One Cause At a Time – Archive

An Archive of Chicago Now One Cause at a Time Posts

Archive for September 2017

Tech Inclusion Chicago: Wrap Up

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(NOTE: A complimentary pass was provided for purposes of review. My opinions are my own).

Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend Tech Inclusion Chicago, a conference held at 1871 focusing on diversity in the technology workplace Part of Tech Month Chicago, Tech Inclusion Chicago provided insights, knowledge,  and individuals bringing real-world insights into the tech field. Looking at this blog in the past month, with posts focused on possible ageism and cult-like behavior at one well-known startup, sexism at Google, and efforts to engage women in application and software development, attending Tech Inclusion Chicago felt like a great opportunity to expand my own awareness and possibly gain insight.

And Tech Inclusion Chicago did not disappoint – I have pages of notes from the conference. However, rather than write a thorough summary of the event from start to finish, I will write a series of key insights and bullet points. If you’re looking for a thorough recap of what happened at Tech Inclusion Chicago, this is not the post for you….but I hope to encapsulate what was so remarkable about Tech Inclusion Chicago.

  • Tom Alexander, COO of 1871, started Tech Inclusion Chicago with some remarks about how 1871 is “baking in” diversity and inclusion within its mission. One of the key aspects he cited was the discovery that when the tech facility performed a demographic breakdown of their mentor pool, they found that it consisted predominantly of men. After a crowdsourcing initiative to introduce gender parity into 1871’s mentor pool, the number of women mentors increased by 30%, and now 53 – 54% of 1871’s mentor pool consists of women.
  • Melinda Briana Epler and Wayne Sutton of ChangeCatalyst spoke of how their efforts to run workshops around inclusion in the tech field changed after the recent election. With a great focus on safety and security, they realized that they needed to drive the conversation in “middle America”, reaching out of their comfort zone.
  • One of the key insights from the State of Diversity in the Tech Ecosystem Panel is that, despite the need for further growth, inclusion in technology is happening in cities like Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Detroit. However, with 40% of women leaving tech jobs and over one-third of people with disabilities leaving the tech field, much work still needs to be done.IMG_20150627_072740592
  • Tracy Powell, Senior Advisor to Blue1647, discussed how the Pilsen-based technology innovation center is organically driving greater inclusion in the tech field. By adopting a philosophy that fosters – rather than imposes – inclusion, Blue1647 not only drives digital excellence but also allows for more creative and innovative solutions.
  • One of the key insights from the Creating an Inclusive Tech Ecosystem in Chicago panel was the need for inclusion on every level – from recruiting to partnerships. It also means moving out of comfort zones, since for many Chicago companies, the attitude that “Everything I need is right here” has meant a reluctance to move outside neighborhood borders (making a trek from the north side to the south side of the city). If there are two phrases that should drive an overall philosophy of inclusion, they are “Diversity is a collective responsibility” and #notqualifiedfortech – both of these demonstrate a need to bring in different, diverse viewpoints for driving inclusion in tech.
  • In one of several smaller presentations, Jon Young of Code Platoon discussed the benefits of hiring veterans for technology jobs. Citing the 80% employment rate of their recent cohort, Young discussed how their experience, maturity, and skill sets make veterans ideal in a field where the emphasis is hiring younger workers.
  • Through several smaller slogans, Melanie Adcock of Tech Scene Chicago emphasized the need for greater empathy and understanding in the workplace, making the point that fair treatment in the workplace is a human rights issue.
  • Tanya DePass of I Need Diverse Games focused on the need for greater inclusion in the gaming industry, where money is left on the table because of a lack of representation. Games are a powerful medium, and with white males driving both the development and the in-game storylines, there is a great opportunity to drive creativity, relatability….and profits.

Tech Inclusion Chicago provided a great number of insights, thoughts, and potential action items for the tech industry. Although this was the first time this conference was held specifically in Chicago, it is my hope that Tech Inclusion Chicago is held next year….with some better results.

What do you think? Please feel free to leave comments below or via our Facebook group. (And all comments are moderated). In addition, you can reach me privately via this Contact Me form or any other channel on this blog’s About page.

And as always, thanks for reading!


Written by gordondym

September 26, 2017 at 10:35 am

Five Years of Chicago TARDIS Charity Auction Planning

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It’s really hard to believe that this will be my fifth year as Chicago TARDIS Charity Auction director. (Chicago TARDIS, for those of you who are unaware, is a Doctor Who-themed convention that happens every November in Lombard). Not only does it support Northern Illinois Food Bank, but it’s also a way for me to enjoy the convention on a different level. For example, there’s always the great assortment of fan-created and donated items and cosplay that I get to see on a regular basis (check out the gallery below)


But more importantly, the work that goes into the Chicago TARDIS charity auction not only allows me to feel fulfilled professionally…but also helps me feel valued, and that my values and ethics – like that of Doctor Who – are being reflected

My professional background involves community building and engagement – living in St. Louis, it meant engaging the community directly face-to-face, attending meetings, and building programs (And usually involved tobacco)  Here in Chicago, it has been mostly through social media…and although yes, I have volunteered off and on, my professional and family commitments have meant that my time is precious. Working the Chicago TARDIS charity auction has allowed me to master both worlds – engaging friends, colleagues, and others to help through item donations, spreading the word via social media and general moral support.

But it’s also the smaller moments – when Mat Irvine (who worked on special effects for the classic series of Doctor Who) donated a communicator prop from the story Warriors of the Deep. Getting to know a wide variety of people who have some curiosity about what we’re offering. And most importantly….building that sense of community. It’s no wonder that we’ve raised over $10,000 over the past five years.

