Have you been to a technical conference and been disappointed at the lack of diversity?
So have we, and in 2017, Bruce Tate, author, programmer and speaker decided to do something about it. He called in every favor and friend developed over his 30-year programming career to start the Gig City Elixir, a programming language conference here in Chattanooga. The conference organizers have a very strong focus on diversity in tech. Six of our 20 speakers at this year’s conference, held Oct. 18-19 on Floor Five of The Edney, were from underrepresented groups in tech. We offered scholarships to 20 percent of the 150 attendees, to help create a more diverse conference.
But focusing on diversity at one conference isn’t enough — that’s why the local Elixir community in Chattanooga works on a regular basis to provide opportunities to those that haven’t had them yet. To this end, we run two mentoring groups. We teach local high school students at The Future Ready Institute at Red Bank High School in an after-school coding club. And, we lead an in-depth mentoring program for women and minorities in coding Elixir in Chattanooga. (We’re also developing a mentor group in Austin, TX, where we will host another Elixir conference in February 2020.) When we meet with mentees, we discuss career goals and help them network and look for job opportunities. This kind of work is multifaceted and a long road.
One purpose of the mentoring group is to prepare the mentees to take advantage of the opportunity to learn and network at conferences. We encourage young women and minority professionals to seek leadership and speaking opportunities, and we provide such opportunities at the conferences we host. Local and regional meetups are great opportunities for new speakers to practice and hone their skills. We aim to work with several regional programs to develop local talent to send to ElixirConf, the national Elixir Conference next fall in Colorado.
Thank you to everyone who attended this year’s Gig City Elixir, including the one-third of people who traveled here from out of town, and students and faculty from UTC, Tennessee Tech, Chatt State, Covenant College, Sewanee and Red Bank High School.
And thank you to our sponsors. We could not have achieved the success this year without them:
Platinum: Bridge Connector, Pillar Technology, Very
Community: Carbon Five
Lanyard: Bleacher Report
Gold: Binary Noggin, Groxio, Zillion
Elixir Champion: Aspire, CodeScience, Dockyard, Gigalixir, Tito
Better Allies: Amos King, Stu Halloway, Doyle Turner
Conference Dinner: Jay Dalke
The Enterprise Center
We love being a part of the tech and education scene here in Chattanooga and look forward to hosting the conference again in October 2020. If you are interested in the Elixir Chatt mentoring group for women and minorities or want to be involved in the 2020 conference, contact Maggie@grox.io.
Maggie Tate runs Communication at Grox.io, home of the Programmer Passport – a subscription to test drive a new programming language every 8 weeks with e-books, videos and projects and exercises. Twitter: @groxiolearning