On Monday, August 10, the White House hosted its second annual LGBT Tech and Innovation Summit in Washington, D.C., and eBay Technical SEO Analyst James Silva (shown here) was among the participants. More than 170 attendees, ranging from tech entrepreneurs to Silicon Valley employees, discussed technology’s role in tackling social issues and the importance of diversity and inclusion in tech. The Summit included a keynote address by United States CTO Megan Smith, followed by breakout sessions into projects that attendees will work on in small teams over the coming months.
James also has a background leading the San Jose chapter of eAGLE/BeAGLE, eBay’s own LGBT employee group. In the following interview he discusses his visit to Washington, D.C. and the importance of diversity in the tech sector. Here are his thoughts.
How did you get invited to the Summit?
I was nominated by Jennifer Chang, Senior Manager in Geo Expansion and active member of Lesbians Who Tech, the organization that co-sponsored the Summit. Jenni was also named as a Fortune 500 Hero in 2014 for her film Out and Around, in which she took a sabbatical from eBay and traveled the world for a year with her wife Lisa, interviewing LGBT activists and leaders. I know Jenni through eAGLE/BeAGLE and was excited that she nominated me.
Where did the Summit events take place, and who was the organizer?
The Summit is co-sponsored by an organization called Lesbians Who Tech, a community of lesbian women in technology. The Summit took place at the White House, in the Eisenhower Administrative building. The keynote speaker was Megan Smith, Chief Technology Officer for the United States, who came to the White House from Google in 2014.
Tell us about the events.
In the morning, there were interesting presentations by entrepreneurs and community organizers followed by a keynote address from Megan Smith. After lunch, there were breakout sessions featuring four groups focused on different societal issues: economic inclusion; criminal justice reform; systems inclusion (focused on healthcare, housing and more); and climate.
Within those topic areas, we drafted action items and projects that we will work on in small groups over the next three months.
What is your personal stance on the importance of diversity and inclusion?
Having a diverse workforce is very important, partly because it welcomes different perspectives and enables us to be more competitive in a rapidly changing sector.
I’ve been involved with many diversity-focused organizations, ranging from LGBT groups to groups focused on Hispanics in engineering and technology. I am very pleased that eBay leadership is making a diversity and inclusion a priority.
What happened at the Summit that you found notable?
One thing that jumped out at me being at the Summit is just how influential all of us are here in Silicon Valley and in tech. Day to day, we may not feel like we’re making a big impact globally, but our work and that of our colleagues has a huge ripple effect on the economy and society.
There are a lot of people who would love to work in Silicon Valley and for companies like eBay — people of all types and backgrounds. As always, experience and the networks that you are in matter a lot in getting to do so. Building networks with the community of leaders that I met at the Summit is a step towards opening doors for more people of diverse backgrounds.
Another thing that I was reminded of is that even if you don’t feel like you are exactly where you want to be in your career, you can still make a difference for others.