James Governor's Monkchips

Thingmonk 2017: our community is getting richer

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I am not exactly a kaizen exponent. To be honest I don’t find the continuous improvement mindset easy or natural. But one area we are undoubtedly doing better every time is our diversity scholarship program for RedMonk events. I have been knocked out by the quality of the scholars yet again. So many lovely, smart people, willing to give their time to join us.

For Thingmonk 2017 we asked one of our alumni – Bybreen Samuels (far right, above) – to run the program. She has been doing an absolutely stellar job. As I have said previously, if you want to improve in diversity and inclusion at tech invents you absolutely have to hustle. Bybreen is a natural hustler and a great communicator, and that’s one reason we have 27 scholars at the event this year! A program like this requires funding, though and we’re really grateful to Salesforce Developers for sponsoring us.  We offer mentoring, free tickets, and we try to provide ongoing after the event support.

To that end one thing that has struck me really clearly in talking to a couple of the folks on the program is that, again, I have been found wanting in terms of my assumptions. I generally think that good people can fairly easily find a job in tech given skills shortages (privilege!), but it’s really not as easy as that. A couple of *excellent* self-motivated people, again really great communications skills, keener than mustard, one doesn’t have a comp-sci degree but is a self taught back end developer and just wants a solid paid internship, and another with a DBA/accounting background looking for a tech role, both asking for advice about how to get a job in tech. Kind of humbling. I am going to step up to help them get the roles they deserve. The tech bro/priesthood is still very off-putting for people with different backgrounds and skill sets.

Diversity of courses comes in all colours, shapes, sizes and ages. A super heart-warming moment today was an impromptu talk by 11 year old firecracker: Femi Olowade-Coombes. He runs tourettes and autism friendly coding workshops in South London with his mother Grace. He recently went to Bangladesh, and ran coding workshops for 200 street children. And his code was used in a space station… We’ll be seeing a lot more of him I am sure. One of our scholars suggested he needed an agent, so that he could maximise opportunities and start saving for his place at MIT. Indeed.

Here he is Bangladesh.

Mind blown. My eldest is 11 years old too. I have quite the inspirational story to tell him when I get home.

In summary, RedMonk is getting richer because our community is becoming more diverse. We have a lot of work to do though.


  1. One of my first tweets after arriving at ThingMonk this year (my first time, but I’ll be back!) was what a fantastic job of diversity and inclusion you have done here. It stands in stark contrast to the typical Silicon Valley or general tech conference or get-together. It is refreshing and most welcomed. It also points out that other conference organizers just don’t even *try* to get diversity in speakers or attendants. That should make us all angrier than it does.

    1. thanks very much david. to be fair though we’re lucky that london is such a wonderfully diverse and inclusive city. it means we have a deep pool of people to reach out to. we just try to reflect the diversity of the city. all we can do is make an effort, and keep on doing so.

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