Last week I had the privilege to attend the White House LGBT in Tech Briefing. This was the third year of the briefing, an event aimed at getting together some of the most talented and diverse technical minds in the country to discuss some of the biggest problems facing our nation. To gather together with all of these amazing people inside the residence and workplace of the leader of the free world was an absolutely amazing experience that I will never forget. I am humbled and honored to have been a part of it.
The day started off with an introduction from Raffi Freedman-Gursman, the White House LGBT Liason, followed by Megan Smith, White House Chief Technology Officer. Then we heard from Leanne Pittsford, organizer of Lesbians Who Tech and the woman we have to thank for organizing this fabulous event.
Raffi gave us a great overview of some of the things the administration has already done and what they’re continuing to work on for the LGBT community while Megan Smith gave us an overview of the tech focus and initiatives as a whole for the administration. Leanne then gave an overview of what we’d be doing for the day and our larger goal, putting together a conference in November with over 3000 people to help continue the conversations from today.
From there Ellie Schaefer, the White House Director of the Visitors Office, surprised us by bringing in the First Dogs, Bo and Sunny! Dogs are my favorite thing ever so meeting the First Dogs was like my dream come true. I even got to pet them and they were amazingly soft.
After this we went into “Asks and Offers”, where some of us stood up and introduced ourselves, and were able to ask something of the group and tell the group what we had to offer in return. I was terrified of getting up in front of all 300 people in that room, as well as whoever was watching on the White House live stream, however it went well and afterward I was glad I did. Introducing myself and talking about my work at RailsBridge and thoughtbot opened the door to meeting some great people more easily.
After Asks and Offers, leaders of different White House initiatives, such as the Initiative for Women and Girls, Criminal Justice Reform, the Environment, etc all came up and talked to us about their initiatives and what problems they were trying to solve. We then split up into small groups focused on these different areas to continue that conversation and brainstorm about how we can help solve these problems with technology.
I participated in the Criminal Justice Reform group and I was really impressed with the level of conversation and what we accomplished in such a short amount of time. I’m very excited to continue the conversation and help organize the Criminal Justice Reform track for the conference in November.
Later in the afternoon we had a tour of the White House and then closed out and celebrated during the after party. Over all it was an absolutely fantastic event and I met some amazing people there. I can’t wait to get back together in November and continue this work.