This past week, Livescape staff had the pleasure of attending True North 2018, the region's first Tech for Good conference.
Here are a few highlights from the True North:
1. Women - While tech is widely discussed as being a "bro-culture" industry, plagued with toxic masculinity, True North was anything but. Not only was there an abundant female presence at the conference itself, but there was also a great balance of female speakers. Bozoma Saint John lit the stage on fire as an unapologetically-herself-powerhouse, and Kate Darling was incredibly eloquent and knowledgeable. With numerous other women from local organizations like Axonify's Carol Leaman and Perimeter Institute's Tenille Bonoguore, True North organizers definitely demonstrated a commitment to featuring strong female leaders.
2. Intimate and Dynamic Round-Table Discussion Groups - Specifically Siyabulela Xuza's feature on sustainability and clean tech in Africa, which was attended by Livescape founder Ashley DeMarte. Siyabulela discussed his ground-breaking microfuel cell research, and his work in building distributed energy solutions to power remote and rural areas in Africa.
"The convergence of the industrial internet of things, together with advances in energy storage are enabling a 21st century energy revolution. Africa is uniquely positioned to lead the sustainable energy age by providing an ideal test bed for these emerging technologies." - True North
3. Creativity in Tech - The conference opened on an inspiringly unexpected note, with Ed Catmull (Co-Founder And President, Pixar Animation Studios). Ed's talk focused on the importance of nurturing creativity in the tech sphere, an attitude that I personally feel is not widely discussed and largely misunderstood within the industry. As someone who originated in the creative sector, I found that Ed's presentation was refreshing and exciting, encouraging more interplay between tech and creativity. Another highlight was the panel discussion featuring Spike Jonze (Director "Her"), Kate Darling (specialist in human-robot relationships), and Charlie (Writer/Producer "Black Mirror"). Aptly titled "Stranger Than Fiction", this discussion explored the fictional vs reality aspects of tech, and our human tendencies and psychology surrounding our relationships with technology.
4. Lot42 - A few years ago this venue was an operating steel facility. Now, through the dedication of Ron Doyle and his son Patrick, this space has become a world-class venue for conferences and events, putting Kitchener on the map to attract high-profile happenings like True North.
5. Local Businesses - While True North attracted attendees and speakers from around the world, the fare was distinctly local. With coffee provided by one of my favourite roasters, Galt's Monigram Coffee, and array of local food trucks, I was pleased to see this huge conference supporting the community's small biz. Additionally, the conference featured a Why Waterloo tech tour, free concerts at Kitchener City Hall, and nightly social opportunities at The Walper Hotel and TheMuseum.