July 25-27, 2018 / Vancouver, BC

An Interview with Stevie Nguyen

Written by Shannon

May 2, 2017

Steve sits down with Stevie Nguyen — this year's emcee and one of our most favourite people. You'll quickly learn why we feel the luckiest to have Stevie in our lives. Their thoughtfulness shines bright.  We're excited to watch Stevie light up the DCC17 stage this summer. I'd say we're downright giddy. 

In this interview, Stevie shares their story of attending DCC's inagural event 3 years ago. Stevie talks about the ways DCC15 impacted them and why they're excited to have a place on stage this year. Stevie gives us the inside scoop on their talk that will kick off this year's event. Stevie will address the power in tech and opportunities that come with that power.

This is an interview you won't want to miss.

Get your ticket today!


Transcript

Steve
Hi, well we're here for another interview for the Design and Content Conference, and today we've got our emcee with us. Stevie, why don't you introduce yourself to everyone?

Stevie
My name is Stevie Thuy Anh Nguyen, and I'm a designer. What else do I do? I don't know what to say about that, Steve, beyond I'm a designer. It's relatively new for me. My niche appears to be education of some sort, one way or another. So I'm a contractor with IBM, and we work with the Center for Advanced Learning, and that's everything that has to do with learning inside IBM. Outside of that I facilitate, and talk to youth about queer and trans issues, and I also teach at SFU. Fourth year design students.

Steve
That's excellent, and that's Simon Fraser University, for those of you not from Vancouver. So, we're gonna talk about the talk that you'll be giving and being our emcee, but I thought it would be really interesting to talk a little bit about your story, as it relates to the Design and Content Conference. Because I remember, I got, maybe this is a widely-known fact, or a little-known fact, a lot of the help and support things that come through go directly to Shannon and I, so it's usually Steve or Shannon that will reply. And I remember getting one that said that someone had pink eye, and they weren't sure if they were gonna be able to make it to the event. And I paused and thought, "Oh, that's too bad for them." It's really close to the event. I said, "Why don't you just see how it is, if you're past being contagious, you should really try to come, I think you'll like it. And that was you.

Stevie
Yeah, it was me.

Steve
So this was prior to us meeting, but that was our initial interaction. But maybe you could tell people a little bit about what it was like to come to your first Design and Content, and then right up to the progression of being our emcee this year.

Stevie
Yeah, okay, so I will actually back up and talk about why I sent you an email in the first place. It's one of the things I really care about, and that being very explicit content. So, if I was gonna get anybody possibly sick, I wanted to actually talk about that, and make sure that it was safe for everybody for me to be there. And so then what happened? Well, the conference blew me away. The first speaker that year was Sarah, I believe.

Steve
Yep.

Stevie
And Sarah got on stage and was really, if I were to quickly summarize her talk, was talking about being a lot more critical of the information that we ask of users. The people using our products. And it kind of blew me away that, the stories she was sharing, 'cause I've never seen designers being willing to talk about something that was so real. And so that kind of blew me away. And then the fact that you got up on stage and talked about Code of Conduct. And I've never been at a design event before that did that, explicitly talked about the problems that exist within conference culture, within design industry, and explicitly talking about being allies, and having a real plan and action to take, in case something were to happen. Being accountable for that Code of Conduct is really impressive to me. At the first break, I had this moment where I teared up. I think I may have gone to you or Shannon, and I said, "Thank you," because it was as far as I could remember, it was the first time that an event asked me for the name that I wanted on my badge. A lot of conferences and events just kind of have the generic, whatever your name is on your business card, it's gonna be on there. But to have a name tag that allowed me to recognize the name that I had chosen for myself really meant a lot to me. And then, the speakers. Every single person, when we, I was on Twitter a lot at the time, tweeting a ton of photos. If you go into my photos, you'll see a lot of those. And I had started a conversation with Denise Richards, who was doing a talk about, like confidence, and like really believing in yourself. And I had asked her a question. And then she said to me, like, you know, "After this conference, come talk to me." So she just welcomed me down there, like just hang out and talk to her. And then she got kind of wrapped up and ended up inviting me to go have a drink with her and have this conversation. And as a result, I kind of got to know you and a couple other folks, and it, as someone who is really new to the design industry, I didn't expect to feel so welcomed by folks that are held in really high esteem. Folks who are speakers, who are well-known in the industry. If anything, it gave me a little bit of extra confidence, to not know how important these people were. How influential they are and how much they've impacted the design industry. But yeah, so in the end it was the things that I saw Design and Content caring about and putting real actions behind. The speakers that were being invited up on stage. And, I mean, this is gonna be the third year. And the second year, I remember one of the, so I think Design and Content continues to improve, and continues to try to be more inclusive, and to have really current, relevant, critical discussions around things that may not normally happen in this industry.

