Mary Dickson Diaz

Code, Life, Learning

Tag: women in tech

“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:

nicepeople

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

the gig is up

wocintech stock - 42

photo via #WOCinTech Chat

I landed my first coding gig!!

Long-time readers know that my job search started out with a bang back in November, marinated a bit over the winter holidays, and then resumed in full force these past few months.

Throughout it all, I had some heartbreaking near-misses and some real low points of thinking, “this will never happen for me.” My instructor helped connect me to a potential contract project that didn’t quite get off the ground but led me to develop a cool app anyway. I flirted with some near-coding opportunities like writing code school curriculum and Salesforce development before narrowing my criteria for what I’m looking for. I met other kind and well-meaning people who made a bunch of introductions, and followed those rabbit trails where they led.

And thanks to one of those introductions (which happened not as a result of going to meetups, though I did that too, but rather the practice of “find and follow cool people on Twitter” which I have been doing for YEARS), I met the team at ReadyPulse, a Bay Area/Redmond-based startup where I start Tuesday as a Ruby on Rails development engineer in test.

I’m so excited that I’ll get to continue to work in Rails, expand my knowledge of software testing, work closely with the client support team to understand and troubleshoot issues, and work with a small development team to ensure new features behave as expected with full test coverage. And at a market rate!! (Add to the heartbreaks: the company that wanted to pay me $35k a year to join them as a junior developer, and the company that rejected me from their job seeking site.)

As is not unusual in this biz, I’m starting out on contract for three months, with potential to convert to a salaried position (and possibly move from testing into feature development at that point) if we both agree it’s a good fit.

Some highlights from the interview process:

  • After being e-introduced, the VP of Engineering invited me to come to the office and after some chit-chat he had me do a whiteboard exercise where I built a simple Rails application. This was actually my first whiteboard experience outside of the Code Fellows practice environment, and it went really well. My interviewer was patient, supportive, helped when I got stuck, and didn’t ding me too badly for some minor syntax errors. After I got home, I built the actual app and sent him a link to a Pull Request so he could see 1) I know how to use GitHub and isolate my code changes in readable fashion and 2) that I paid attention to what we talked about and had the follow-through to create a functioning app.
  • He replied that the app looked good, and did I have any tests for it? So I added tests.
  • I did a second whiteboard exercise with the CTO that was similarly positive and even a little bit fun. At one point I was doing the talk/think out loud thing and I told him I couldn’t remember if Ruby hash supported the “shift” function and he was like, “oh, you can look it up on your phone if you want.” And I was like, “SERIOUSLY?” And he was like, “yeah, real programmers use Google. Go for it.”
  • When my interviewer was discussing the position with me, which involves writing tests and quality assurance for two versions of their software, I asked him “how’s your technical debt” LIKE A TOTAL BOSS and he was like “oh, good question,” and his response led me to a deeper understanding of the situation and excitement to take on the challenge. It is a giant milestone to know enough to ask good questions.

There’s still a lot of unknowns in the future, but I consider this a big step towards the career I want to build as a developer. I’m grateful to Code Fellows for my training, to my partner Josh for supporting our family during this transition, and to friends new and old who cheered for me along the way! I’m gonna keep building my network and do my best to help other new coders find opportunities to get into industry quickly — there’s no better way to keep learning than on the job.

I had one of these to celebrate and I invite you to join me!

Root beer float

Cheers!

a modest (code school) proposal

I posted awhile back that after two classes, I took a break from working as a Teaching Assistant with Code Fellows. Part of this was logistical: it’s hard to dedicate yourself to a job search while also working long hours to support students and instructors. The job opportunities I’d been hoping for didn’t materialize, so I decided to double down on my efforts.

The second part of leaving was emotional — It’s intense work. Two months seemed like a manageable amount of time to sustain that level of full-time effort. By the end, I was exhausted. I’d had a terrific first class working with my former instructor, and was excited to bring that experience with me to a second class with a new instructor and TA team. The last week of that class was particularly stressful when I clashed with just about everyone on their decision to throw out all the assignments done up to that point and heavily weigh “instructor gut feeling” and a hastily conceived and executed pen-and-paper “quiz” as grounds for student advancement, or not. In doing so, I watched in real-time as all the studies about gender bias in the classroom played out, and experienced the frustration of fighting back against it, all the while being treated to a lecture about how none of this was sexist, at all, the opposite in fact!

So I left that team. And since then, I’ve found myself distancing myself from Code Fellows and gravitating more to communities where inclusion and diversity are lived values. I’m also hitting month five of job searching, witnessing how other code schools have programs in place that help with the gap from code school -> industry, and feeling that Code Fellows is still for the most part sending us off with a pat on the back and a “go get ’em, tiger.”

But it doesn’t have to be this way! Code Fellows has a uniquely diverse and passionate student base and huge potential to be something great. As a friend and alumnus, I have some ideas. I will probably get labeled a “hater” for this, but it comes from a place of optimism.

