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TAO Tech Ignite reminds us to not forget the human experience

March 16, 2016

By Beth Burgee of Conveyor 

On one of the few blue-sky afternoons this month, 300 Portland residents converged at the Alberta Rose Theater for the 7th iteration of Tech Ignite, a Technology Association of Oregon production organized by its Development & Engineering community.

Ignite is a series of events that happen nationally around a variety of topics. Anyone can apply to present, and those who do have 5 minutes to talk about their idea, story or project, with only 20 slides that automatically advance every 15 seconds as support. This keeps with the Ignite mantra, “enlighten us, but keep it quick.”

Technology is so ingrained into everyday life that practically any other topic can orbit around its gravity. Similarly, at Tech Ignite, ideas and insights were shared on a wide range of topics – not specifically focused on, but revolving around the overarching theme of technology.

While some talks addressed the value of invisibility or the importance of creating brand advocates, many focused on the human element of technology, or perhaps more importantly, the lack thereof. 

Work culture emerged as a storyline with one presentation reminding us that the candidate experience is a rather bleak place to be and how the hiring process should be a reflection of the work culture we strive to achieve. Another presenter A/B tested the much-hyped “unlimited vacation” trend at his company to find the biggest differentiator wasn’t added time off but the partnership of trust that the policy instilled. 

Ideas throughout the night honed in on the importance of designing for real problems.  An IT geek to user-experience specialist shared her journey of solving software headaches by working with engineers to craft better end-experiences. A Social Media Program Manager at OHSU shared her learnings from a significant and very public campaign fumble to illustrate the importance of knowing the pains and struggles of the people for which you are trying to earn respect and support.

The presentations that won the audience’s favor highlighted the importance of the human element in today’s tech-immersive world. Specifically, that in order to empathize and grow, it is critical to involve people in the IT process. Similarly, the value of disconnecting from our phones and spending less time looking at screens allows us to enjoy life’s wonders that are not pre-programmed, and proves to be important in how we engage with our world.

Emcee Alex Payne emphasized the importance of a human, collaborative, eccentric community, particularly in the tech space. Presenters honed that message. Tech Ignite was a perfect reminder to keep things human. Keep things weird. And keep things wired – most of the time. For a full list of topics and speakers visit TAO's Ignite Page