True North Conference 2019 : RECAP

 Lori and Amanda exploring the Communitech Hub


Our Chief Marketing Officer, Lori and our MAVEN Program Coordinator, Amanda went to the True North Conference [powered by Communitech] in Ontario, June 19 and 20, 2019. Every year, approximately 2,500 people converge at Waterloo Region (an area said to be the centre of innovation in Candada for over 100 years) for the True North Conference. Lori and Amanda summarized their experience below: 


“Technology for good” was the sentiment echoed throughout True North 2019 in Waterloo last month. Lori and Amanda attended the Communitech conference, which explored the impact of tech on work, personal security, privacy, careers and how it divides and unites us.

“Later is Officially Over, Later is Too Late”

Wise words from Thomas Friedman, New York Times columnist, three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, and globalization and technology expert. Friedman opened True North 2019 by thanking us for being late. He said he’s had some of his best ideas while waiting on others, and he uses the much-needed time to pause and imagine.

Friedman said 2007 was the biggest year for technology and we all missed it. Apple rolled out the iPhone, Facebook went global, Twitter happened, and Hadoop, Android, GitHub and AirBnB launched. “The cloud” surfaced, and networking, software and storage melded together. Friedman said 2008 halted the social and regulatory technologies needed to maximize this leap and caused a social dislocation we’re still working through.


True North delivered a long list of compelling speakers over the two-day event. If you’re forever on the hunt for an interesting talk, check out some our favourites listed below.

Kelsey Leonard - Data Warriors for Indigenous Date Sovereignty. Leonard asked how we are decolonizing tech, the way we work, and how we develop new technology. She started by saying, “be inspired to care”.

Megan Smith – 7 Billion Colleagues. Smith was the Chief Technology Officer of the United States and Assistant to the President during the Obama administration. She is inspired by collaboration and the amazing ideas people have. She urges everyone to “scout and scale,” and solve problems by utilizing our global community and by looking for inspiration from people already fixing them.  

Kris Braun - Stronger Together: Hiring Skilled Refugees. Canadian tech company, Bonfire Interactive, took a unique approach to solving their tech talent issues by hiring ‘displaced tech talent’. Refugee and Syrian software developer, Mohammed Hakmi, was the first individual to be hired under a skilled worker pilot program. Braum highlighted the program’s success and his hope to see future opportunities in Canada through economic immigration.

Check it Out

True North 2019 was jam packed with podcast, book and movie recommendations. Lori and Amanda compiled this recommendation list for you to explore.

  • Children’s Book: “Ara the Star Engineer,” is designed to appeal to girls in particular, written by Komal Singh and other thinkers and tinkerers at Google
  • Book: “Thank You for Being Late,” New York Times Columnist, Thomas L. Friedman
  • Book: “How the Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity”Author Amy Webb is a quantitative futurist.
  • TED Talk: Mathematician and data scientist Cathy O'Neil gave a thought-provoking talk that is worth looking up. Algorithms decide who gets a loan, who gets a job interview, who gets insurance and much more -- but they don't automatically make things fair.
  • Movie: “Inventing Tomorrow,” Directed by Laura Nix. This movie features passionate teenage innovators from around the globe who are creating cutting-edge solutions to confront the world's environmental threats
  • Definition: “Nomophobia” fear of being out of cellular phone contact
  • Definition: “Captology” is the study of computers as persuasive technologies

“Failures are Bruises Not Tattoos,” Fuckup Nights

Fuckup Nights Kitchener-Waterloo was one of the many extra activities True North 2019 offered. Failure was the hot topic, and three people took the stage to discuss a time they messed up. Big Time.

Jeff Gadway, a previous Product Marketer for BlackBerry, shared a news clip of him sounding less than confident during a product launch intended to boost BlackBerry from its downward spiral. Gadway didn’t think the camera man was filming their car conversation during a media tour and hesitated on a testimony of the product. At an event where you’re looking for a mega misfire – the clip delivered.

Fuckup Nights is a global speaker series, and an entertaining breakdown from people who have failed and learned from their mistakes.