SXSW: Inspiration, Passion, and a Whole Lot of Food

March 13, 2017

SXSW has descended upon Austin, which means several things:

  1. The entire city comes alive with an amazing energy.
  2. The traffic and parking situations become much worse than they already are and it’s basically a useless proposition to go anywhere near downtown unless you’re going to a SXSW event.
  3. Everyone’s schedules and lives get infinitely busier, and all meetings are effectively put off until after it’s over.
  4. Free food and alcohol galore (I’ve literally said before, only half-jokingly, that you could eat and drink for the entire week and a half without paying a cent).

I ventured into the chaos on Friday evening to attend Amazon’s Women at the Forefront of Tech panel, featuring Kiran Gandhi, an electronic music artist and activist, Tessa Childers-Day, Data Scientist at Amazon, Trupti Devdas Nayak, Engineering Manager at Amazon, and Women Who Code Austin’s fearless founder, Holly Gibson. They talked about achieving your loftiest goals (Kiran Gandhi, better known by her stage name Madame Gandhi, was playing the drums for M.I.A. on tour while attending Harvard Business School!), finding mentorship, “being ready”, and their experiences being women in fields dominated by men.

Amidst a flurry of other events, I also attended TechUp’s Tech Jobs Tour. (In a funny and eerily convenient twist of events, I had already RSVPed and was planning on going when Fullstack asked me to rep them during the Bootcamp Showcase.)

The Tech Jobs Tour will be traveling to 50 cities in the states over the next year to connect the current and next generation of non-traditional technical talent to companies who need their skills.

There were a few notable things lined up in addition to the Bootcamp Showcase. First up was Van Jones, CNN Host and Founder of #YesWeCode. He talked about his friend Prince (you know, casual) and how he started from a boy who would sit in the parking lot of McDonald’s just to smell the food, to someone, by the time of his death, who turned the world purple. No one questioned why the world was purple, or “which” Prince had died – everyone knew who he was and the impact he had had on the world.

Van Jones and Prince started #YesWeCode to get more people of color and those lacking opportunities into tech, to enable “one kid, with one dream,” to change the world. As part of this, #YesWeCode has partnered with the Iron Yard to create a $46 million diversity scholarship fund.

After the Bootcamp Showcase (during which I didn’t trip and I spoke basically coherent English, so it was a success from my standpoint) and some mingling, a panel on the future of tech jobs happened, featuring Kara Swisher, Co-founder of Recode, Leanne Pittsford, Founder and CEO of Lesbians Who Tech, Laura Weidman Powers, founder of Code2040, and Steve Case, a wildly successful entrepreneur. Kara and Steve disagreed on a few things, and it was funny to see them duke it out. Kara’s signature bluntness was on full display, and it was wonderful.

It was an amazing and inspiring weekend full of meeting great people, eating, and drinking. It’s weekends like these that I come out thinking, “You know what? Our world’s going to be okay, so long as people like these continue to exist.”