Friday, December 30, 2016

Privilege of location

In the last two years, the world has become smaller for me.

I've been in a relationship involving a lot of Skype discussions and grown to appreciate how things that could have been financially impossible in time before free calls over internet are now something I can rely on. I've fallen asleep with Skype on, and woken up with Skype on - before it turned into more unreliable and started disconnecting.

I've actively learned to initiate discussions with other professionals over Skype and learned to pair test and program over or Screenhero. I've met every person who submits to the conference I'm organizing as if we met in person, over Skype. And when solving a problem at work that involves remoteness, I'm now one that suggests moving from text to voice because I know it is possible from experience.

When I travel, I just decide where I will go to. My Finnish passports lets me in everywhere and most places without any additional paperwork with regards to Visa applications.

Recently, I've grown to see what huge privilege this is. And how, while the world is small for us all with technology, the physical presence aspects are not quite as straightforward.

For European Testing Conference 2016, I invited Jyothi Rangaiah from India to speak in Romania. I was totally unaware of what it would mean to me as a conference organizer. She needed to apply for Visa. For that she needed an invitation from the conference organization registered in that country, tickets purchased and hotel reserved under her name. So we booked her hotel separately from the others. She bought the tickets. We wrote an invitation letter. With all these papers, she would need to travel to another city to apply for the visa. And it all failed with the fact that the conference organization is registered non-profit in Finland, not in Romania. We naturally covered the costs, lost the work and did not have Jyothi present.

For European Testing Conference 2017, we decided to try again. And I'm looking forward to being able to introduce Jyothi's talk to our community.

As conference organizer, I've put numerous (extra) hours into being able to have her here. I expect there's still calls or even visits to embassy before this is all done. I respect her persistence to go over more obstacles that I ever before realized there was.

But this also makes me think. While I believe in inclusiveness, how much better the Indian speakers have to be to be included, for the extra effort they require? How much higher my expectations are going to be for someone who is both financially and effort-wise more costly. Out of the vast numbers of new speakers, why would I choose to invest into someone coming from a "complicated" location.

For the the answer is simple. I will do it because I believe in change.

But stop telling me this:
For the vast majority of people, they never get to consider speaking at a conference. The fact that we don't know is called Privilege. It is not our problem.

Hat tip to all people who make it as international conference speakers with less privilege than what I have. And as white (not rich) female, I have a lot of privilege, even if white (rich) males tend to have even more.


  1. I applaud your diligence in helping Jyothi to your conference. But, for us in the US at least (I do not know of other countries) the same difficulty exists in speaking in India. I was invited to speak at Agile India, but declined as the cost and effort of getting a VISA and then 30+ hrs traveling did not make sense. Same for speaking in need a VISA if you are from the US. I got one years ago, but it took me much effort and cost around $300. I got that so I could attend an IEEE meeting...and Brazil insisted I get a business VISA which costs more than a "normal" one. So, while I appreciate the ability to travel freely to many countries, I now do not take it for granted by any means.

    1. Thanks for sharing, yet another detail I was unaware of.

      In my book, becoming international speaker is hard for most of us (costs) but even harder for some locations. If conference fee matches my monthly rent vs. if conference fee matches a year of my monthly rent, it just will be very different.

  2. Nice post, appreciate it.

    I do take issue with the term 'privilege' since it's directed at me, especially as I fully understand that there are cases where support and aid is needed, hence me not saying all.

    But, each to their own :)

    1. It's directed to all of us with more privilege (including and in particular myself) and to you with the part where your rule of majority is only a rule of a privileged minority.