How I Started the Chicago Roboto Scholar/Guide Program
This year I started helping organize Chicago Roboto and I’m excited about the opportunities that brings to help improve the conference. To make our Android community a more welcoming space, we’re expanding our Diversity and Inclusion tickets to be a Scholar/Guide program.
This has two parts to it. The first is the scholarship. Students and members of under-represented communities in tech who wouldn’t be able to attend otherwise can apply for a registration scholarship. If selected, they will receive free registration to the conference. New this year, they will also get a personal guide!
A guide is someone who can be a welcoming face at the conference and be there to answer questions. They have attended this or other tech events in the past. It can be overwhelming to attend a conference for the first time or when you don’t know many people. A guide is someone the scholar can connect with and make the most of the conference with. Guides also go through an application process so we can make knowledgeable matches between scholars and guides.
The scholar/guide programs at RubyConf, RailsConf, and StrangeLoop inspired me. Through reaching out to the organizers of these events I was able to gather valuable insight about how to put together a program like this and make it successful. Tips around timeline, scholar/guide pairing, application, and day of organization were topics we discussed. An extra thank you goes out to Abby Phoenix from Ruby Central who hopped on a video call with me to go through all the moving parts a program like this involves (as well as other wishlist items I have for future Chicago Robotos 😉).
There are a few different stages of this program as we move through the timeline: Applications, Selection, Pairing, Announcements, and Event Days. At the time of this writing we’re in the application stage and are excited to get to the selection stage next.
Both the scholars and the guides fill out applications before selection and pairing. This is not only for selection, but also to make sure we can make relevant pairs. If a scholar is most interested in networking we will pair them with a guide excited to meet other developers. We’ll pair a scholar who is most interested in learning from talks with a guide who can help them plan out which sessions to attend.
You yourself can apply before August 24th on our website.
Selection, Pairing, Announcements
When the applications close on August 24th, this will be our next stage to work on. We’ll take a look at all the scholarship applications, make selections, share the good news with them, and confirm their attendance. Once we know they’re coming, we can work on guide selections. The primary indicator on if we select a guide is if there is a scholar who is a good fit for them. This means that we might not pick someone who would be an awesome guide because of the scholar selections for the year. If this is you, please apply again the next year.
When it comes to the day of the event and the days leading up to it, we want to make sure everything goes smoothly for everyone involved. This means making sure scholars and guides can connect, making sure they have the information they need, and answering any questions. We want to make sure this is a safe space for everyone involved.
How You Can Help
There are lots of other things you can do to help as well:
- Be welcoming at the conference. Introduce yourself to someone new. Invite others to join you if they’re attending alone. Learn more about other people and find out what interests them. If nothing else, stand like Pacman to leave room for others to join. These connections strengthen our community.
- Sponsor a diversity and inclusion ticket, or encourage your company to do so. It’s because of the wonderful people and organizations in our community sponsoring these tickets that we’re able to provide this scholarship program. You can donate an individual ticket through the registration form, or contact us for more information.
- Be a dedicated diversity and inclusion sponsor. We have efforts such as more scholarship tickets, childcare reimbursement, Scholar/Guide welcome dinner/breakfast, and live captioning, to name a few, and we would love your help. If you’d like to find out more, please reach out.
- Make a suggestion. We learn how we can improve from the kind feedback from our past and future attendees. If there’s a way we can make Chicago Roboto better for you, let us know.
This is the first time we’re doing this, so we’re learning A LOT along the way. If you have any feedback about the program, please reach out to me. I’m hoping to iterate on this and make it even better next time.
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