Life as a Maker Advocate – a review of the past few months
By Vicky Twomey-Lee in Dublin Sept. 5, 2019, 1:43 p.m.
(Note: This is my blog post I wrote on dublinmaker.ie about what I've been up to as Maker Advocate. If people are interested, I can run more electronics, micro/circuitpython workshops? I'm always open for ideas. Anyway read on if you are curious on what I've been doing the last few months working with Dublin Maker team.)
It’s been 4 months since I started as Maker Advocate with the Dublin Maker Team on the MADE programme.
For those who don't know about the MADE programme, it's a 2-year Dublin Maker initiative funded by Science Foundation Ireland Discovery Programme and hosted by DCU.
What have I’ve been up to since besides settling into my office space courtesy of DCU School of Computing? And yes, I’ve got a great window view.
One of my jobs is being the admin person during working hours. I’ve been learning the ropes of the internal systems handling things like invoicing, expenses and so on, as well as various different paperwork required for Dublin Maker festival. This gives the rest of the team some breathing space to concentrate on community content for Dublin Maker itself.
Some might think admin is the least fun thing to do but it’s something I know will come in useful. For example, working in an institution handling paperwork, planning with the team and working with a production company running the largest event I ever got involved with. This year’s festival was much bigger than last year’s numbers which were around 10k visitors.
It’s just like when I asked to join the EuroPython Society as one of their board members just so I can see how they run a European conference that was at the time twice the size of our first PyCon Ireland back in 2010. Come to think of it, they are still just over twice the size even though PyCon Ireland has over 500 attendees nowadays. There was a lot of tele/video conferencing, processes to be put in place and agreed with, remote working with lots of other remote workers and we were all volunteers. Same when I joined as member of WITS Ireland and agree to join their executive committee as I want to be part of a team to make major changes and revise the vision and mission of the organisation back then. I learn a lot each time I join a committee whether it’s large or small, remotely or in the same room, to see how things work behind the scenes.
So the long and short of it, I secretly enjoy the admin side of things because I’m learning so much from each experience, and it’s different every time with lots of various challenges and new terminology.
Aside from that, I met lots of people, and as an advocate, it’s part and parcel of my role. It’s an expansion of what I normally do as diversity in tech advocate and tech community organiser anyway. Building on top of pure techie community, I now engage with more Makers from various hackerspaces, makerspaces, FabLabs, educators, creatives, not-for-profits, those involved with social good initiatives, public services and more.
I’ve met/talked/caught up with many people along the way including (not in any particular order, apologies if I missed anyone out):-
- Angela, Paul, Aoife and rest of the team from DCC Public Libraries
- Andrew from BRYR
- Annabelle from Innovate Dublin
- Thom from maker.ie
- John from The Nerve Centre in Derry
- Gretta from National Print Museum and seeing their PrintLab
- Sarah from St John of Gods
- Barbara from National Youth Council Ireland
- Creative Aging International
- Miriam from Tech Space
- Kate from Make, Create, Innovate
- Ellen from Festival of Curiosity (and Vincent very briefly at Future Island conference)
- Rodhan from The Digital Hub
- Gerard from Fablab Limerick
- David and Fergus from BenchSpace in Cork
- Liam from DCC (Ballymun)
- Involve (Navan)
- Sylvia from I-Form / Women in 3D printing
- Jake Byrne (TCD and maker educator extraordinaire who ran activities on the Maker Van at Dublin Maker)
- LEO (DCC)
- Barbara & Tara from Coder Dojo
- Orlaith from Explorium
- Aishling from Fingal County Council, and Helen and Lillian from Blanch Library
- Tara, Cheryl, Nadja, Maria, Mick and Richie from LoveLaceSpace
- Mairead from Science Gallery
- Dominic Campbell from Creative Aging International & Dublin City Council Culture Company
- Ann O’Dea from Inspirefest/Silicon Republic
- Stuart Lawn from Manorhamilton
And not forgetting all the various folks who applied to Dublin Maker festival this year, this was their first time encountering me as their contact. And it’s just as electric dealing with them as with all my other voluntary not-for-profit activities.
I’ve still many hats on from my volunteer initiatives like Coding Grace, PyLadies Dublin, GameCraft, Women Who Code Dublin and Women in Technology & Science Ireland. Via various meetings with organisations that want to get involved with these I also talk about my current role as Maker Advocate which inadvertently brings me to new conversations on Maker culture such as the amazing Analog Lab that’s in Facebook Ireland which I had a quick tour of. It’s great to see things moved along since, and I got especially excited seeing their internal events as well as their designer in residence programme. I’m also a member of a women in games group called Strawberry Collective and offered my help as Maker Advocate and see what cool things we can do.
I’m also the Maker Track captain for Startup Week Dublin, a community-driven event, and I hope to bring MADE and our maker community to be part of this week during Oct 21-25. A way to bring two communities that would benefit from each others skill sets, plus with LEO from DCC supporting it, they have many clients that are small indigenous crafting/making businesses themselves. These are but a few things that I’ve been up to since I started in April.
Recently I went to Lough Boora with other creatives from all sectors, it was sort of an unconference, and it was people I knew from my various diversity in tech events and attending conferences like Inspirefest and workshops like PiCademy. The dots are all connecting between my past, present and future. I hope that I can use my existing connections and bring that to the table and link up with new ones, and the end result will hopefully a series of social outreach/impact events as part of MADE in the coming months.
Juggling calls, meetings and some little bit of travelling has been great so far, part of the project brings me and MADE closer to reaching under-represented communities and hard to reach areas with huge thanks to Dublin City Council Public Libraries partnering with Dublin Maker and recently launched a Maker Van at Dublin Maker this year. This was converted from one of their mobile library/learning vans.
Now what are my next steps, you might wonder?
I plan on getting a series of events as part of MADE working with many of the folks I mentioned above. I’m also looking into having a documentary produced about MADE, producing a series of podcasts, find a digital way to easily connect various makers, groups, organisations, institutions, companies, learn more about evaluation, meet all the stakeholders. Plus I will need to look into and researching more about fundraising, and plan on how to realise as many items on the bucket list that went into the application for the Science Foundation Ireland funding from now till 2020. Oh, and I have started thinking about Dublin Maker 2020 which is going to be back next July and hopefully at Merrion Square.
I’m still open for ideas, conversations, and collaborations for MADE, if you have any questions/feedback, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.