Behind the Scenes / June 2018

My Top 5 Memorable Moments at Interactive Mechanics

It’s been a wild and wonderful ride since Mike and I had our first meeting on March 22, 2014 to talk about ways I could help with business development and growing his company. (Note: that meeting is listed as one hour on my calendar, but I’m pretty sure we didn’t leave until Last Drop kicked us out.) After four years, I’m wrapping up my time at Interactive Mechanics, but before I go, I wanted to reflect on a few of my favorite memories from the time I’ve shared with Interactive Mechanics.

Widener Rice Room launch, 2015

The Widener Rice Room interactive at the Philadelphia Museum of Art was the first in-exhibit project I worked on, and the first launch event I attended. As a native Philadelphian who grew up with the PMA (and, fun fact, who at one point wanted to be an art museum curator), I was not ready for how excited and proud I’d be. I just kept thinking, “My work is in the PMA. Just like Van Gogh.”

Prisons Today, 2016

In 2015-2016, I was part of a team of cross-disciplinary artists at Painted Bride Art Center who co-created a show in response to Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. Around the same time, Eastern State Penitentiary approached Interactive Mechanics about incorporating digital interactives into a new exhibit about mass incarceration they were working on. It felt transformative, exhausting, and compelling to be learning about and working on such a huge issue in multiple areas of my life — there was one day when I talked about both projects with Generocity, a Philly-based social good news platform.

Amelia Longo and Michael Tedeschi at an interactive at Prisons Today
First Hiring Process, 2016

Like many small businesses, our team grew organically at first. In 2016, we decided to implement a more official hiring process to bring on our first dedicated Project Manager. In addition to bringing on a phenomenal new team member, we learned so much. We learned that just having personal information redacted from cover letters and resumes wasn’t enough — it was a lot of work, there was still a lot of unnecessary information, it was too easy to judge folks on the formatting of their resume even — and we later decided to create our own applications for blind review and to use implicit bias training. We learned that not posting a salary range in the job description made things harder for us and for the candidates. Most importantly, we set high expectations for ourselves, we did our research, and we took that big first step, knowing there was more to learn along the way. We’ve gone through five hiring rounds since, with successes and failures, and I’m so proud of the way our process has continued to evolve and the way we’ve continued to focus on our values.

Conference Overload, 2017

As part of our annual planning for 2017, we decided to ramp up our conference attendance, and try out as much as we could. That meant ten conferences between Mike and myself — and two conferences back-to-back for me. I attended the Association of Children’s Museums’ InterActivity in Pasadena, then hopped on a plane straight to the American Alliance of Museums’ Annual Meeting in St. Louis. In addition to learning how much I love my own bed, I met some rad museum leaders/colleagues/buddies (special shout out to my fellow ACM-to-AAMers Saleem Hue Penny and Margaret Middleton), I got more comfortable with diving into expo halls, I took all the pictures of Eastern State Penitentiary winning all the awards, and I got to PLAY at a conference.

Fellowship Showcase, 2018

Christina and I started dreaming up the Fellowship Program in 2015, with the desire to build something that would chip away at the dearth of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the tech world. After a year of researching, we landed on some core principles: long and slow learning versus flashy demos; remote and part-time scheduling to accommodate work, school, and/or caretaking; soft skills alongside hard skills; and compensation for participation. The Fellowship culminates with a Showcase for Fellows to share their work and celebrate their learning, which we recapped with info on their projects and some of the amazing things they’re doing next. (You can also check our a recap of the 2017 Showcase here.)

But there’s also something about the Showcase itself that blows my mind. The dominant culture often asks us to be small and quiet, to hide our expertise and our wisdom, out of fear that we are not enough or not ready unless and until we achieve perfection. To hear these extraordinary technologists speak about both their accomplishments and their missteps with confidence and passion, to answer questions with clarity and humility, was full-body-chills awe-inspiring.

What’s Next?

I’ll be working to figure out ways to spend more of my time learning from and supporting some of the local social justice work I’ve been fortunate to be involved with, like the Gender Justice Project at Bread and Roses Community Fund and Camp Sojourner. If you want to keep an eye on what I’m up to, you can follow me on twitter or linkedin.

And Interactive Mechanics will be bringing on an amazing new Business Development Manager next week. Stay tuned for our welcome blog post!