Live From the Tech Inclusion Conference Seattle

Chris: Welcome to the ‘Tech Lowdown Show’. I’m your host Chris Jones. Today we’ve got a special treat for you as we’re getting out of the studio and talking to speakers and attendees at the ‘Tech Inclusion Conference’ held in Seattle, created by ‘Change Catalyst’ and hosted by ‘Galvanized’. The conference focuses on solutions to the diversity challenges in the tech space, jobs, funding, access opportunity and much more. This is a great opportunity to hear from some of the change makers, people working every day across the tech ecosystem to bring a bit more fairness, a bit more openness and a bit more access to under-represented groups in tech. Speakers and attendees included a dynamic diverse group racially, ethnically, physical abilities, and sexual orientation. When I talk to attendees and speakers representing entrepreneurs, recruiters, VCs and much more. Our first guest is Eric Osborne whose here in Seattle, one of the most influential group through diversity and inclusion in Tech here in Seattle. I’m here to Tech Inclusion Conference with Eric Osborne, the founder of HERE Seattle, had a number of events like this. What makes this Tech Inclusion Conference different or special?

Eric: I think it’s special. The Tech Inclusion event is special mainly because it’s one of a kind; it’s something that I don’t think I’ve seen before. As you know there’s been a lot of work going on around the resident inclusion, so it’s natural to have people get together and congregate and talk about all the issues that’s going on and hopefully move the neighbour fuel when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

Chris: One of the things I’ve noticed is that the faces, the people that you see here definitely at tech conference I’ve been to not just black and white and brown but also physically did handicapped, deaf,  hearing impaired, unbelievable sense of diversity here. I didn’t know that I was even here in Seattle.

Eric:  You know what, I mean we, ultimately before I was a co-founder here in Seattle, that’s one of the things we started in Seattle in 2014. It was specifically to bring the community of diverse people together so that we can say we are here, we are working in tech and we are you know, thriving in it so definitely plain for us so this conference is definitely going to be different from most typical tech conferences because of the diversity of the topic and I think that it’s a great start but I’m sure we are going to be seeing a lot of more things similar than this.

Chris: Yeah I’m looking forward to seeing what Wayne and Melinda do with a Change Catalyst to do this Amazing stuff. Thanks for your time.

Eric:  All right, have a great day.


Chris: Next we’re going to get a perspective from one of the top diversity recruiters in this space, Steven Matly, C.E.O. and founder of SM Diversity. We’re here to Tech Inclusion Conference and talking to Steven Matly, CEO and founder S. M. Diversity, a full service staffing recruitment agency. Steven, you get to see how companies are tackling the problem diversity from the inside. You describe for us how the best companies in terms of hiring and retention are helping to ensure the success of their diversity initiatives.

Steven: Thank you, great question. So first off, some of the best companies and I’ve seen are the ones that aren’t always the ones that are being highlighted with the best place to work. You’ll be surprised that you know what P.R. and what perspectives and what news outlets and the lip service is out there. So I will first address that, but there are a lot of folks that are champing for this, advocating for this. You know some people say, wow diversity, what are you talking about? This’ been around you know since affirmative action. See well that’s the thing, the mind-set has shifted. The folks that I see that are leading the charge are the ones that shifted from compliance to competitive. And what I’m talking about is that on boarding experience. What’s your first day look like, are you being welcomed; is that not welcome at being a set of people that are taking an honest look at you know, what a higher practices are broken and they can be improved. I mean especially in the tech industry that prides itself on innovation, in disruption, we still are using out-dated, old fashion thinking behaviours, processes in ways that we attract talent, retain talent and advanced talent. And so the ones that have seen, that are in the forefront of these are the ones that one, its visible communicate visibility from top down, there’s some programs in place, there’s activities in place and the values are constantly being addressed internally, externally and the best way I could summarize all that ones. The ones that are leading are the ones that put their employees first. So if you have, if you’re a company that sells an audience, in you’re all about customer centric, well think of your customers and employees. So if you use your voice of the customer where you say hey we sold to these companies and because you’re like these come to you should buy our products, well flip that around. Hey we have these type employees or we’re seeking to get more of these types of employees and we put that in the forefront and highlight those stories in those journals and that we’re committed to getting more of that. That’s how you sell voice of the customer to attract more of the diverse population that you’re looking attract.