So now, how can you help? Here are a few suggestions:

  • If you have any great fan-created Doctor Who items or memorabilia, please drop me a line at or use my contact me page for an additional level of anonymity
  • Make a direct donation via our new online portal at
  • Note – this year, we are not collecting food items, mostly because we’re not only seeing a decline in food item donations, but many food banks prefer the cash
  • Spread this note via social media…getting the word out helps us reach a wider range of potential donors and sponsors.

But for me, the best thing about running the Chicago TARDIS charity auction is how it reflects my own values…and the values of the show. In the recent series closer, Peter Capaldi (as the 12th Doctor) gives a speech that strikes at the very heart of our current experience:


If you’ve caught the news at any point in the past six months, you’re acutely aware at the amount of dissension, conflict, and anger. One side has made it clear that anyone who embraces diversity, equality, and addressing the changing nature of our community deserves to be persecuted and punished. Divisiveness and hatred are threatening to tear our social fabric into shreds…and that for many of us, kindness is not just warranted, it’s needed to maintain some sense of sanity in an ever-increasingly belligerent society.

That’s ultimately why I enjoy running the Chicago TARDIS charity auction – entering data, entering past inventory, following up with bidders, all of this isn’t merely because I enjoy a free convention. (Because I love working conventions). It’s because, in my own small way, I get to show kindness. My current experience is split between caring for my mother, trying to acquire new freelance work, and keeping current with freelance assignments. My social life is slowly, but surely, improving..but it’s easy for me to get stuck in that narrow mindset. The Chicago TARDIS charity auction is a great opportunity for me to express my own personal values: compassion, empathy, inclusion, and kindness….in a way that allows me to engage my fandom and make a greater impact on the community. Being Chicago TARDIS charity auction director allows me to express my values and engage in the kind of community building work that I love…

Because where I stand is where fall.

Please leave your comments below or join the conversation on our Facebook page. Comments are moderated.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

September 15, 2017 at 11:03 am

Meet Your Neighbor: I Attended My First Vigil

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FULL DISCLOSURE: For a person who advocates for getting more involved in the community, and who tries to provide resources to empower people….I have done a poor job as a citizen and an ally. The only vigil I had kept was regular Twitter engagement.

Honestly, most of my advocacy has been behind the keyboard. I haven’t marched. I have reached out to my representatives. I haven’t had the chance to put myself between potential victims and victimizers. I have volunteered to help out various initiatives (including an anthology to benefit Southern Poverty Law Center), but I haven’t been there. Not because of my caretaking/freelance duties….but basically because I haven’t felt moved enough to take real, solid action.

And then, this past Saturday, I attended my first vigil.

Once I learned about Hope and Light: A Chicago Nerd Vigil Against White Supremacy through the Chicago Nerd Social Club Facebook group (More disclosure: I’m more than just a member of CNSC – I’m a former board member), and I realized this was an opportunity. I had the evening free, I wanted to feel safe, and more importantly…I wanted to do something. I wanted to make some kind of stand…if only to serve as a springboard for further action. I had stayed too long on the sidelines, and although this was a peaceful protest…it was a first step I desperately needed. 

Since people were encouraged to bring light sabers and other signifiers of their geekdom, I went to my storage locker to find my collapsible light saber….or my Sonic Screwdriver…or my Indiana Jones fedora. All of them were buried, so I had to settle for my Doc Savage t-shirt. Might not sound like much, but not only did it show my willingness to fight white supremacy old school pulp-style, but Doc Savage played a huge role in my ethical and moral development. Moving from the storage locker, I took the not-quite-as-long-as-I-remember CTA ride downtown.

Thankfully, I was able to follow the rules (this was a peaceful gathering, with no weapons or masks allowed, and I was completely OK with that), and…well, I only knew three people who showed up, two of them through Chicago TARDIS. (I am not complaining…in fact, it was comforting. I’ve felt very isolated for the past few weeks, and quite honestly, I needed to reconnect with people if only casually). We went through some exercises, and I took some photos with my new phone (so please excuse the shaky quality…I’m a writer, not a photographer) Thankfully, there were extra light sabers available for those without such accessories. (But hey, when you have Mjolnir, sonic screwdrivers, and Harry Potter wands….there were plenty of opportunities for full-on geekery). Even though much of the vigil was interrupted by a heavy rain, there was a great lesson that I learned from that night….

Remember last week, when I declared that Fear Makes Companions of Us All”?

So does hope….and hope is much stronger than fear.

It is very easy to forget that many of the people acting against our interests are, in fact, hurt and flawed human beings acting out of racial intolerance. After all, our President just ended an Obama-era immigration program for minors, and many articles have been written focusing on the ethics of “punching a Nazi.” And I have no problems punching Nazis….or white supremacists….metaphorically, through my keyboard. But now, I can take a stronger stand…and feel more confident that if I had to put myself in harm’s way to defend the defenseless, I could do so more easily. Not out of moral superiority, but because I know there are others just like me.

Giving into despair and depression is easy, and many of us feel like we’re under siege – that larger forces are playing divide-and-conquer with our lives. But our common humanity binds us despite our differences. We are currently living in a time when intolerance, hatred, and racism threaten to tear apart our community, and that current leadership is openly tolerating and encouraging that division. We all have a role to play in the Resistance, to use modern language…but there’s one difference between our side and theirs.

Their side has hatred; we have compassion.

Their side has intolerance; we have acceptance.

They choose self-deception; we choose truth.

Their courage comes from devaluing others; ours comes from seeing the value of others.

Finally, they act out of fear; we act out of hope.

And hope always wins.

(Please feel free to leave comments below, as well as join the conversation on our Facebook page, and you are welcome to contact me privately via e-mail. All comments are moderated. Thanks for reading!) 

Written by gordondym

September 4, 2017 at 2:08 pm