As we know, a lot has changed in the last 12 months. For this year’s Technology Taskforce Showcase event, we came to you online, which we felt was apt, considering we’re the Technology Taskforce!
We were delighted to be supported by Microsoft for this event, and Chris Perkins, General Manager, Public Sector at Microsoft welcomed us all to the event. Chris talked about how the pandemic is going to increase the need for digital skills across the globe. And their digital skills initiative, and Get on 2021, in the UK, will look to help 1.5 million people in the UK build careers in technology by 2025. Chris shared how the inbuilt accessibility features within Office and Window, which allow colleagues to access the captions, immersive reader and read allow functions had really benefited their colleagues within Microsoft.
Our first featured speaker for the event, was Iain Hadwin from Bristol Myers Squibb. Iain shared with us his diagnosis of his Tourette’s in adulthood, and how things clicked into place for him, when he had a name associated with what he was feeling. Iain talked about the benefits that he has found from being authentic with his employer about how his condition impacts him, and how talking about his tics has made it less of an issue for everyone. He also talked about how we should focus on substance over style; on what we say, rather than how we say it.
We then passed the baton over to Debra Ruh, who talked about how important it was for us to understand the human condition. Debra shared her personal story from a number of angles, from her daughter Sara, who was born with down syndrome, her husband’s early onset Alzheimer’s as a consequence of a brain injury, and her own diagnosis of ADHD. Debra talked about the importance of talking about our lived experience of disability and how we should ‘own it’, along with her brand-new initiative Billion Strong, which will be launching soon.
The last of our speakers was Prajakt Deotale from Microsoft, who shared his story around how boring normal was, and who wants to be normal! He shared how his Muscular Dystrophy has impacted his life before Covid-19 and how in order to get to London for a 9am meeting, he had to get up at 4am, with support from his wife to get ready, so that h
e could get a taxi and arrive at his meeting on time. He shared the sheer exhaustion of having to do this multiple times a week and feeling that he wasn’t being his ‘best self’. Having to then work from home during the pandemic, has really helped him to thrive and be his best self. He’s taken on new challenges and he now has a better work-life balance than ever before. Prajakt talked about his beautiful twin daughters, that have published a book during the pandemic, and reminded us that “young minds shape society”.
We then moved onto a panel session, where Iain, Debra and Prajakt, and we were also joined by Michael Vermeersch from Microsoft, who some of you may remember from last year’s Showcase. The panel discussed the importance of diagnosis for them all, and how having a name to their condition, especially for Iain, had helped him to understand it. We discussed how beneficial storytelling and role modelling is within an organisation, and how this impacts on the culture. It is also important to remember that as colleagues and managers, we don’t need to be the experts on others, we just need to have the willingness to have a conversation and ask, “What do you need to be your happiest and most productive self at work?”.
In the panel we also had a conversation around what happens if you don’t want to share with your colleagues and managers about your condition/disability. If everything was designed with inclusion in mind, from our physical spaces, to our technology and processes, we would reduce the need for someone to have to tell you, making things easier for everyone.
That just leaves me to thank our amazing guests, Chris Perkins, Iain Hadwin, Debra Ruh, Prajakt Deotale, Michael Vermeersch and Microsoft for supporting the Technology Taskforce Showcase 2021 – Tech for Life.