Chris: Oh, that’s brilliant. I know one of the challenges that companies ought to have is they get folks in the door but then haven’t put in the infrastructure to support those folks, and they end up leaving. What are you seeing happening there and what can we as candidates coming into those positions do better to ensure that we have existing success once we get into those positions?

Steven: Great and you know I wish I could echo a lot of the things that the panellists said today around. You know you’re hired on board for diversity inclusion like what’s next after you walk through those doors right. It’s your first day, there’s a lot of things that can be done and so you know to from an employer’s standpoint, how you retain, as you see is going to continuously refine and have humility and to understand that you, it’s not flawless. You have to if you’re seeing a higher proportion of your workforce especially women or people of color leave a certain department. So let’s say sales, you should be rallying around creating programs and investing into programs and people to investigate why is this happening, in finding a trend and do those trends you know, assessing that and then going in to find the right resources to educate and train yourself. It’s no different than like if you were hiring for salespeople and all your salespeople were missing their quotas. What is it that you could do to support them and in what areas. It doesn’t have to be a shotgun approach, it just basically takes a time for you to listen, to assess, to pivot and then provide the right resources and support and then measure those results. And I will quote the C.E.O. of Seattle Microsoft saying, look it’s not about just experts and gurus, because then you get the sense of that’s it, the expert and gurus, they’ve figured it out. No, it’s about testing your hypothesis; you see we’re still breaking ground and this is a way for you to test your hypothesis. So continue to test your hypothesis, your ideas, your thoughts and see if it’s effective or not. And every organization is different.

Chris: That’s brilliant. Thank you so much. I want to find out how people can find out more about SM Diversity because you obviously know your stuff.

Steven: Thank you. I’m always looking, listen to learn, to partner, to share. This is something that we at Mercer saw day in and day out. You can find us on smdiversity. com. If you type in diversity recruiting Seattle, I believe for organically the first page result as well. My name is Steven, in S.T.E.V. E.N. Matly, M. A. T. L. Y. And I’m very active on LinkedIn. Thank you.

Chris: Wonderful. I’ll make sure we have that in the show notes. Some really insightful stuff from Steven Matly and I encourage you to reach out to him.


Chris:  Next up, one of my favorite parts of going to events like this is to be able to speak with entrepreneurs who are out there trying to make things happen themselves. Next we speak with entrepreneur Sidney James. Here with Sidney James at the Tech Inclusion Conference, thanks for talking to me Sidney. Tell me what brings you to the Tech Inclusion Conference today.

Sidney: I had actually known Wayne, I’ve been known Wayne say for a couple of years, he sent me an invite and let me know the event was going on, so I came out to support him and want to find out more about what the Tech Inclusion was all about and once I got here, I got to get run over to that to start within two hours and arrange to you …

Chris:  So tell us, you’ve got a start-up, tell us a little bit about your start-up.

Sidney:  Basically, our start up is called Confer. We reduce travel expenses for small to medium size companies. So basically what we do we aggregate those small to medium businesses and give them the same parks and powers as the lower companies.

Chris:  Very interesting, how long did you get it started up?

Sidney:  I’ve been working on it for about a year and a half now so we finally got to a point where we had to  start work on the partnerships and development stages now.

Chris:  That’s exciting. Are you raising capital, you bootstrapping it?

Sidney:  We bootstrapped today. I think we might delay raising capital you know it’s kind of hard a time.

