This week, we had a chance to catch up with Naoufel Testaouni, the innovative Co-Founder & CEO behind QueerTech. QueerTech is a not-for-profit advocacy group for LGBTQ+ professionals working in the technology industry. Naoufel filled us in on where he got the idea for QueerTech, some of the best things that have happened since QueerTech launched, why this group empowers LGBTQ+ professionals, and much more.
LGBTQ AND ALL: Can you provide a quick background on QueerTech?
NT: QueerTech is a nonprofit, started in Montreal in 2016, that aims to increase LGBTQ+ representation in the Tech industry. It also strives to lower barriers in the community, create space for the community to connect and support each other and empower the community so we can all thrive in the industry.
LGBTQ AND ALL: How did the idea for QueerTech come about?
NT: I have been in Tech since 2010; Montreal is a welcoming place, but I didn’t feel like I belonged. From 2010 until recently, many events I attended would be predominantly straight cisgender white men and only two people of color.
That’s what drove me to create QueerTech. It was to create a sense of belonging that I was looking for and many LGBTQ+ community members were looking for.
LGBTQ AND ALL: Why do you think diversity is important in Tech?
NT: Tech touches every aspect of our life and every person in our society. I believe in order for us to build an inclusive product that serves every community, we need to have diversity. Essentially, inclusive teams need to be creating these products.
LGBTQ AND ALL: How does QueerTech empower LGBTQ+ people in the Tech community?
NT: QueerTech services three audiences by creating access to queer people who are looking to transition from other industries to the tech industry, paving paths for these individuals and for queer people who are in Tech and want to advance their careers. We need to see more queer leaders and role models in boardrooms to create diversity and inclusion.
QueerTech also encourages entrepreneurism in the community, the keys to building wealth, and seeing more queer founders. We do that through a few initiatives, like our newest program – QT Access. This program lowers barriers for queer people and helps them get into Tech. It also supports a cohort of access.
LGBTQ AND ALL: What other programs does QueerTech offer?
NT: QueerTech helps develop professional skills to break into the industry, and we do so by helping our community create a professional development plan, understanding their values and what career path they want to follow. We also help them build a story on their resume and create digital brands online.
We also provide insight on how they can package themselves. Our mentorship program can support them throughout this journey, and we commit to supporting them for three months after the program is finished.
We also ensure that we offer a support system for them to succeed. Some of our other initiatives include a virtual career fair we’ve hosted since 2021. This virtual job fair event has successfully placed queer people into tech companies. It’s happening on March 29th and 30th this year.
Our other initiatives include the QT Qonference, our flagship event, which was highly successful last year and acted as a main purpose to connect the community and to build a national network across Canada.
This year, the conference will be happening in Fall, and we are working towards it being in either Montreal or Toronto. Stay tuned!
Another offering we have is the talent network, which is a way for any queer people looking for opportunities to come to this network and be put in touch with recruiters. For more info about this talent network, check out QueerTech.org/jobs.
LGBTQ AND ALL: What have been some highlights since QueerTech was launched?
NT: We have 9000 communities across Canada and are excited to see it grow every month. We also have over 120 corporate partners and work with 75 community partners. So far, about 300 people have gotten jobs through QueerTech, and we’ve had over 200 virtual and in-person events, as well as a great engaged community that attends these events.
LGBTQ AND ALL: What goals do you hope to achieve or have achieved already?
NT: The ultimate goal is to lower the barriers for queer people to get more jobs in Tech. We are constantly thinking about how we can drive success in creating a fulfilled, financially and psychologically stable community.
So, how do we measure that? By creating a sense of belonging and economic stability. All in all, we are constantly thinking about how to generate more queer entrepreneurs and foster community.
Join the QueerTech Community
If you want to join the QueerTech community, visit https://www.queertech.org/join and sign up today!
Are you curious about the ways that technology has helped the LGBTQ+ Community? Check out our article.