Being seen and why PASS helped

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One of my colleagues/friends read my earlier blog post on the future of PASS and said he was not aware that being seen as a minority person was among my reasons for supporting them. In this one I want to explain that a bit more.
There is a strongly held belief in the tech community atleast that volunteers should not expect anything, including recognition. Theoritically, this is true. Volunteering is based on the concept of doing good without expectations and those should include recognition. But we don’t live in an ideal world.
I have been at many tech events not associated with PASS as a regular attendee. I knew what was being talked about, I wanted to participate – but it is insanely hard. I could be a pillar, or a book shelf, to the many men there.
The tech industry is hugely white male dominated – and those of us ‘others’, if we have to be seen, need some sort of prop identifying what you did, and perhaps, that you did it well. It may be an award, or it may just be a digital badge. Or it may be you sitting at a table with a table cloth or swag that is familiar looking to the people going by. People stop to ask details about the user group. Then they ask about what I am doing for them. Then, perhaps about other chapters or conferences or whatever else PASS has. It is a gain, for me, and for PASS. The same thing goes for digital badges on my resume. Below is an actual conversation during an interview, when the interview saw the ‘regional mentor’ badge.
Interviewer: So, what does a ‘regional mentor’ mean?
Me: It means I get to mentor and help chapter leaders on various aspects of what they do.
Interviewer: I see, so what are the chapters you mentor?
Me: In southeast region, I mentor 6 chapters (I list names).
Interviewer: Oh there is one in Greenville? I did not know that. We have another office there, I must ask our staff there to go. So I suppose you got to become regional mentor by being with them for some time and leading chapters yourself?
Me: Yes. I have run my own chapter for ten years in Louisville.
Interviewer: That tells me a lot about initiative!

That’s typically how it goes. Below are the ‘badges’ I have received doing various things for PASS. If PASS goes away, all this goes with it. Many people like me wil not have any props, any means to start a conversation or let others know what they are capable of. Please consider registering for the virtual summit, help us save the organization and sustain efforts at helping people succeed.

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