Mary Dickson Diaz

Code, Life, Learning

Month: April 2016

“we didn’t think about it”

Oh boy, readers, you are in for a treat. Today I found myself thinking simultaneously 1. “gosh I haven’t blogged in a while” and 2. “wow I’ve been doing a lot of yelling on the internet.”

So let’s talk about some praise-worthy and “what were they thinking” situations and why I’ve started being more mouthy. (And by “yelling” I mean giving people politely phrased but tough and mostly unsolicited feedback.)

Exhibit A:

Text box saying: NICE GUYS "Yep, that's right. We're just straight up nice guys. Developers your mom would want you to work with."

I got a LinkedIn recruiting message asking me to check out this website, which I did and I found the bullet point above. To confirm my hypothesis that no women were involved in this design decision, I did a search on their own site and LinkedIn and found 0 women out of 16 current or former employees. I responded saying that I wasn’t interested, and that if they planned to pursue female developers (which I hoped they would!) they might consider changing this language. I wasn’t sure what kind of response I would get but I expected to be told that they meant “guys” generically and I should lighten up, and I braced for impact.

Instead of talking down to me, the person thanked me for the feedback and said that he’d have his team look into changing it right away. By the end of the day, their website looked like this:


Kerning issues aside, isn’t that much better? I don’t want to give the guy too many accolades for doing the right thing, but I was surprised and impressed with his solutions-oriented, non-defensive reaction. I was like, yo, this is a business problem for you, and he was like: wow, you’re right, and thank you for telling me.

RIDING HIGH ON A WAVE OF SUCCESS AND POWER, I decided to fix some other parts of the internet.


Exhibit B:

The email LinkedIn sent me was titled “15 Questions every Rails developer should ask himself.”

BE IT SO NOTED: This email came to me. I did not go out looking for examples of sexism in tech channels on the internet. It arrived to my personal email account demanding attention from me and who knows how many other of the 60,000 members of the Ruby on Rails LinkedIn community (some of whom, I wager, are not men).

SUBMITTED FOR ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATION: The last time I responded to someone’s use of “guys” for a multi-gendered group (the group in question was actually entirely female) by suggesting that “all” would be a more inclusive language choice, I got a 4 page essay private messaged to me about how I hurt this person’s feelings by correcting him in public, and how he works so hard to help women and setbacks like this make him not even want to try, and on and on and on. He did not understand why his public comment might warrant a non-confrontational, polite, public response from me. People, it seems, would much prefer that you call them out on their? in private.

But I was high on power and also I can’t keep my mouth shut, so I prepared for the storm ??:

A blog post titled "15 questions every Rails developer should ask himself"

This response is fine. I would prefer he correct the actual article in front of us, but I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt that LinkedIn makes that difficult. I’m also impressed with the Rails community for not piling on, though this was quite recent and time will tell.

Exhibit C:

The last and latest comes from our friends over at Hired, who — for those keeping score — rejected me and my friends from their job seeking site after we put a few hours of effort into building a profile, and then sent a “we’re sorry” email that concluded “and could we ask you to recommend us to your more experienced friends?” thus no longer serving as a “we’re sorry” email at all.

Hired is a RailsConf sponsor, where I am thrilled to be heading next week as an official Rails Scholar. RailsConf is planned and organized by some truly lovely people and I have been enjoying connecting with the scholars, a diverse group of fellow newbies to the Rails community.

Which is why it was so disappointing that in user stories highlighted on their RailsConf promotional page, Hired included only three women and less than 10 people of color, all requiring a deep page scroll to uncover. In fact the first 16 profiles are all white men.

I wasn’t the only person who noticed the sea of white male faces, either:

A tweet exchange

Can I get that in a block quote?

“We didn’t think about it” is always a disappointing excuse for glaring lack of diversity. – @HayleyCAnderson

As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, forever and ever, amen.

For the record, their eventual response:

…is one step above “Sorry u were offended,” a step below think about it and don’t say anything at all, and miles below “thank you for bringing this to our attention, we’ll take immediate action to rectify the situation” (and then do it) like my friend in Exhibit A.

Closing Statement:

So much of what I’ve shared in this blog post, and other incidents I’m not sharing, is carelessness — a case of not thinking, of limited perspective, of not getting feedback from the right people before hitting “send.” A lack of knowledge of how far your message will travel and who it might inadvertently knock over on its journey.

I have started vocally, publicly (if the offense is public let the correction be public, says I, so we can all learn), pointing this out to people — and so far I haven’t gotten buried for it. The ability to do so comes from a place of privilege (I am, after all, white, well-connected, and financially secure enough to speak up without concern of losing my job) but also of confidence —

I’m starting to identify more as a developer everyday, and so the injuries feel more personal.

You tracked this mud in my house. You’d better believe I’m gonna say something.

Internet! What mouthy battles are you fighting this month? Share ’em so we can cheer you on!

<3 Mary

video yourself whiteboarding

I’m taking a weekly class with Kal Academy, a refresher course on data structures and algorithms. I can’t say enough good things about Kal’s classes — they are small, personalized, affordable, positive learning environments. Very worthwhile if you are a woman in technology in the greater Seattle area. In addition to the data structures and algorithm classes, which are mandatory for anyone who wants to improve at technical whiteboard exams, she also offers classes in business intelligence and object-oriented programming (in Microsoft stack).

Our homework this week (and ongoing) is to video ourselves whiteboarding. This is intimidating and potentially embarrassing, so of course I am sharing it with the world. Behold the screen capture worth 1000 words:

youtube video capture

Slow clap, YouTube. ? Watch it here:

And here’s the final code (after some refactoring):

I highly recommend going through this exercise if there is a technical interview in your future. It will improve your practice and give you confidence. This session lasted about 30 minutes but felt much longer. I had to re-do my code a few times, which felt more awkward than it looks. (Verdict: not terrible for a first attempt, but I’ll get better.)

Technical note: I used YouTube live on-air with Google Hangouts enabled. The directions are not very clear, but I was able to set my video to private (only those with link can view) and the recording worked fine and was instantly available on my YouTube channel. I did not attempt to do any screen sharing.

It’s a different experience to whiteboard without anyone giving you real-time feedback than with it. But, try it and tape it anyway.

Kal is collecting the videos and sharing with the class, so we’ll get to see a few other people’s approaches and solutions, which is always super useful. (Share yours in the comments if you try this!)

Need some sample whiteboard questions? Try not to think about them too long before you start the camera rolling, that’s cheating.

These are all fucking terrible, except maybe #8.

Better sources:

Happy (live) coding!

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