ER of attending the TechDiversity Awards 2018 (Melbourne)

I had the pleasure of attending the TechDiversity Awards in Melbourne on 27th September. I was there as part of the EPIC Assist contingent as a nominee for an award in the Education category for the EPIC TestAbility Academy (ETA), the software testing programme for young adults with autism delivered by Paul Seaman and I. (You can view our nomination here.)

The venues for the two parts of the event were both within a renovated wharf shed at Docklands.

The first part of the event took place in the Sumac space and saw all the shortlisted nominees (around 40 different groups) assembled to select the merit award winners who would later battle it out for the top spot in each category (viz. Government, Business, Media, and Education). The Education category had the most entries on the shortlist (18) and just five were selected for merit awards – ETA didn’t make it to the next stage unfortunately. We were still very proud to have been nominated and shortlisted amongst such a great bunch of programmes in the tech diversity space around Education.

Paul & Maria, Michele, Lee & Kylie at the merit awards

Moving on to the Gala Dinner in the massive Peninsula space, we had our own table consisting of (clockwise in the below photo) Kym Vassiliou (EPIC Assist), Lee, Kylie (Lee’s wife), Bill Gamack (CEO of EPIC Assist), Paul Seaman, Maria (Paul’s wife), Michele Playfair and Craig Thompson (EPIC Assist). The event was a packed house with about 400 people sitting down for the dinner.

techdiversity_photo1

The MC for the evening was Soozey Johnstone and she did a really good job of keeping things on track and injecting her own passion for diversity into proceedings. Apart from revealing the award winners, there were three keynote speakers sprinkled throughout the evening.

First up for an opening keynote was Philip Dalidakis (Minister for Trade & Investment, Innovation & the Digital Economy and Small Business in Victoria) and he announced the winner of the Minister’s Prize in the shape of the Grad Girls Program 2018 (VICICT4.Women).

Next up was Georgina McEncroe, founder of the all-female shared ride service, Shebah.  Her background as a comedian made this a very open and entertaining short speech!

The last keynote was a very personal one, from Alan Lachman who shared the story of his daughter losing her sight and this being the inspiration for setting up Insight. The three keynotes were all quite different but each made for a welcome break between award presentations and food courses.

In terms of the all-important awards, the winners were:

It was great to see the “Champion” award going to the RISE programme at the Department of Health & Human Services, so even though ETA didn’t get up, at least an autism-related initiative took the main gong.

This was a well-run event and the venue was impressive, with good service and fine catering for our vegan needs. It was inspiring to see all of the great work going on towards improving diversity in the tech sector, but a little surprising to see something of a lack of diversity amongst the nominations (e.g. there was a very heavy bias towards gender diversity). The breakdown of nominations by the four categories also needs to be reconsidered, as there were very large numbers of nominations in Business and Education (17 and 18 respectively) while only 3 in Media and 4 in Government.

It was a really enjoyable evening and I consider myself fortunate to be working with a bunch of genuinely nice people on this initiative. I’m looking forward to running the third course of ETA in 2019 and maybe, just maybe we’ll have better luck at these awards next year if we’re nominated again!

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