February 20, 2014

Speaker Announcement: Michelle Rowley — Permission granted. Now, GO!
Category: 2014 Event, Speaker Announcements

Michelle Rowley

Michelle is a self-taught software developer who seeks a deeper understanding of the world and the chance to change it for the better. She aspires to empower women to excel in their lives through technology, which she believes anyone can learn in a welcoming community with strong peer mentorship. It was with that vision that she founded the nonprofit organization Code Scouts.

To say Michelle walks her talk in the Portland tech scene is an understatement. In addition to her work with Code Scouts, she is also a member of the Python Software Foundation and organizer of the Portland Python User Group, and speaks and writes about the importance of diversity in tech and tech literacy for everyone. Her essay, “Hack the planet!” on why tech literacy is critical, was published in American Dreamers, an inspiring anthology of future-thinking works by contemporary visionaries. As a graduate of the Portland Incubator Experiment (Pie PDX), Michelle has also provided mentorship to several Portland startups.

While she may be best known for cultivating empowerment through technology, Michelle’s motivation stems from a broader idea. “I find my ambition in the connections I make with other people, and the connections they make through me. My aim is to bring people together in authentic ways that help everyone become more themselves.”

Michelle believes that inside every person there is a drive to create and a need to express. “Stifled expression is the seed of unhappiness.” For her, technology is a vehicle for creation, expression and connection. Teaching someone to thrive in the world of technology gives that person not only the tools, but the implied permission to use those tools to realize their potential.

And that’s the thing. The permission is already there, but as Michelle expressed, most people hold back on themselves, thinking they have to be prodigies, or that their creative or artistic endeavors are less valuable than the “real work” they should be doing. When we asked her to share some of the best advice she never got, Michelle said, “You don’t need permission to create. Whatever it is, deep down, that you yearn to create — be it music, writing, architecture, video games, understanding, whatever — figure out what it is and do it. Start now. Don’t wait for permission. You don’t need it.”

A lot is happening at a pulse-quickening pace in Michelle’s life lately, and she’s making a heck of a mark on the world. In 2013 she was listed among Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business, and Entrepreneur Magazine named her one of the 7 Most Powerful Women to Watch in 2014! That’s really exciting for her, especially as she launches her newest venture, Cultivate & Co., an organizational culture consultancy helping companies — particularly tech-oriented startups — build healthy cultures where people thrive.

In fact, she hopes that everyone attending TEDxConcordiaUPortland (now known as TEDxMtHood) this year will feel energized to go out and learn, and teach, and create. “Anything and everything, whatever and wherever you think you can make a difference and leave the mark of your uniqueness on the world.”

Ivonne Ward

Though Ivonne now lives in Seattle, she remains tight with the TEDxMtHood family, and this is her second year with the planning team. Passionate about people, volunteering and problem-solving, Ivonne is guided by curiosity and a desire to make a positive and meaningful impact in her community.