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A Journey in Tech as a Queer South Asian migrant | LGBTQ+ History Month

A Journey in Tech as a Queer South Asian migrant | LGBTQ+ History Month 3200 1800 OneTech

In commemoration of LGBTQ+ History Month, OneTech is highlighting and celebrating trailblazers, entrepreneurs, founders and progress-makers in the tech ecosystem and beyond. In this blog post, we’re invited to experience a journey in tech through the lens of a South Asian migrant in London’s tech scene.

 

London’s tech scene is a vibrant one. There is no doubt about it. But 12 years ago, as someone who moved from a South Asian country, I had no idea this would become a natural ‘work’ home for me. As February is LGBTQI+ History Month in the UK, I thought it would be a good time to look back and reminisce on my journey in tech.

In 2009, when I moved to the UK as an international student,  the plan was to finish my degree, complete a masters degree, get a job in a bank and live happily ever after. Fast-forward a few years, I did manage to graduate with both my bachelors and masters degrees, but I landed a job in tech instead.

The journey was not an easy one. Within a few weeks of attending my bachelors business classes, my tutor suggests I get tested for dyslexia. Being unaware of dyslexia, I was confused and went to the student centre for an assessment. This is where I came across, what I now would call, structural bias.  The assessor concluded I did not have dyslexia. Instead, they told me it was just the standard of my English language as a South Asian migrant. It wasn’t until years later when I attended UCL for my masters, that I was diagnosed with severe dyslexia in my first week. Looking back, I am very aware of my first university’s shortcomings in regards to supporting international students, compared to UCL’s decades of experience.

One of my first jobs was working for a large tech giant. A company that had its float at the Pride in London march. At this job, we worked in rotas that are published every week in advance. Knowing this, and how important Pride is to me, I informed my line manager over a month in advance that I will be unavailable on the day of Pride, as I was a senior-level volunteer. Nevertheless, a week before Pride, I find my name on the rota to work that very day. When I asked about my request, I was told my volunteering at Pride was not important and he went on to mention “business needs”. But for me, Pride is a very important part of building an LGBTQI+ identity and a sense of community. It is especially important for someone like me who comes from a country where LGBTQI+ rights and freedoms are not always upheld. So I got in touch with my manger’s line manager, explaining how important Pride was for me at that point in my life.  He completely understood, expressed this to my manager and I eventually got the day off!

one of my main challenges was finding a role model I could relate to. I came across many Asian founders and lots of white gay founders, but I never came across anyone who was an Asian queer immigrant founder.

My next few roles were in small tech startups ranging from AI to Crypto. During this time, it was very informative and I learnt a lot about the tech sector. But one of my main challenges was finding a role model I could relate to. I came across many Asian founders and lots of white gay founders, but I never came across anyone who was an Asian queer immigrant founder. To this day, people like me are far from seen and represented in this space. I can say from my experience, there is elitism in the tech industry and so many barriers to entry.

Yet, I must admit that having a masters from UCL has helped me to navigate through the elitism. Going to a reputable UK university has worked in my favour to a certain extent. But what do you do when the system-at-large is seeming against you? One of the moments I realised this was when I applied for residency in the UK as a migrant with a same-sex partner. I applied around the same time as my Canadian friend who applied as a migrant with an opposite-sex partner. So two unmarried couples, a South Asian with an Irish partner and a Canadian with a British partner. Guess whose residency application took longer? My friend’s application took two months. Whereas, my application took about two years! In those two years, I was consistently asked to provide more and more evidence that I lived together with my partner. Of course, we complied and submitted the evidence asked. Then, they asked for proof that we were sleeping in the same bed! It was only when my partner, who happens to be a lawyer, indicated to take legal action that things started to move in a more positive direction. But what if my partner had not been a lawyer? The interrogation would have continued beyond the two years.

As a curious person, I have always wanted to figure out why things don’t work out for me as it has for my white friends. Initially, this was confusing, but since joining an organisation that values and champions diversity everything makes sense. I would consider myself lucky or privileged in some way as I have supportive parents, went to a great university and have a supportive partner. But this is not the case for everyone.

By journeying through a system that was built to make your life difficult in every step, I have learnt not to take anything for granted and, now, I look forward to how I can make an impact with people that align with my values and passion for positive change.

 


Discover our Twitter thread of selected LGBTQIA people blazing a trail in their respective industries and paving a way for a more inclusive society

IDEALondon Offers Free Membership to OneTech Founders

IDEALondon Offers Free Membership to OneTech Founders 3360 1890 OneTech

The workspace and innovation centre set in the heart of Shoreditch will provide 20 startup founders with space and support to grow

We’re really excited today to announce that founders in the OneTech community will soon be able to benefit from a free membership to IDEALondon

IDEALondon is home to some of the most ambitious and flourishing new businesses in London’s tech city. A partnership of University College London, EDF and Capital Enterprise, IDEALondon provides startups with space and support  — from access to funding and the best talent to advice from its expert partners. 

OneTech startup founders involved in programmes supported by JPMorgan Chase or the Inclusive Knowledge Economy programme (IKE) will be able to apply for one of 20 available memberships, which will provide them with three months of access and support. 

The free membership will be available for two cohorts of ten founders, starting in March 2021. Given the pandemic, founders will have a choice between a fixed desk, a hot desk or a virtual membership. The virtual membership gives founders a huge package of support including mentoring, events, credit and discounts. 

When allowed to re-open, IDEALondon is operating a Covid-19 safe space and provides breakout spaces, free meeting rooms for members, a welcoming cafe space, free tea and coffee and unlimited Wi-Fi. Members will be able to work alongside a community of startups founders all building MVPs. 

You can take a look at the fantastic, vibrant space, below. 

Startups that have previously been apart of the IDEALondon community and gone on to great success include Curve, the FinTech which recently closed a $95M Series C, online fashion ecosystem SilkFred, visual fashion search tool Snap Fashion, and UniBuddy, a platform connecting prospective students with real-time access to University students. 

You’ll be able to tap into the existing IDEALondon community of startups, alongside mentors and industry experts. There are also ongoing online events to get involved in to get to know the IDEALondon network. 

 

To register your interest, apply here and someone from the OneTech team will be in touch. 

 

We target underrepresented communities in tech including women, people of colour and people from challenging socioeconomic backgrounds. 

 

OneTech Continues To Sponsor Spaces With The Angel Investing School

OneTech Continues To Sponsor Spaces With The Angel Investing School 750 782 OneTech

Last year, we decided to partner with The Angel Investing School (AIS) to widen participation for professionals from all backgrounds to learn how to get started with investing in startups. Through their 6 week courses, they teach 30 emerging investors every April and September on a guided tour of angel investing. Their most recent cohort had 43% women and 78% people of colour with a wide range of professions represented by community leaders to lawyers and management consultants.

We were proud to sponsor 5 places last September and we are pleased to announce that we will be sponsoring 5 more places for April 2021.

OneTech is proud to work with a value-aligned partner dedicated to creating a more diverse and inclusive tech ecosystem in the UK. Andy Ayim shared,

“We believe that investing in startups shouldn’t be so elusive and opaque. Our goal with this partnership is to make this education available to curious people from diverse backgrounds who would not ordinarily afford this opportunity. Our ambition ultimately is to teach a new breed of investors to invest in the next generation of diverse founders.”

 

If you would like to qualify for a OneTech scholarship for AIS: APPLY HERE

Applications will be reviewed at the deadline date of 1st March 2021, and recipients will be announced on Monday 8th March 2021. Please note the course starts on 24th March and runs the following 7 Wednesday evenings.

To learn more about The Angel Investing School, visit angelinvestingschool.com

 

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