GRAND RAPIDS — A three-day conference slated to kick off Thursday in Grand Rapids will promote diversity in the technology industry.
The inaugural techni/color/ conference will feature speakers and networking events to help advance an industry notoriously lacking diversity.
The event is organized by Jeremy Evans-Smith, who is also the founder of Full Cycle School, a learning app designed to teach businesses how to more effectively recruit and retain tech talent to their companies.
“I’m inspired by this conference called AfroTech, which happens predominantly in the Bay Area and is the largest gathering of Black folks in tech in terms of a conference,” Evans-Smith said. “What would it look like if we brought that same flavor or vibe to where we’re at locally, but bring more of an intersectional lens to it. How do we make it an opportunity that is open and accessible to people of all backgrounds and experience?”
The “Breaking Into Tech Kickoff Event” ushers in the techni/color/ conference on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. at the Baxter Community Center in Grand Rapids. The event is open to attendees of all ages.
Organizations including the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology (WMCAT), Start Garden and STEM Greenhouse, among others, will have information booths at the event.
Friday features a happy hour networking event at the office of I.T. services company OST, followed by Saturday’s Black Founders Brunch held at the offices of custom software developer Atomic Object LLC.
Registration for all events is available at technicolor.dev.
The recent 2021 “Diversity in Tech U.S. Report” conducted by global research and education firm John Wiley & Sons Inc. showed that 68 percent of business leaders felt their tech workforce lacked diversity. Also, 51 percent reported that it was tough to recruit diverse, entry-level tech talent.
“The kickoff leading into the Juneteenth weekend: We think there is something special about leveraging that legacy,” Evans-Smith said. “To me, Juneteenth, as a Black man, represents freedom and liberty but also economic well being and that’s something really important about Grand Rapids, too, especially given the history of it and that it maybe hasn’t always been a place economically viable for all people, especially for Black people.”
“We’re really just taking that weekend to bring forth access and awareness to technology opportunities in our community,” he added.”