Saying Goodbye to ScotlandJS
By Kim Crayton
I am not ashamed to admit that I cried when I had to say goodbye to Peter Aitken on my last night in Edinburgh, Scotland. Those tears were in appreciation and love for a community to which I feel safe, respected, and supported, knowing that the event that we all love was no more.
It was 2016 when, after giving my “Overcoming Mentoring” talk at several local Atlanta Meetups, that I applied to speak at ScotlandJS and to my surprise I was accepted. My first tech conference talk would be my first international trip during my birthday and I thought, “what a way to celebrate”.
Boy, had I underestimated the power of community. Not only had Peter made sure that I felt safe traveling outside of the U.S. for the first time, he personally stayed in contact with me throughout the week. He made sure that I met and was included in the community.
ScotlandJS was the boyfriend experience I always hoped for. That person who would listen with an interest in wanting to make you comfortable and to see you thrive. The experience that leaves you with no doubt that your well-being is a priority. And there was no better demonstration of this feeling than when after what turned out to be a successful talk, I was not allowed to leave the stage, per the MCs. As I was questioning them because I was completely confused, my attention was drawn to the back of the room where the attendees begin to sing “Happy Birthday” and Peter emerges out of the crowd with a candle lit cake. So I guess, that’s the first time I cried in Scotland.
So you can only imagine how honored I felt to be asked to give the final closing keynote at this event. And to know that my talk was to be a surprise. To be trusted to say goodbye in the only way I know how, which is to push people outside of their comfort zones, in order to force the changes we need to make in tech.
I recognize that their are those who are just fine with the status quo but even their comfort cannot be sustained as the technology community barrels ahead without thought to the long-term consequences of decisions made from the white male perspective. It is our responsibility as technologists to challenge ourselves to think beyond our own wants and needs as we continue to accelerate the pace we are creating products and services that impact our global community for years to come.
It takes individuals like Peter and events like ScotlandJS that provide the safe spaces for us to grapple with the decisions we make and the impact they have and that only happens when individuals like myself and our messages are treated with the respect we deserve. ScotlandJS will ALWAYS be my first love because it was where I gained the courage to speak my truth, which has resulted in launching my career as a tech focused business strategist.
Thank you ScotlandJS for being the unexpected gift I needed to find my place in this thing we call tech,