Steve
It is so fun to think about our interactions both as, you know, becoming friends, but also interacting around this conference, 'cause it kind of has been a central piece for us. And this past year, you were able to join us on our production team. And so for those of you that don't know, we have a production team. There's five of us. We try to make that team as diverse as possible, as a 5-person team could be. So various ages, genders, experience, race and perspectives. And that helps us bring forward new voices, or voices that maybe one of us wouldn't know but the other would. And it really is one of the biggest things that has helped us improve our event overall, is having this production that has diverse voices, that helps us find diverse voices and create the story that we are hoping the people will need and want to hear at a conference. So you went from attending to joining that team as we got to know you, and then, I can't remember exactly when it was in this past fall, but I was just thinking about how thoughtful you'd been about a lot of our interactions, and how it no longer felt right for me to be the host or the emcee at the event for, essentially there's this white dude to stand up and introduce everyone. This isn't really what we're about I definitely don't need that platform. And it didn't feel right for Design and Content anymore. So we asked you if you'd come and be our emcee. And I would love to hear about how you felt about that, and sort of how your thoughts and the progress that you've made along thinking about that and becoming our emcee.

Stevie
Um-hm, well, to be honest, my first impression was to be really honored. I was really surprised. I think I told you, I'm a new designer. I don't know if I have any expertise to offer up. I can offer you myself. And you and Shannon came back and said, "That's what we want, we want you, we have experts." And that made me feel really good. And as, kind of like, questions came up for me, I felt that you made it really comfortable for me to reach out to you via email and text, and let you know that these issues and questions were coming up for me. So one of the things which I'm really passionate about, which I talk a little bit about in my talk, is about representation, around who we see represented in media and who we see represented on stage. And so I acknowledge the work it took for you, the humility, in order to give up the stage of a conference that you put together. I am really glad and honored that I get to get up on a stage and represent a different, like, identity, or intersections of identity that might exist on stage. One of my concerns, and one of the things that I recognize can be an issue for POCs or, like myself, queer, non-binary POCs, is this fear around tokenism. I think at at one point I expressed that to you because I recognize that if you look at the intersections of my my identity, there's lot of parts of it, in which I have a lot of privilege. I'm really accessible. But I think with that comes a lot of opportunity. I think that because of the intersections that I stand at I have the opportunity to bring in other voices as well. And I take that responsible pretty seriously. It's interesting that this is going to be my first time in seeing conference, but I'm already even thinking about who can I bring in, who can I introduce you to that may not know you, that may not have access to this at all. I really respect that you asked someone who's kind of a no name in in Vancouver. So yeah, so thanks, Steve, thanks, Shannon.

Steve
Well, no, we're very excited that you are going to be our emcee. And Design and Content really has never been about, you know, you are some name in the web industry. It helps, in that that obviously, we've got to sell tickets. But really, a lot of our great speakers have been people that are just, they are experts in what they do. They are who they are and they bring their own unique perspective to it. And it's so great that you can come and bring your unique perspective, which is different than what we have in the past, too. And I'm excited about your talk, so I know you keep saying, "I'm not an expert, I'm new designer," and all that. But honestly it's about what we're learning and the things that we can share. So maybe you can you tell people a little bit about what you'll be kicking off the conference with because yours will be the first talk.

Stevie
Well, so the title of my talk is modeling ideal features and tech teams. I think that the tech industry, individuals that work within it, that are associated with it, have a lot of power. We have a lot of visibility in the news, in just stories. We have a lot of financial power, right? And I think with that comes a lot of opportunity. Because there are so many, because technology is all about innovation, is about, like, breaking the norm, I think this is an opportunity for us. To break the norm on what, on who we see representative, and who we design for. And so my talk kind of gets folks to try to engage in that more actively. To really think about who we design for, the world we design for.

Steve
Yeah, that's so important because, like I, you kind of touched on this, but tech has a problem, like a lot of industries. It's not just tech, but tech is sort of front and center these days, with the apps that are in our hands, the software that we use throughout our lives, and historically we have not done well at representing the world that is actually around us, that we see every single day. I'm very excited that we're talking about this to kick off the event. That's it's not something that just kind of, we hope, comes out as a message that will be explicit and that people have a chance to think about during the whole time at DCC.

Stevie
I think a lot of things need to be said explicitly, otherwise they, if there is a norm, and we don't explicitly talk about the problems with that norm, then we can't challenge it. And, yeah.

Steve
Now, as people come to visit us here this summer in Vancouver, is there any, like, things, any, like, tips you could have for them, or just something that you say, "You know, this is something I really love about this area," that you'd love to share."

Stevie
I love our access to nature, to be honest. I love that, I mean, after the conference, you could go spend the day in Stanley Park, wander in Lost Lagoon, wander in the forest at Stanley Park, and feel like you were completely in another place, that's not the city. I love the, there are pockets of communities and neighborhoods that are very distinct. I myself have talked about this before, in terms of intersections, but for instance, I grew up living in East Van, but I always went to school on the west side. And like that's something that's kind of translated through a lot of my life, including my gender, being in this place that's in between. I think Vancouver is really good at encouraging and allowing folks to move in spaces in between. You don't have to stay to one neighborhood, or one group of folks. You have the opportunity to meet a lot of different kinds of folks.

Steve
That's great, yeah, and I think we should encourage people to explore a bit more of Vancouver. One of the reasons we have a hotel that isn't right next door to our venue, but it's still walkable as to allow people to see portions of Vancouver.

Stevie
Right, and just even like walking downtown, you can feel the distinct differences between all the different parts of our downtown core. And that walking experience is so vital to kind of getting a better feel of the city rather than staying in one, just in Gastown.

Steve
Totally. Well, thanks, Stevie, for jumping on the call today and allowing us to introduce our emcee for the 2017 event, and we're really looking forward to you kicking things off.

Stevie
Thanks so much, Steve, I appreciate this.