The DigiCon Story
The story began last October, when I won a Digital competition to attend Web Summit.
I flew to Lisbon with three colleagues and joined 70,000 other people, from 159 different countries, where we had our minds blown by industry experts and trailblazers. The opening ceremony was led by Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with creating the world wide web back in the early 1980s. He spoke movingly about the web coming of age as we reach the tipping point where 50% of the world’s population is online.
The event was a hive of activity and inspiration, with all the major players in the tech industry turning up to present on topics such as artificial intelligence, big data, protecting the environment and supporting women in tech.
Pumped full of enthusiasm, we returned to Bromley and attempted to share what we knew, and this is where the problems began. I wrote an overlong presentation about artificial intelligence, which I ended up scrapping, and I found I became tongue tied when I tried to tell colleagues about the talks. Imposter syndrome (and genuine lack of specialist knowledge) was holding me back from presenting myself as an industry expert and this is how DigiCon was born.
Working in a large digital department for a FTSE 100 company, we have a wealth of internal talent and great relationships with suppliers. I realised that many of these people were far better qualified subject matter experts than me and decided the key to sharing the buzz I got from the summit was to set up an event to showcase them. Surveying all my colleagues, I got a steer on what they wanted to learn and set about finding people who could speak on a variety of topics.
The day was a success and we’re already talking about an encore.
From the initial conversation I had with my boss and the chat I had to have with my husband that evening which ended with him exclaiming “why do you get yourself into these things, Kate?!”, DigiCon was created in only eight weeks. With an elite squad of volunteers on board, we set about creating laptop stickers and debating lunch menus. I think I enjoyed the organisation just as much as the day!
I remember my colleagues high-fiving me when Penny James, our newly appointed CEO, agreed to headline, and the thrill we felt when Google confirmed they’d sponsor the event.
We asked suppliers for donations to our charity raffle too, which ended up raising over £1,000 for Demelza (childrens’ hospice care).
I remember how closely we had to guard the Star Wars Lego set donated by New Relic as people made excuses to hover around my desk and stroke it wistfully. I also remember how the laughter from our desks would turn heads in the office as internal presenters bombarded us with fake rider requests and we had to threaten one with a charity swear tin during their talk. As free tickets went on general release, presenters would eagerly ask how many people had signed up for their slot, some popping over three times a day as excitement built.
When the day of DigiCon came, I steeled myself to say a few words of introduction. After a swig of coffee and a few blasts of my running playlist, I felt ready and was greeted by a room of nearly 200 smiling faces. Having had a small taste of it, I have huge admiration and gratitude for those who did presentations and all the preparation beforehand that must have gone into the slides. By all accounts, the day was a success and we’re already talking about an encore.
Seeing my colleagues leaping about during the virtual reality taster sessions or laughing with each other over lunch, I felt lucky to work with such a great bunch of people. I’ve learnt there are many different ways to add value but, as the bearded South African giant who walks past my desk most mornings for a fist-bump says: “you’ve got to give a sh*t”.