As PressNomics 6 approaches, it’s humbling to see how it’s grown beyond a conference for people that power the WordPress economy, to a community of awesome individuals and organizations that come together to spark change in our ecosystem.
I’d like to introduce you to Zack Katz, creator of GravityView and co-founder of the company with his wife, Juniper Katz. I believe the first time I met Zack was at WordCamp Miami 2015, where he and I sat at the same table for lunch and sparked a conversation around our shared interest of films. Actually, it was more like getting his deep thinking into cinematography and passion for storytelling versus my wide-eyed, popcorn chugging excitement for action movies. We’ve been swapping our favorite blockbusters ever since.
There’s another passion that Zack shares, however, and that’s diversity in tech. The duo has launched a new initiative at GravityView, and it’s called the GravityView Diversity Grant which looks to help an attendee make a trip out to PressNomics this year.
Once I saw the retweets piling up, I reached out to Zack to learn more:
On the grant description page, you mentioned that you were scared to attend your first PressNomics, how has your confidence changed over the years since launching GravityView?
Every year I attend PressNomics, I feel more comfortable; it’s great seeing many of the same people year after year.
I’ve developed a network of people whom I enjoy spending time with and enjoy seeing every year. I rely on my network to help me make decisions. I know we all encounter similar challenges in our business and as humans, and we’re all part of the WordPress community!
I’m much more confident now.
Are there any methods or lessons you could share to help someone build the confidence to take their seat at the table?
I know there is controversy surrounding her and her book, but I do recommend people read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. Yes, she works for an evil empire, but she’s the most powerful woman in tech and gives solid advice. I listened to Lean In on audiobook when it came out, and her advice makes a lot of sense.
Each person has to chart their own course when it comes to getting involved, but the first step is giving yourself the opportunity to see what’s out there through attending conferences and the like. You can’t succeed until you get yourself out there.
I can’t tell anyone else how to do this; you’ll need to find your own way of building your nerve. But there are people who want you to succeed. Find them, and ask for help. We all need help on our way up; everyone does. It feels good to help people on their way up.
Do you have any advice for your fellow business colleagues that want to effect change, but don’t know how to choose a meaningful path?
Choose something that you care about and speak out about it.
Expose yourself to information. Subscribe to some podcasts, here are 3o suggestions for entrepreneurs, watch TED talks. Listening to people who have thought deeply about a topic helps you understand what you believe and how you fit in. Follow diverse voices on Twitter, and follow who they follow. Learning requires exposure.
Last year, as an organizer for WordCamp Denver, I made a point to ask questions and suggest alternate viewpoints. For example: “How can we improve diversity for this event?” is a simple question to ask, but it leads to a more inclusive event. It’s that easy: be a voice. Speak out. Bring awareness to an issue that matters to you.
What matters to you? One way to find a cause to support is to pay attention: what moves you? What are you connected to in your own experience? That’s a good place to start.
You might be someone who really cares about health and nutrition. Your contribution could be to help bring healthier food options to events. You might care about recycling, or homelessness, or literacy—whatever the issue, add your voice.
Why did you and Juniper choose PressNomics as a choice conference for this kind of effort?
PressNomics has been the most important conference for my professional development. Each year I return to the conference, I know more people, I make more connections, I deepen the relationships, and those relationships benefit me. Each year, the people I meet and the things I learn help me and improve our business.
Juniper and I wanted more people to have that experience.
Be honest with us, is there anything you’d like to see added to PressNomics?
There are many hurdles to get involved in technology and business, and that’s especially the case for women and minorities. These challenges begin long before people try and launch a business—by the time someone is interested in attending PressNomics, they have already overcome so many systemic hurdles. PressNomics can help them with that last step.
I believe there are actions can be taken to improve the diversity of attendees and speakers. These are just some ideas:
- Create a code of conduct that outlines acceptable behavior during the conference. Apple just created a Code of Conduct for WWDC that is simple but outlines expectations and repercussions; a mission statement for creating a safe and positive environment.
- Create an official scholarship/sponsored tickets program for diversity (Maybe like the Pagely Scholarship for underrepresented college students?)
- Start an outreach program to invite women and minorities to register
- Have panels on diversity and sensitivity
- Feature women and people from underrepresented groups in key speaking spots (like the opening talks of each day)
- Include Lean In or a similar book in the welcome package
I want WordPress to be inclusive and diverse. PressNomics represents the premier business conference for WordPress, and if you make diversity a priority, it will surely have a meaningful impact.
Oh, and how’re things with GravityView? Any particular challenges or goals remaining for 2019?
Things are going great for GravityView. This year we’re focusing on being strategic about growing our business. We are likely hiring someone soon to help lead these efforts.
What’s the best way people can reach out to you to say thanks?
You can find me at PressNomics or WordCamps and say hi! I always like to meet new people.
Please Tweet the link to the GravityView Diversity Grant and help spread the word.
Take a moment to thank Zack, Juniper, and the GravityView team for making PressNomics 6 an even more special event than it will be.