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SXSW Interactive Black Tech Community Meet Up: one of many ways SX is tackling diversity in tech

Tonight marks the first ever SXSW Interactive Black Tech Community Meet Up, one of the many ways the massive conference is doing their part to improve diversity in the tech sector – join us in attending.

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Diversity in technology

When I stay “startup founder,” what comes to mind? A 24 year old white male in a hoodie, no kids, and no responsibilities, right? That’s what comes to mind for most, and it’s a challenge for the industry to improve diversity. While some like Jesse Jackson believe minorities have been “locked out” of the industry (and is even speaking on the topic at SXSW Interactive this spring), others believe getting young girls and minorities interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) career paths has been a challenge as our culture pushes girls to play with Barbies and boys to play with Legos.

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Regardless of the reasons, diversity is a challenge in the tech startup world, and the hoodie-wearing young white guy remains the default representative of the sector, by no fault of his own. I’ve never sat in on any Advisory Board meetings discussing how to keep women and minorities out, in fact, every single time, it is the opposite, yet a lack of diversity remains despite efforts of many to change that.

SXSWi doing their part, hosting diversity mixers

One of the companies putting their money where their mouth is, is South By Southwest Interactive in Austin, where we are headquartered. They’ve long had a commitment to diversity, in fact, when people submit panels to be voted on prior to topics being chosen for each conference, the team utilizes what they call a V-O-W-E-L scale of basic diversity principles (Variety, Opinion, Women, Ethnicity, and Location). They note, “To be clear, our commitment to diversity is a commitment to a smarter community – different kinds of people bring different ways of thinking to the table. Hearing these different ways of thinking help make everyone smarter.”

In that spirit, they are hosting their first ever SXSW Interactive Black Tech Community Meet Up tonight, and their first ever SXSW Interactive Latino Tech Community Meet Up next week.

The Greater Austin Black Chamber stated, “The SXSW Interactive Festival is strongly committed to fostering more diversity in the digital landscape. This commitment stems from the belief that more diversity leads to more creativity — and that more creativity leads to more innovation.”

“The heart of innovation is being open to all possibilities.”

Sharon Mays, Principal at M City Marketing tells us, “As the tech industry continues to grow, the lack of diversity has become an unignorable problem. On the West coast there are issues with misogyny, the “boys club” atmosphere, and other gender-based problems. For Austin it’s a bit different because the city itself, not just the tech industry, is not seen as ethnically diverse. Especially when it comes to Black people. The tech industry contributes heavily to the Austin economy. The perception that Austin is not inclusionary to all races is hurting our community. If we want our city to continue to be a competitive market for tech jobs, then we need to attract the best and the brightest workforce. And that requires casting a really wide net.”

Mays adds, “Events like this mixer encourage minority groups to be a part of SXSW and know that their input and expertise is a welcome addition to the conversations that will be had during the conference. One of the great things about SXSW is that it turns a spotlight on all of the awesome things that are going on in Austin. People leave the conference with a great impression of what life in like in this city.

I think it’s important that we make sure that we are sending the message that Austin is a city that welcomes and values everyone, and that the opportunities available in this city are available to everyone. The heart of innovation is being open to all possibilities.”

Putting their money where their mouth is

As further evidence of the organization putting their money where their mouth is, in 2012, SXSW established a “Community Fund” through “Communities Foundation of Texas” to support local and national organizations and award grants to the winners of several awards, for example, the Dewey Winburne Community Service Awards (honoring “Digital Do-Gooders”), and one look at the list proves they are rewarding more than just the young hoodie-wearing kids.

We may not all agree on why a lack of diversity exists in our industry, nor may we agree on how or why it should be improved, but it is not a myth, and what is needed is for more organizations to do their part to take on the challenge, just as Southby has.

See you at the meet up tonight! Click below for details:

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Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

Tech News

Integrate language learning into daily browsing with this new extension

(TECH NEWS) Interested in learning a second language but struggling to find the time? This new extension helps you learn French with no added time commitment.

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Woman seated on couch with laptop open to Fluent, a language learning extension on Chrome.

Language education software has long struggled to help students who don’t have sufficient time to study and practice. Sparing ten minutes a day on Duolingo for language learning is a really big commitment for some folks, even during a quarantine (but hey, no judgement here). Fortunately, Fluent has arrived to eliminate your remaining excuses for being monolingual.

Fluent is a new browser extension that helps you practice French while you browse the web. By replacing words in your native language with vocabulary in your target language, everything that you read through your web browser becomes a tiny bit bilingual. Slowly, Fluent acclimates your brain to seeing and translating foreign words automatically by teaching them through contexts that you’re already familiar with. Right now it’s only available in French, but new language offerings are already in the works.

On their producthunt.com page, co-founder Ara Ghougassian says that Fluent “helps by removing the friction to practice; you install Fluent and instantly you’re learning new vocabulary right inside your browser. No apps, no notifications, no setting time aside to study.”