Part 1: The Low Hanging Fruit

ApplePicker

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the plan, part 3

Oh hey, Happy Thanksgiving December! My last post was a cliffhanger that wound up more suspenseful than intended. And then December exploded and I’ve been busy with no time to blog. But I started down this path, so let’s dive back in. 🙂

Crater Lake

Andy Spearing, Crater Lake

Ok, so I was talking about my assumptions going into this year, and I left off at number 4:

  1. I can learn to code in a year — TRUE
  2. I will be job-seeking in a year — TRUE-ish
  3. I can tailor a program of free resources and paid classes for less money and time than the cost of graduate school — TRUE w/caveats
  4. As long as I can build software, the amount of math I’ll need to know is minimal
  5. An all-women learning environment is preferable to co-ed (but not a deal-breaker).
  6. MOOCs will be a great tech resource for learning computer science
  7. Meet-ups will be a great way to network, make connections, and find job leads

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‘programming was ours first’

I wanted to link to this series of tweets back when I first saw them on Twitter, but thought I’d wait for a compilation link. And thus delivered! This history lesson/rant/sermon by Alice Maz reframes what we know about computer programming, where it came from, and who it’s for; and expertly illustrates how science/technical work get genderized with corresponding decline of prestige and pay for female-dominated industry. Ouch. Witness:

men better recognize: programming was ours first, and we’re here to take it back

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 6.48.48 PM

Read it allllll the way down to where she flips the scenarios to show how arbitrary and ridiculous it is.


*Mind-blown*

I was a mathlete, too.

20150722_145211

middle school mary, doing my best teenager scowl

I’ve seen a few articles circulating about the recent US victory at the International Mathematical Olympiad.

A colleague’s admission that he, too, is a former mathlete brought back my own nostalgia for those days.  I competed in middle school with two of my best friends at the time, Brianna and Liz, and about 4-5 boys in our class. So ours was a gender-mixed team and if I recall, that was the norm for other schools with which we competed. The winning US high school team is, not surprisingly, all male, which mirrors my own experience — by that time in my life I had dropped mathletes for other interests (drama club, chorus, literary magazine, stage crew, working at the local library). Brianna went on to an IB school and later studied math and psychology at Carnegie Mellon (she now runs initiatives supporting women and girls in science), and Liz went to the local public high school with me and later became a rocket scientist, so why I decided I was a book person and “not a numbers person” is a quandary for another post.

My favorite “mathlete” challenge were the relay races. We worked in teams of 3-4 where one person’s result gets passed to their teammate as input for the next question. I remember both the sense of personal responsibility (I have to solve my question so my teammate can start on hers) and the negotiations that sometimes occurred when an answer was passed that simply didn’t make sense. I don’t remember how much we were allowed to talk, if at all, but there must have been some mechanism for “that doesn’t work, can you check it again?” back up the chain. But mostly it worked. And it was awesome when it did.

Coding is a lot like these relay races. No matter what the language, we define functions that accept parameters and return a result. And if you work on a team with more than one programer, you are probably going to be working on a single feature or piece of code that combined with others (dependent on, necessary for) will produce something magnificent.

We need to make that connection for our girls earlier, so fewer of them will decide (consciously or unconsciously) that they are “not numbers people,” and see opportunities instead to use the skills they enjoy as budding programers, engineers, bloggers, hackers, and systems architects.

calm before the storm

First, something easy:

I logged in to twitter tonight to catch this total bullshizz. A re-tweet from “import python” and Guido van Rossum (which I clicked through to read and thought “aww, that’s a little hokey, but ok”) and subsequent calls to remove the tweet and its content from the plagiarizing site. Turns out some dude stole Anna’s ‘love letter’ in its entirety and republished on his blog. With no attribution. With *self attribution* (it was signed ‘love, Milap’). And the retweet (not of Anna, of the plagiarizer) got like 50 twitter “favorites” since this Guido guy has 61k followers.

This little blog here isn’t very big (my follower number is in the dozen, yes that’s singular) and partially for that reason I would be furious, *fur-i-ous*, if someone were to appropriate my content as their own and get amplified for it.  All has been corrected, and YAY for that, but it still hit home, and hard.

So, if you use twitter even casually, give Anna a follow, or check out her blog wherein she highlights a diverse group of women (including black and Latina women) who use python and django.  So cool.

The storm? That’s coming tomorrow, when a bunch of dudes arrive to re-level our house. Presumably with us and our stuff in it. Our little house, built in 1919 (I still cannot wrap my head around that number) has been through so much, and tomorrow we’re paying some people a lot of money (so much money, I can’t wrap my head around that number either) to make sure it doesn’t fall down for the next 30 years. A few weeks ago they called me, and offered, for just a few hundred dollars more, to guarantee their foundation work on the house for *50 years* instead of 30, and I may have just laughed at the guy because in my head I was thinking “certainly we’ll all be dead or living below ground by then” and, less fatalistic, “whoever we sell this house to is not going to care about 30 vs. 50 year guarantee.” (And they haven’t called me since then! Now they call Josh.)

But time marches on, with or without us. Here’s some dirt I dug up on our new digs using the Seattle Times historic archives (library card may be required):

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f.read()

Bletchley Park Commemorative Badge

Bookmarked this week:

  1. Emotional reunion after 70 years for Bletchley Park veterans – I haven’t seen Imitation Game yet, but I did watch (and enjoy) Bletchley Circle. So inspiring to see the real Wrens here reunited and as sharp as ever. Click through the image above to peek at the Roll of Honour. (Also, that looks like it might make a great Twitterbot project… hmmm…)
  2. Retiring Python as a Teaching Language — James Hague makes a case for learning JavaScript first. I can commiserate with the sentiment of “but what can I doooo with Python” — I’m trying to figure out a way to get my neat-o credit card program onto this webpage in an interactive format. I started playing around with django, which I think will let me do that? But there could probably be an easier way.
  3. 10 things you need to know before applying to a code school — and if you’re in Seattle, you might want to attend “A glimpse into disruptive web development education” next Tuesday evening, with representatives from General Assembly, Code Fellows, and Ada Developers Academy, including instructors, students, and business development partners from the hiring side, discussing their respective education models.” It’s like they planned it *for me*. Do not miss!
  4. Programing doesn’t belong to men (it belongs to me) – by Julia Evans. Get it, girl.

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