I love going to conferences and meet-ups. They inspire me, I get to learn new things and I get to meet more amazing community members. I also love to speak at conferences and meet-ups. One of the things that I love the most about speaking is you never know what your talk will inspire. This year alone, speaking and attending conferences has resulted in The Inclusive Toolkit and Side Project Sunday. And Cat Wearables, but that's for a much later post 😉
On New Years day, I had no idea what I’d be doing after January. The job I had for three years was ending and I knew I wanted to do something different. I wanted to do something I found meaningful and something I would be more passionate about. My plan was to freelance and consult, and if that didn't work out then I’d get a “proper job”.
With all the stress of leaving my job and getting a new visa, I felt like I needed to decompress a bit and take a step back from everything. My first two weeks of being unemployed resulted in me watching all of 'Breaking Bad'.
The Inclusive Toolkit
After my 'Breaking Bad' marathon, I spoke at and led a discussion group about accessibility at London Mobile Forum. What came out of the discussion group and the Q & A afterwards was very interesting and is what inspired me to come up with The Inclusive Toolkit.
I speak about accessibility and inclusiveness frequently, it’s something I’m passionate about and I feel like it’s not prioritised often enough in apps. I would usually spend a large chunk of my talk on material that was really just there to convince developers that the time needed to make their app inclusive was worth it. Developers want their apps to be inclusive, but the work involved can be discouraging. Implementing APIs isn’t where most of the problem lies—it’s in testing and verifying accessibility. If it takes a developer a week to make their app inclusive, more than half of that is spent on testing it. It’s much easier to digest 2 working days to make your app inclusive versus 1 week. One of the main goals of The Inclusive Toolkit is to make the testing phase of accessibility as trivial as possible so you can focus solely on implementing the accessibility APIs.
I spent the rest of February and March working on solutions to cut down testing time. Everything started coming together, and I was super excited about making The Inclusive Toolkit. I wanted the tools to be free so every developer can use them. I also wanted to make sure I had time to work on the tools, I didn’t want client work to overshadow my ability to work on the tools. So I thought I’d turn to Kickstarter to get some funding. The response has been amazing so far. I ❤️ what this community is enabling me to do! The Kickstarter met it’s initial funding with two weeks to go. Now I’m working towards the stretch goals.
This project wouldn’t have been possible without me speaking at conferences and events. My favourite part of speaking at a conference isn’t being on stage but engaging with the community—answering questions, sharing advice, and offering support. This is what speaking is about to me.
Side Project Sunday
Another great part of speaking is inspiring others. At Swift Summit, Alex Akers did a great talk about side projects and the difficulty in finishing them. After his talk, I was speaking with some other people and the resulting conversation has led to starting Side Project Sunday. It’s an informal meet-up where we get together, work on our projects, help others out and hopefully finish our side projects 😄
This meet-up wouldn’t have happened if Alex hadn’t done that talk. Side Project Sunday is still new, but I’m so excited about what it will enable more people to achieve.
I encourage all of you to try to speak at meet-ups or conferences, you have no idea where it might lead. I subscribe to Technically Speaking—it’s a great newsletter filled with tips on speaking and always features a few call for papers (you should definitely subscribe too).
Regardless of how much experience you may or may not have, you offer a unique viewpoint and it’s always worth sharing.