I got selected as one of the last 5 nominees for the SheGoesICT award of Inclusive TechChampion 2024 from DataNews !
This week (untill sunday) you can vote for me.
During my student years due to circumstances, I lived off social security. And suddenly the 19 year old version of this white man realised what a privileged position I had grown up in. It changed my view of life forever. As a thank you to all the people who helped me, I chosen to give back and support other people in any way I can. Pay it forward, before I ever heard of the term.
Even though it is very easy and usually are small things to support other people in different ways, it always surprises me that so few people see and/or take up the possibilities.
The little things mean addressing people about words like resources and guys. Lots of people think guys are gender neutral, until you ask macho men how many guys they’ve slept with, and their response makes it clear that it’s not so neutral.
At one of my clients, there were two candidates who best matched our vacancy. I argued for hiring the person who looked the least like me and my colleague. Although we got along better with the other person during the interview, that didn’t seem like the best solution from a diversity point of view. (This person was a great fit that worked there longer then I did)
I was the driving force at CoderDojo Belgium Ghent (Together with the coaches) to get 50% girls in our Dojo. Unfortunately, the dads were the ones who needed to be convinced. A story I tell regularly.
However, not just the girls, I thought it was very important that when children arrived I spoke to them before I spoke to their parents. In this way, I wanted to ensure that even the most introverted children knew that their voices were heard. I am very proud that in Ghent we managed to get a person with a severe form of autism to grow into a coach, and that he eventually grew to start his own dojo in his own municipality.
Since 2005, I have been active in the international agile community. Where I have started several global collaborations to spread personal stories.
With my first book I had the goal to have 50% of the stories be about women. For that I made the mistake of only inviting 50% women. I ended up with only 30%. Towards the end of this project I realized that the stories were also far too Western. Instead of a second book, I subsequently chose to start collaborations with local teams in different countries. Which resulted in books in Australia, India, South Africa, Nigeria, Singapore, Ukraine. The collaboration with South Africa in particular was a learning experience, because an initial version also contained mainly white people. Once I realized this, I started working with a new team who corrected this.
I drew from these lessons for the book “Tips of the agile trenches and so I managed to have 50% of the tips written by women. However, even though the tips come from people all over the world, this book is still far too white. Since the beginning of 2022, I have started a video edition of Who is Agile<. I managed to speak to 28% non-white people. For many Westerners that seems like a high percentage, but my non-white friends tell me that depending on how we count it should be between 35 and 45%. I tell this story because inclusion and diversity for me is a constant pursuit of doing better. On top, I have only interviewed one openly non-binary person.
In addition to all these things, I am also first follower of all kinds of communities that are concerned with diversity in one way or another. we go stem, Adatalks, WomenWhoCode, AgileinColor, WomenInAgile, BreakingTheSilo’s, madamVelo.
The real work is done there by their teams, yet I like to promote these organizations and I always learn a lot at the events I attend. Because no matter how I look at it, although you can find me at all kinds of conferences for years, I learn the most at these types of events.
After having the experience as a 30-year-old of doing workshops with my father, I chose to also do presentations with my three children.
My daughter was 3 years old when she performed on stage together for the first time. Since then, she has loved giving speeches in which classmates enjoy participating and she was on stage in Indiawhere she subsequently made a few remarkable statements during the speakers’ panel. For years I have been challenging many parents to see how they can include their children in their work, not as spectators but as participants. It provides a unique experience in theparent-child relationship
Some time ago, when my children were unable and/or no longer felt like it, I chose to do my own presentations in duo with women as much as possible. It was my own way of ensuring that the percentage of women at the conferences I speak at does not go down because I was invited; Yet my real reason with these types of collaborations is that I learn more from these people as vice versa.
In addition to my professional work, I regularly provide free personal coaching to people all over the world. Sometimes just in DM, sometimes emails, and just as well in a video call. I am very careful not to mansplain and check whether there is consent for a coaching conversation. (And I am not afraid to admit that I had to grow into that, because what works with people I know from the physical Belgian world sometimes comes across differently with people from a culture that I have never met.)
Since 2010, I have chosen to work mainly with female entrepreneurs. My website is managed by Ine Dehandschutter, editors for my books have always been women, the majority of my own coaches are women, even my dentist, ophthalmologist and the photographer at our wedding.
In recent years I have also read many books on inclusion and diversity and promote them at every opportunity.
As Putin ramped up his war in 2022, I was inspired to learn Ukrainian through Duolingo as a kind of symbolic support for Ukrainian friends. Since the summer of 2023 I have been working as an engineer manager for a Exalate. We have 30 different nationalities, of which +20 IT people work from Lviv. So my current challenge is trying to bring psychological safety to a team that is not physically safe.
My commitment to long-term change is most evident in my marriage, where since 1996 my answer to the question “why aren’t you married” has been “because my partner hasn’t asked me”. I believe that in these times women might as well ask their partner to marry them. In December 2011, 15.5 years after our first kiss, my partner asked me to marry her.
As you can tell, I do both big and small things. For me, inclusion is a mindset that influences every decision I make. I want to be the change I want to see, because if I am not part of the solution, that means to me that I am part of the problem. And that is not acceptable to me.
And even then I needed to be convinced that indeed I am an inclusive tech champion… Imposter syndrome at the core of who I am, I did not see this comming…
So I’m learning to drop my morality app, and I want to ask you to vote for me