Who’s got two thumbs and a date with a CTO? This gal! Let me explain… no… let me sum up.
As you are hopefully aware by now, I published my novel, Raven, on May 20 of last year. The reason I started working on that project is that I believe we need more stories that counter the stereotypes that surround us about the tech industry, to encourage more diverse people to enter tech. In fact, when I started this journey, I began by telling people that if tech companies like Microsoft were really serious about changing diversity in the industry, they’d fund the creation of best-selling novels and movies about young people saving the world with computers.
And while Raven is good, IMHO 😏, it’s not a best-seller, nor did I expect it to be. In the time since I published it, I have been going around giving talks about how we should speak differently about who succeeds in tech, and get more stories out there with examples that inspire diverse people to try. A friend challenged me to take this to the next level: to go back to my original statement that Microsoft should fund the creation of new stories. She said she could get me time with Kevin Scott… The CTO of Microsoft. That’s the kind of opportunity you do not turn down. Gulp. So I went off, wrote a pitch, started practicing it and asking for feedback, and started developing it into a real plan.
And oh. emm. gee. my friends. I have learned something through this process: if you have an insane idea, the best way – maybe the only way – to make it happen, is to collect your courage and tell people about it. The amount of support I’ve gotten from people has been amazing. Help practicing the talk. More ideas. Connections to people who could critique my pitch. Connections to other people at Microsoft to try pitching to. Connections to other people in the industry who care. And most importantly: encouragement to keep going, and checking in to see if I’m making progress. Pushing me to think bigger, and then bigger again – to start working now on making it happen, without waiting for permission.
Let me rough out the pitch for you, though I’m intentionally keeping many details vague, since this is public. There are two parts:
- We should create a web site, similar to AMightyGirl, but focused on diversity in STEM. We should list great books that feature diverse people in STEM. There should be someone constantly generating posts about these great books. I and a couple of other people already have a start on the list – if you work at Microsoft, check it out! http://aka.ms/DiversityInSTEM/ (MSFT only for now, but be patient…) AMightyGirl is a for-profit company; this thing could even pay for itself after it starts. (I’d also work directly with them to make it happen; if any of you know how to make them return my emails I’d love a connection…)
- We should set up a partnership with a publisher, through which we bring in diverse authors to create fiction books that feature diverse people using tech in ways that inspire kids and counter tech stereotypes. We create side modules through which kids who loved the stories can participate in those stories: “Hey kids! If you loved this book, try our activities and coding here…” Teaching them a little bit, but just as importantly, making them see themselves in tech roles too.
I’ve already spoken to the head of children’s publishing at a major U.S. publisher. I’ve floated a pitch to them, too. Still waiting to hear their thoughts.
And I have a date! In a couple of weeks I’m going to <gulp> pitch my Evil Plan To Save The World, to the CTO of Microsoft. Fingers crossed!
Oh yeah! And by the way. Book 2 is already underway! As is an audiobook for Raven! I’ll probably run another Kickstarter soon. Stay tuned…