accessibility and inclusive design.
We challenged attendees to think beyond themselves, develop empathy for others and muster courage to make a difference by advocating for others in their community.
We called on people to examine their personal biases, do better, be kinder and befriend those who might feel alone or left out in a social group setting. After all, the power of community is in the fact that we are all stronger together.
We also sought to inspire attendees to proudly proclaim their Diversity Superpower through the Diversity and Tech superpower buttons - whether it's being an Advocate, Family Lover, Ally, Mentor or more! A staggering 19,000 diversity superpower buttons were given away that week to attendees who excitedly wore them on their badges. Interestingly, we heard those superpower buttons even served as great conversation starters between strangers! :) The Diversity Superpower wall is now on tour for the Microsoft Ignite | The Tour series, and will feature in each continent (well, all except Antarctica!).
New ways of getting word out about #DiversityandTech and why it matters was key this year too - we had live podcasts, video interviews - you name it, we're on it. It is so important to get people talking about diversity and inclusion, and to send a strong message that this needs to be front and center, not tucked away in a back room somewhere else in the building.
Missed joining us this year, or simply want to relive the awesome memories? Watch the recap of Diversity and Tech @ Microsoft Ignite 2018 video below:
2018 was also the year we launched the Microsoft Community Mentors Program, a global mentorship program spanning over 75+ countries with over 1,100 registered participants worldwide to date. A question we often get from the public is, "Is it only for Microsoft employees?". Well, the good news is that it's not - we have a good mix of Microsoft and non-Microsoft mentor/mentees, which helps add to the diversity of perspectives, knowledge and insights that participants bring to the table. The other question we get a lot is, "What does it cost to join this program?". The answer is that it's completely free- unlike many other mentorship programs with annual fees and a whole list of conditions for signing up, the Community Mentors Program's singular focus is to create a safe, respectful platform for people to share ideas, benefit from knowledge exchange and give back to the community. All we ask is for you to 1) be respectful of your mentor's time, and 2) appreciate them for generously giving of their energy and efforts. Come prepared for mentoring sessions and ask good questions to maximize your time together. Mentorship needs to be a two-way street where both find something valuable to add to the relationship.
Watch our Community Mentors Program video to learn more about why mentorship is important.
Women IT Pros were also top of mind for us this year - we kicked off a brand new monthly series of Women IT Pro user group calls on Microsoft Teams, where women IT Pros (and allies!) around the world could dial in and discuss topics around career, community and culture. Interested to join one of these calls or be a guest speaker? Check here for schedules posted monthly - @Cathy Moya runs this series, and warmly welcomes suggestions for new topics!
In all, to say that 2018 has been a truly rewarding and invigorating year for personal growth and community development would be an understatement, to say the least. A huge, heartfelt thank you to everyone who has been on this journey of discovery and learning with us so far. As we all know, the road to diversity and inclusion with the goal of achieving true parity is a long one - this journey has only just begun.
Wishing all of you a wonderful new year filled with your own personal firsts, and may you continue to be a light for others in this world as we push for greater diversity and inclusion in tech and beyond!
We can't wait to see what 2019 brings!
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