Collision Conference — How I Made the Most out of Failure

First off, let me just say I hate the word failure. It has too much of a negative connotation, but either way, it’s the best word to describe the experience I had back in May and June. Luckily, I don’t need to explain it in just one word! Here’s the story of how I turned one of my most disappointing experiences into a life-changing event for myself at Collision Conference!

If you don’t know, Collision is North America’s largest growing tech conference and is hosted in Toronto every year. It consists of startup booths across the huge Enercare Event Centre and many stages with speakers addressing topics like tech, health, climate, and more.

The Knowledge Society (TKS) had speaking opportunities for some of the students in the program and my name was put forward! I submitted a quick bio and description about myself, and eventually got chosen to speak about my experience as a bisexual person of colour in the tech industry.

WHAT?? I haven’t even spoken in front of 100 strangers until now and I’m suddenly getting this insane opportunity! I had to make the most of it.

I spent the next six weeks grinding on this. Hours and hours of writing, revising, designing, and refining an eight-minute talk about one of the most personal topics I can address. I felt like I put my whole blood, sweat, and tears into this and after this, everything is gonna change.

I was giddy when we had our introduction call — I met the other students who will be speaking with me! I met the moderator of the stage and others from his side of this equation. I introduced and talked a bit about myself and my talk, and learned a lot about the others on that call. I felt great!

Then, everything came crashing down.

I got a call during my break on a random school day when I thought everything was finalized. Essentially. I was told I bombed that introduction call and I was no longer to be speaking at Collision. I immediately left and went home, learning the most about this situation as I could. I messaged everyone who I knew had a say in this decision and I was determined to overturn it. I recorded myself going through my talk and emailed it to them, but to no avail. Eventually, I got on a call with the ultimate decision maker.

He explained to me everything, big and small that had a part in the decision. He helped me get over my disappointment and made sure I had the mindset of “how do I get back up?”. I knew I’d learned my lesson.

I spent time just listening and digesting all this feedback. Then, I tried to think about how to better myself, I made action items, talked to people, practised, and practised. I’m still doing all of this to one day earn my spot for another amazing opportunity like the one I lost.

But it’s not over.

Luckily, I was still able to attend the conference as a general attendee! The first thing I noticed on day one was that everyone else with TKS had all access, speaker tickets while I had the general admission ticket. Disappointment flooded through my body again but I knew I was lucky to even be here in the first place.

I knew I had to make the most of this week. Immediately, I started networking, I talked to tons of people and used my social battery until it was absolutely drained to the point where I thought it was never coming back — and then I used it more. I ended up getting some amazing opportunities! Here are some of my highlights.

  • I met the #1 person on my list of people to meet at Collision — Sophia Kianni! I basically just ended up fanboying over her for a solid 3-minute conversation while my friend Graeme stood beside me wondering who she is.
  • I got invited to a dinner with many big-shots like media and CEOs. I learned a ton from even just a couple of hours with them! From topics like politics to tech and everything in between, just that experience made the week worth it.
  • I also met a ton of potential investors and am still working with them to get them interested in my projects!
  • Lastly, I made some amazing friends. We stayed up all night after the conference was done and ended up getting basically no sleep before we eventually had to go home. Working with them then and a few of them still today has been amazing and I‘ve been loving this.

Basically, I turned the horrible experience of being removed from my panel into literally a life-changing week for myself! I don’t really toot my own horn but I gotta give myself credit and say that I did a great job at this. I learned a ton of lessons through this whole experience, but one really shone through.

It’s not over until it’s over. You only lose once you’ve given up.

There were so many points in this journey when I thought it was the end, or I thought there was no point in pushing any further or working any harder. I was so frustrated and it took everything in me to not let that take over. But I made sure to keep going, and look where that got me! Use my experience as an inspiration and a manifestation of hard work and where that can get you. Don’t give up.

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