Chris:  Hard to turn down when it comes but delay doesn’t care, that’s exactly what you’ve heard, interesting. Right did you get invite from some sort of mentors that you talk to here?

Sidney:  Oh yes, I actually did. I actually made a good connection with the chief [unclear 10:27] HR consultant firm here. So there is going to be a very good contact for me in the future, I’m moving forward.

Chris: Good. And lastly, what’s your background, how do you end up getting into the disc space?

Sidney:  I went to the University of Alabama. After I left there I went to finish the start-up Engineering program at Georgia Tech and I started my executive MBA at University of Miami, so

Chris:  Wonderful, so you are coded, you’re on the coding side.

Sidney:  I’m on the business side. I’m not on the coding side. I wish I were but I’m not.

Chris:  Wonderful. Do you have any Tech co-founder or you don’t have. How do you want to go about setting it up?

Sidney:  Yes. I do have a Tech co-founder, is by the group of [unclear 11:05] so we have a pretty solid team I would say.

Chris:  Wonderful, really appreciate the time, Sidney thanks.

Sidney:  Thank you.


Chris:  Next, I get a VCs perspective on the value of diversity with respect entrepreneurs and founders in creating value for investors. Heather Redman, Co-founder and Managing Partner, Flying Fish Partners shares her insights on this topic. Hello here in Tech Inclusion Conference, I’m with Heathen Redman, co-founder, managing partner, Flying Fish Partners, an early stage software technology investment firm. She’s had an incredible career, split between business and law. I wanted to ask why is it important for you to be here today?

Heather:  Well I’m super supportive of all the stuff that we’re doing in communities doing collectively to try to promote diversity in our ecosystem. We just need more people starting companies. Our company starts here in Seattle are really not where we should be, given the talent pool. The chamber which are I’m a member of a board of has this initiative called 100% Talent which I love that orientation because it’s like everybody off the bench, everybody on the plain field, let’s take it down with all the talent we have and events like this are a big part of that.

Chris:  And if there’s any one message that you want entrepreneur and potential entrepreneurs in the audience to take from today, what would that be?

Heather:  Start a company and come see us to get some dollars.

Chris:  I love it. I’ll be talking to you.

Heather:  OK.


Chris:  And really interesting perspective from Heather Redman there and I encourage you specially if you’re in Seattle area starter to reach out to Flying Fish Partners. Next we’ve got two more interviews to share with you today and I’m going to roll them back to back. The first is Godfried Addae, Microsoft’s representative on the Cloud Infrastructure team, and then we’ll finish up with David Harris, Start-up Advocate for the city of Seattle on the role of government plays in supporting a more inclusive ecosystem. Here at the Tech Inclusion Conference, I’m going to Godfried Addae. Godfried, why are you here today? What are you going to get in this event?

Godfried: I’m here on behalf of my company. I work for Microsoft and any event that are most tack and inclusion, I’m definitely interested and would like to bring those learning back to my organisation.

Chris:  Wonderful, and tell us, what do you do with Microsoft and what do you aspire to do long term?

Godfried:  Yes, so my day job right now is a quality engineer with the quality infrastructure operations team and we’re basically a team that builds the data service that’s part of the Cloud’s shoot supply chain. I’m in Tech Cloud operation. In terms of aspirations, I’m open. You know, ten years ago, I didn’t think I’ll be here so I don’t know what I‘ll do in the next ten, but I’m in a certain space where it’s full technology and rosy hard topics, so I was somewhere in the intersection of both of those.

Chris: Wonderful, I just finished up with; is there anything specifically tangible that you’re hoping to get out of this conference personally?

Godfried: Yeah personally, just awareness and education. I’m always I’m learning. I like to hear other people’s perspectives and obviously diversity a little bit more than I need diversity to broadening my awareness on gender diversity as well as being inclusive to those with disabilities. Now we can be more welcoming of those groups in our companies and organisations.

Chris: Wonderful thanks for your time. I appreciate it.

Godfried: Thank you.