As a language learner myself, I love the idea of seamlessly integrating my studies into daily life. There’s nothing quite like being able to read in your target language. With Fluent, users are able to do that right away. Drills and flashcards are okay, but straight-up memorization isn’t a very engaging or intuitive way to learn.

That being said, if you’re serious about learning a language, it’s worth giving yourself a reality check here: There is no singular, effortless, or fast way to become proficient. There’s no avoiding the fact that real fluency does take considerable time and effort. Language learning is just like building up your muscles: You have to consistently exercise if you want to get stronger.

So while I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that you rely on Fluent alone to study, the extension is a great introduction to developing those habits in your language learning. This particularly helps folks who find the idea of picking up a new language from scratch intimidating. But if you’re just curious about French, you’ll love its bite-sized approach to learning new words (not to mention, the hint of French on every webpage means you’ll feel a little bit posh while you’re surfing the web)!

Language skills are a wonderful way to invest in yourself, expand your career prospects, and unlock doors to new cultures; Fluent makes it easy to get started on your journey. Bonne chance!

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Tech News

Goal-based project management tool simplifies your work life

(TECH NEWS) If you are struggling to keep tasks straight then this new tool Qoals allows for a simpler and more straightforward way to accomplish goals as a team.

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Qoals pitch

We all have goals – whether they be personal, professional, financial, etc. Anyone can set a goal, all it takes is having a thought and assigning it a certain level of importance. However, not everyone completes their goals due to the oft difficulties and confusions associated with execution.

Like anything else, if there’s a will, there’s a way. A new way has been found in the form of Qoals – a simple and straightforward tool that helps you to get aligned around business goals instead of an endless wall of tasks.

The ability to complete goals is done through: setting goals, adding tasks, collecting things, and tracking progress. With this, everyone on your team has access to this information to keep tabs on what’s happening.

With setting goals, you create and prioritize your goals, letting your team members know which ones are most important at that time. Goals can be prioritized with tabs such as: long term, short term, and urgent. By adding tasks, you can add and assign tasks to set a clear path in order to complete set goals.

In collecting things, you collect resources related to your goal and keep them in one safe place (again, this is accessible to your whole team). This doesn’t require uploading files, but simply including links to resources to keep everything easily accessible. Finally, by tracking progress, everyone on the team can see where you’re at with your goals – which saves time with the follow ups of “how’s Goal X going?”

Why did Qoals develop this goal-oriented approach? “It’s about time we simplify things,” according to the official website. “Get aligned around goals and let everyone know what’s important for the business. Add goals under various projects and start adding tasks and resources to make that goal happen.”

Additionally, Qoals boasts that this provides users with a birds-eye view of what’s happening with their team, allowing them to be more human-centric. You can create unlimited projects, set and track your goals, collected everything related to said goal, keep the discussion relevant, access your tasks with one click, stay connected to your team, and see what’s going on at a glance.
Qoals is currently in beta.

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Tech News

If focus is a struggle for you, try this exploding to do list

(TECH NEWS) Nearly 90 percent of people who make to-do lists don’t finish them; can timed explosions fix that? Exploding To Do gives you productive chaos.

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I’m a to-do list guy. I can’t remember the last time I started a day without one; indeed, an average day for me entails several to-do lists written on anything from scraps of yellow legal pad paper to my phone’s built-in Reminders app. There’s only one problem: I rarely make it through one list, to say nothing of the numerous one-offs I create as the day wears on.

According to Huffington Post, nearly 90 percent of people who make to-do lists doom their bulleted entries to the same fate—and, while many point to daily interruptions as the culprit, it’s clear that a sheer lack of urgency is the problem for anyone regularly struggling to check that last box (or ten).

But what if your to-do list…exploded? That’s a question that Exploding To Do wants desperately to answer for you.

Explosive urgency is the idea behind the company’s titular app. Citing decision fatigue as a major contributor to unfinished business, Exploding To Do seeks to cut down on your long-term planning in favor of manageable, daily tasks—and, even then, only the important ones.

After all, you don’t have much time. At the end of the day, your to-do list “explodes”, and while you can relegate entries to future dates or review combusted days of the past, the current day’s events are over; through this somewhat dramatic approach, Exploding To Do hopes to foster your “selective focus” so that you can make the most out of your day—and maybe finish a to-do list along the way.

From a presentation standpoint, Exploding To Do offers a fairly minimal presentation—something akin to a pen-and-paper approach—but the company behind it confirms that users will be able to track data, access to-do lists of days past, and create a back-log of ideas and actions for use at any time without having to detract from the day’s work.

Decision fatigue is a beast, especially in an age of neon lights and 60-hour work weeks. It’s refreshing to see something minimal and task-oriented grace the market—even if that product promises to explode daily.

You can sign up for Exploding To Do’s wait list on their website.

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