Today is the kickoff of the 2nd Annual Blacks in Technology (BIT) Conference, the mission of which is, “setting the standard of cultivating world class technical excellence” and “stomping the divide.” This 4-day, multi-location event is comprised of workshops, panel discussions, lightning talks, startup pitch events, and exhibitor booths, all focused on building up businesses, resources, and networking opportunities for the black community.
We chatted briefly with Steve Buchanan, local tech influencer and Microsoft Azure MVP, about the benefits of being a part of this growing group. “The local BIT meetup is comprised of a really great group of people. Here in Minnesota, chances are that you don’t work with a lot of people of color in the tech industry. BIT lets you connect with people, all dealing with the same issues.” Buchanan has been in the MN tech industry for the last two decades, and in that time has seen many changes, but there is still a long way to go. This is why he gives back by engaging in events like BITcon, where a young person of color can attend a session, and walk out inspired. “They can see other people of color holding high positions, running companies, and know that they can do that too.”
This afternoon, Buchanan will be presenting on a panel of local tech influencers, including Salesforce MVP Shonnah Hughes, Target (and formerly 3M) Engineer Brianna McCollough, and Tyrone Spratt, Chief Business Technology Officer for the State of MN. This panel will focus on the sharing of best practices, tips, and tricks of these high-level tech influencers, and how others can become influencers themselves. Buchanan wants to encourage people of color to, “get out there, put yourself out there; speak, write, tell your story.” Conferences like BITcon are a great place to start. When asked of the advice Buchanan would give someone looking to get started in tech he suggested, “Start networking. Come to events like BITcon and BIT meetups, and make it a goal to just talk to one or two people. Just talk. You may find an open-source project to work on, or other technical people to work with and learn from.”
You can hear more from Buchanan this Thursday afternoon where he will be a featured guest on the TECHdotMN podcast, recording live from the IDS center. For more information on this year’s conference, and to secure your tickets, please visit the BITcon registration site.