November 25, 2017

Pride, Work and Necessity of Side Projects: Sacha Judd is Turning the Tech World into a More Diverse and Inclusive Environment

What are you working on—on the side?

My side projects all revolve around the central question of how we can make the tech sector better. For years, I worked as a lawyer helping startups get off the ground. One of my first side projects was Back of a Napkin, which asks digital collaborators five easy questions and then produces a super simple agreement for them to sign. I set up Flounders Club, a series of events to connect tech founders with one another. I really quickly became frustrated with how few women were in the industry and how unsupported they felt, and so I worked with a friend to bring Refactor to life. We run four sold-events each year, bringing hundreds of people together to hear from amazing women about their journeys and the things they’re working on, and creating a pipeline of talented speakers.

Now, I spend a lot of time thinking about how we encourage a more diverse range of people into careers in tech, and how we ensure they feel included once they’re there. As part of that, I speak and write about the intersection of fandom and tech, and how we’re ignoring a generation of passionate, hard-working creative young people online because we don’t care about the same things they do, and how we can think differently about hiring and qualifications to change that. I’m also thinking about how we can start to celebrate the things we were first really passionate about—the first things that drove us to make and share online. Recognising the huge diversity of interests we all have is a first step to overcoming homogeneity in our teams and our work culture.

How do you manage to work on your side project(s)?

I’m really fortunate to have a job where side projects are actively encouraged. But I also think I find a way to make time for things that really excite me. I’m a night owl, so I tend to be up late tinkering on things. I’m also trying to get better at asking for help. With community events, my tendency is usually to take too much on, but when you ask for help, you suddenly realise that there are other people around you who want to see these things succeed as much as you do, and are willing to share the load. I’m also a firm believer in putting something down when it’s not working or not needed any more. You never want a side project to feel like a horrible chore or a burden.

Why have a side project?

I have an amazing and varied day job, and so it’s certainly not out of boredom! I think side projects are ways to effect change, and to positively impact my community. My side projects give me different perspectives and ideas to think about. They cause me to read more widely and to meet people I wouldn’t otherwise encounter. They’ve lead to invitations to go to places all over the world and speak, and to make amazing new friends. I recently wrote a piece about that lifelong journey of connecting with people through the things we care about and writing it made me realise the joy I’ve found in pursuing these interests outside of work. It’s such a blessing.

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Diptych courtesy of Sacha Judd.

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Read more about the joy of side projects.

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