Chris: So I’m back to you for the Tech Inclusion Conference. I’m talking with David Harris, the Start-up Advocate for the City is Seattle, tell us a little bit about first what your role is with the City of Seattle and how the Tech Inclusion Conference plays into that.

David:  Yes, it’s good to be here, and I have two parts tomorrow. One is to hope play matchmaker for Tech startups in Seattle to nurture and grow to start a community here. The other half, my job is to help connect under-served communities with the tech industry and we help support organizations that especially work with youth, women, people of color and formally incarcerated.

Chris: Great, and  can you tell us a little about the politics you’ll be speaking on, in what issues you’ll going to be speaking to on that panel?

David: Yes, so I forget the exact name of the panel but basically we’re going to be talking about the role of government in policy making and creating an inclusion tech ecosystem in a city. So that’s something that is right up my alley and I’m looking forward to hear from some other folks on the panel as well in just learning but also hopefully I can share some words that would spark up inspiration or make some connections for people to go forward.

Chris: Great, and lastly as an entrepreneur, when would I need to reach out to you? What kind of doors did the Startup Advocate open up for entrepreneur?

David: Yeah, a lot of people come and they just have an idea, they want to know how to get started or maybe they’re looking for a technical co-founder or maybe they have traction in revenue already in their start up, and their looking for funding. And I hope this really shortened path of finding information about those things. And as I meet more and more people through Office Hours, which I usually hold at Startup Hall in the university district or we work in stuff like Union I get to meet more and more people connect more and more people, so definitely looking forward to anybody that’s thinking about creating a Startup, tech Startup in Seattle. The other kind of effort that I hope to see here in Seattle is the Tech Higher initiative. So there are lots of people that are looking for tech jobs across multiple industries and our role to cities is to help bring people to the table for those employers or accelerated training providers like the coatings, boot camps and community organizations. So we’re always looking to help place people in training and get in place in tech jobs, but we’re specially looking to place people who are from black environment and communities and also formally incarcerated.

Chris: That’s wonderful. Lastly, how can someone get in touch with you?

David: My email address is and I help moderate the website startups You can go on there, find a list of resources and other events that are going on in Seattle.

Chris: Wonderful, thank you. I’ll be sure to put that in a short note. I really appreciate your time.

Just a few thoughts from me as we wrap up today’s episode. First, I want to thank Wayne Sutton and Melinda Epler. They co-founded Tech Inclusion about two and a half years ago. Wayne has been a long-time advocate for diversity in tech, he’s been featured everywhere from TechCrunch to the Wall Street Journal. Melinda speaks, mentors and writes about diversity and inclusion in tech, social entrepreneurship, women entrepreneurs and investing. I wasn’t able to get them on the show this week because they were quite busy doing a conference, but I hope to get them on the show in the near future. Please, check out and find out how you can get involved. Tech Inclusion conference will be coming to a number of cities this year. Please, check out for dates and locations of future events. Second, change doesn’t just happen, folks, we’ve got to make it happen. If diversity of thought, backgrounds and experiences are important to you and you’re in a tech company, then stand up and have your voice heard. Finally, thank you to the guests from today’s show. There’ll be plenty of links to the people and their organizations in the show notes. As always, if you like to show, please download all of our episodes and leave us a five star rating on iTunes. You can find show notes at and follow me on Twitter @cjones2002.

Guests on this episode in order include:

Eric Osborne, Co-Founder HERE Seattle





Steven Matly, CEO/Founder of SM Diversity





Sidney James, President & Co-Founder Kunfer






Heather Redman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Flying Fish Partners 




Godfried Addae, Quality Engineer, Microsoft Cloud Infrastructure and Operations






David Harris, Startup Advocate, City of Seattle


Wayne Sutton, Co-Founder of Change Catalyst & Tech Inclusion







Melinda Epler, Co-Founder of Change Catalyst & Tech Inclusion

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