</The Institute of Coding 2020 Conference – Inspiring the Next Generation into Digital>
By Jay-Ann Lopez, Founder of Black Girl Gamers
A few weeks ago, I had the chance to attend day one of the Institute of Coding (IoC)’s 2020 conference. Designed to bring together a diverse audience to discuss ways to bridge the digital skills gap and explore how to improve diversity in the industry, it was a day filled with workshops, panel events and keynote speakers, including Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon, founder of the Stemettes.
So, what did I learn from my day with the experts learning about the future of the digital industry and how we can tackle challenges ahead?
When I entered the conference, I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a sense of imposter syndrome. My interaction with coding has generally been from the outside looking in. I know a few things here and there, and there have been some really pivotal points in my life when this changed – for example, when gaming evolved for me from a hobby to a career. I did question, as many do, whether my experience and all I had built with Black Girl Gamers was worthy of my space in the room, but my worries and concerns were soon put to rest.
Jacqueline de Rojas, president of techUK and co-Chair of the IoC, opened the conference with inspirational vigour, highlighting the pressing need for 1.2 million employees for digital jobs in the UK. She pointed out that the industry was growing at seven times the rate of other industries in the UK, and there will be a price for the lack of diversity in digital spaces. This point really struck a chord with me, as it was something that has been clear to me for so long. The time for lip service is over, and I was glad that Jacqueline made that crystal clear to all in the room at the very beginning of the conference.
When Anne-Marie Imafidon stepped on stage, she also immediately drew me in. She touched on many topics including the current status of the digital sector, and how Stemettes encourage young women to develop digital, media and coding skills. She wove classic examples of women excluded from the development of digital and tech into her keynote, such as being left out of the target demographic during the creation of the seatbelt. Anne-Marie also explored the power of artificial intelligence and how it’s increasingly used to develop things like musical scores. The common thread was that the digital world is far too impactful to remain in its exclusionary state, while calling on us all to engage in lifelong digital learning for the sake of progression.
I appreciated that she pointed out how the lack of diversity in the digital is not new. The lack of consideration for women and the co-opting of people of colour’s inventions are all strings of the same thread – innate behaviours that we haven’t challenged enough. Anne-Marie was truly a presence whose down-to-earth demeanour only made her keynote more meaningful to me. She is another black woman with an inspirational organisation focusing on women that had started in the industry from scratch, much like me and Black Girl Gamers.
Both Jacqueline and Anne-Marie had a profound impact on what I thought was possible in digital. I left the conference armed with a desire to join an IoC course and adopt the mantra of lifelong learning, which is a surprisingly easy pivot to make in your life.
Jay-Ann Lopez has partnered with the Institute of Coding on their CTRL Your Future campaign to encourage a more diverse group of young people into digital careers through higher education.
For more information on how you can choose your own pathway and reboot the system, visit our course page here.