Opinion: I love how tech supports me. Now, it’s time to talk about how to give back.
Switchboard’s Kathleen Reid is committed to showing the B.C. tech community some love as often as she possibly can.
While a single day is set aside each year for showing our love to that special someone – or co-worker or customer – the Switchboard Team is committed to showing the B.C. tech community some love as often as we possibly can.
What’s to love about tech? As someone who relies on various innovations to overcome the visual deterioration caused by Stargardt disease, I love that Microsoft's free SeeingAI app speaks text as soon as it appears in front of my iPhone’s camera, and scans barcodes so I buy the right diapers for my son. I love my iPhone’s accessibility features, dark mode, and quick-zooming camera, and Google Maps’ capability to speak street names when I’m struggling to read signs. Staying up to speed on all-things-tech is a priority for me, which is why the tech-enabled rise of podcasts, audiobooks and spoken-word news articles has been so beneficial.
I rarely share my disability with new acquaintances, mainly because I have learned to deal with it on my own. I’m unable to drive, for instance, and when work requires driving I have no expectations that it will be accommodated, and am not bothered in the slightest when challenges come up. I hail an Uber or Lyft or check the transit schedule. I am used to challenges and mitigating them. On those occasions when I do share my disability with clients, I am filled with appreciation and admiration when it is acknowledged and accommodated, be it with better lighting or larger type, using black pen instead of blue pen for manual mark-ups, or with the kind offer of a post-meeting rideshare.
Action and innovation lead to positive change
In my experience, the tech sector leads the way when it comes to creating a diverse and inclusive environment, and tends to embrace the maxim that actions speak louder than words. My love and appreciation for these attributes was at least part of the reason I founded Switchboard to be Vancouver’s first technology and innovation-focused PR agency, and to collaborate with leaders who are working to create positive change in the world by developing groundbreaking solutions to big problems.
It’s also why Switchboard does so much to give back to the tech community. Our team has poured 500-plus in-kind hours, and resources worth more than $70,000, into community events over the last three years. These included the Technology Impact Awards (TIAs), which celebrate organizations that are transforming the province’s tech industry and building the fabric of BC’s vibrant tech ecosystem; the New Ventures BC (NVBC) Competition, which gives away $250,000 in prize packages to its top three finalists, plus sector-specific industry prizes; and Vancouver Startup Week (VSW), which over seven jam-packed days connects entrepreneurs, investors, community leaders, and friends to build momentum and opportunity around the tech community’s unique entrepreneurial identity. At a time when others paused their community support efforts owing to the pandemic, Switchboard gave back more than we ever have.
Since we’re always on the lookout for new tech community events to support, I encourage organizers in the Vancouver area to reach out to my team at email@example.com. While we can’t always offer pro bono or in-kind services ranging from strategic communications and content creation to social media marketing and conference planning, I’m proud of what we have given back to the community that has given me so much. I firmly believe that it never hurts to ask, so ask away!
We get what we give
Another reason Switchboard loves giving back is that we get so much out of tech community events. There’s positive exposure, connections and goodwill, to be sure, but we also learn a lot about the community and ourselves. While volunteering as a panel host and speaker at the BC Tech Association’s 2020 #WhatWorks: Women in Tech Series, for instance, I was thrilled to play a part, however small, in moving the dial on diversity and inclusion. At the end of the original two-month program – which was extended for another three months due to popular demand – BC Tech unveiled 15 practical, actionable strategies for unlocking the tech sector’s full potential by boosting the participation of women across five key areas: Data, recruitment, culture, career development and pay equity. I learned many valuable tips over the course of the series, such as being proactive and diligent about reviewing job titles, scope and complexity of work and compensation to be sure compensation is in line with the duties performed by members of the Switchboard team.
#WhatWorks also reinforced a central tenet of Switchboard’s approach to PR: Collaboration is multiplication. So drop us a DM or email to see if we can work together to turn your tech community event into something extra-special for everyone involved.
Kathleen Reid is founder and chief communications officer at Switchboard Public Relations.
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