SIDE PROJECT of the month
Helena Price’s photo project tells the stories of underrepresented groups in the tech industry
Helena Price‘ s Techies project celebrates minority groups in the tech industry
net: What is Techies ( www.techiesproject.com)? HP: Techies is a photo project that explores tech in 2016 through the voice of underrepresented people in the industry. So that includes women, people of colour, LGBT, folks over 50, disabled, you name it. Basically no straight white dudes. net: What prompted you to embark on the project? HP: I worked in tech for several years. Most of my work is in Silicone Valley and I follow the industry closely. In general tech is in a weird place right now. Tensions are high, conversations about diversity and inclusion have kind of risen to a boil, and at the same time there are people that still believe that these problems don’t exist, and that tech is a perfect meritocracy. So I wanted to create a project that challenges all of those assumptions. net: How did you launch the project? HP: I did a call for subjects on Medium and I had 500 people apply in two weeks, which I whittled down to about 100 people. In general I focused on folks that came from backgrounds you wouldn’t expect a typical techy to come from, people who’d been through massive obstacles to get into Silicon Valley. net: What problems did you come up against? HP: It was a really, really intense three months. I worked at my desk for 15 hours a day, ate every meal at my computer, and didn’t leave my house. It was also emotionally intense getting to know 100 people’s intimate stories and their hardships. But I think the work is important enough that it was worth it. net: Do you have a favourite subject you featured? HP: One was February Keeney. She’s an engineering manager at GitHub who spent her first decade or so in tech as a man, and once she transitioned became really acquainted with the privilage that she once had and what she lost. There’s also Nancy Douyon, who had a rough upbringing in illegal immigrant communities in the states, but is now doing amazing research work at Google. There’s Kent Brewster who’s worked in tech since 1978 and can remember the day that agism became a thing. Those are just a handful of people. I have a hard time whittling it down. net: Did you learn anything that surprised you? HP: There’s a lot of things I expected to hear. There’s the things that when we hear it, it makes sense. Like, there’s discrimination in tech. But then when you start to hear it over and over and over again through the lens of different people’s experiences, that’s when it becomes really profound.