Above: the stage at IN-NW 2015 day 2 venue, Showbox SoDo.
Chocolate. Snowboarding. Regulatory issues. Yes, they all have something in common: they are featured elements of the 90-minute “Dig-In” presentations at this year’s IN-NW conference, an event that connects members of Seattle’s business community to each other and to trends happening both here and worldwide.
“It’s about building cultures of creativity, attracting and keeping employees, and looking at new ways of running one’s business…at the intersection of business and philanthropy,” according to Emmy Jordan, senior vice president of programs and partnerships at the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, which hosts the event.
Taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday, April 28–29, the Dig-Ins are part of a pivot of this four-year-old conference, which began as a single day that focused on digital and social media. This year, its focus expands to the crossroads of leadership and innovation.
It’s about “creative entrepreneurship, creative ideas, creative leadership,” said Hanson Hosein, director of the UW’s Communication Leadership program and one of the planners of IN-NW. “This really is an experiment to see if we can go beyond what we’ve done for the last few years.”
That’s important, said Jordan, because the topics at the conference reflect the faces of the chamber’s members, which represent more than 700,000 employees across the region, most of whom work for companies with headcounts of fewer than 100. “We remain focused on providing the attendees with the experience that they don’t already have access to,” she said. “They can have the experience that’s local in focus, local in feel, and it’s really reflective of the place we live and work.”
The Dig-In track is part of that. Attendees will visit sites around Seattle such as Theo Chocolate in Fremont, K2 Sports in South Seattle, and the downtown law firm Davis Wright Tremaine. The biggest draw, however, which Hosein said is getting a lot of buzz, is a discussion at Google focused on women in tech and gaming, led by four women in top positions. “It’s a really important conversation and the people on that panel are real leaders,” Hosein said.
Linda Breneman, one of the panelists for the session and founder of Pixelkin.org, a site that focuses on families in the gaming world, said the majority of the conversation will likely center around women in the tech workplace, and how “women are underrepresented in the STEM fields, computer science and engineering, and also in the workplace in those fields.”
She pointed to last summer’s Gamergate, when media critic Anita Sarkeesian was physically threatened if she accepted the Ambassador Award at the Game Developers Choice Awards. Sarkeesian’s — and other female game critics’ — ongoing criticism “is really important because it keeps that conversation going in the culture so we can address some of these issues,” Breneman said.
Day two, taking place at the Showbox Sodo, will play more like a standard conference, albeit with a very Seattle flavor. A selection of the panels throughout the day:
- Megan Tweed of Assembly Inc., Edelman Public Relations’ division dedicated solely to Microsoft, will talk about that relationship and how storytelling is helping to transform the software behemoth’s brand.
- Three leaders in the business and nonprofit sphere, Fidelma McGinn of the Seattle Foundation, Diane Oakes of the Dental Service Foundation, and Nina Morrison from Talking Rain talk “The Business of Philanthropy.” With this panel, “I think that gets to the overall trend we’re seeing in business, especially in the millennial generation, that it can’t just be all about profit,” Hosein said. “There has to be a focus on social impact.”
- Maria Harley, vice president of operations at Gravity Payments, will speak about her company’s recent announcement to pay employees a minimum salary of $70,000 and how CEO Dan Price felt a need to innovatively attract and retain talent. “He doesn’t want people living on the edge, so to speak,” Jordan said.
Hosein will be sitting on the day’s opening panel, “Building a Culture of Creativity,” with Olen Ronning of Artefact and Susan Howe of marketing and public relations agency Weber Shandwick. But pay attention to the fourth member of this panel: Tom Seery, founder and CEO of Real Self, a new company that’s lifting the covers off of the cosmetic surgery industry.
“He strikes me as a guy who wants to have outrageous conversations around things that make people uncomfortable,” Hosein said. “Part of his business model, making an uncomfortable conversation in an uncomfortable industry comfortable by having ratings…holds these practitioners accountable.”
Jordan noted that with attendees from companies the size of Google participating alongside folks from companies of one or two people, she expects that all of them will find something from these speakers that they can take back to their offices.
“That,” she said, “is precisely why we bring in these folks to share the next best thing.”
Keep checking back to Flip the Media for continuing coverage of all of IN-NW 2015. Registration for IN-NW is available here. Student pricing is available.