HybridConf welcomes everyone to conversations on design and development

10 Aug 2015

Aaron Draplin, founder of Draplin Design Co and a headline speaker at HybridConf 2015. Photo by Amber Gregory via FontShop/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

HybridConf is coming to Dublin this month to get designers and developers talking — as well as eating and maybe even having a kickabout.

HybridConf will host a line-up of 15 speakers over two days in Dublin, discussing real-world issues, motivation, communication, products, idea creation and more.

When designers and developers are well-connected and in conversation, you get beautiful results – such as the HybridConf website itself. And it’s not just about getting designers and developers to interact, but welcoming all sorts to the conversation.

As an event built to bring members of different communities within the same industry together, it’s no surprise then that one of the key tenets of HybridConf is inclusivity.

“HybridConf was built around the idea of no VIPs. Everyone is welcome, no matter their discipline or experience,” said founder Zach Inglis.

Inglis believes this welcoming environment makes the event more rewarding, as attendees are comfortable, open to learning about new things and confident to approach unfamiliar subjects.

“People often leave very inspired, and with plenty of new friends,” he said.

Connecting with the Dublin tech scene

2015 is HybridConf’s third year running, with previous events taking the organisers to Cardiff and Stockholm.

This year, Inglis and his co-organiser Laura Sanders have been drawn to Dublin’s concentrated and welcoming tech scene.

“I already knew a few people here but, when we started testing the waters, so many of the people from the community started jumping up to help us. Everyone has been incredibly kind and super helpful,” said Inglis, who can rattle off a list of well-known names in Dublin’s tech community, all of whom have helped in some way.

Designing a line-up

Sanders and Inglis spend over six months a year planning and organising HybridConf, and the rest of the year is spent sourcing the money to support it.

Inglis has personally hand-picked the line-up for the upcoming Dublin event, which makes it hard to play favourites – though, when pushed, he does have an answer.

“I’m especially excited about Aaron Draplin,” he revealed, referring to the founder of Draplin Design Co and well-loved Field Notes notebooks.

Draplin is well known for sharing his design skills online, particularly one video for Lynda.com where he was challenged to design a logo in 15 minutes.

“It was actually a previous talk of his that was the catalyst to starting HybridConf,” said Inglis.

“His talk taught me not all conferences have to be a dry lecture, celebrating how great the speakers are. Instead, he was fun, humble and celebrated the discipline.”

‘HybridConf was built around the idea of no VIPs. Everyone is welcome, no matter their discipline or experience’

Draplin is joined by seasoned industry names such as Intercom co-founder Des Traynor, recent sensations like irreverent illustrator Mr Bingo, and a wide range of others including Dr Ayanna Howard, founder and CTO of Zyrobotics; designer and illustrator Allison House, and Shivani Lamba, co-founder and managing director of Forensic Outreach.

Pay it forward

What’s notable in the line-up is that HybridConf has not fallen into the all-male panel trap that befalls so many other tech conferences, and that’s by no means an accident.

“We always try to have a diverse line-up,” said Inglis. “Not by having a quota, but by going out of our way to hear about new people we’ve not heard about before.

“Convincing people to speak isn’t that hard for us, and when people hear we care about diversity it helps a lot more people want to accept.”

As well as doing the work required to build a diverse line-up, HybridConf also strives for diversity in its audience and a unique Pay It Forward initiative contributes to this.

When buying a ticket to the event, attendees have the opportunity to tack on a few quid for the Pay It Forward fund. These contributions are matched by the event team and the funds raised are used to give free or discounted tickets to underrepresented members of the community.

‘Convincing people to speak isn’t that hard for us, and when people hear we care about diversity it helps a lot more people want to accept’

When I meet with Inglis and Sanders, they are delighted to be looking at a 40pc female attendance rate, and they credit much of this to the Pay It Forward scheme.

“This is a lovely feeling. We’re trying to do some good, and we love that it feels a safe space for everyone,” said Inglis.

Inglis and Sanders have also succeeded in attracting an international audience for the event, revealing that only about a quarter of attendees to date are from Ireland.

HybridConf kicks off, quite literally, with a five-a-side football tournament, followed by a pre-party meet-up in Dublin city centre. Over the course of the two-day conference, the organisers operate on a ‘no one leaves hungry’ promise with breakfast, lunch, snacks and drinks all provided, plus an afterparty or two, which includes a bowling tournament.

HybridConf takes place on 20-21 August in the Helix, Dublin.

Aaron Draplin image by Amber Gregory via FontShop/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.