Why your team is so… vanilla

Everything is wrong with that!

I’d like to offer a different perspective to this challenge.

Something that most companies don’t know or realize is that very few people want to be the first one. Just think about that…. the first one, the only one, the chosen few.

As self-sacrificing and noble as the idea of being the only female, the only person over 40, or the only Black/Latino person inside of an entire organization’s technical department may sound — this is not of great appeal to many people (or even one of two). After overcoming the very real effects of the imposter syndrome you face yet another obstacle, that “cultural fit” buzz word that is being thrown around these days. When applying for a career in any field it is important to remember that it is not only the applicants that are interviewed and pre-screened. Companies websites and stats are researched in an effort to answer the core question of every aspiring tech professional, “Do I want to work here?”

NOTE: Not everyone is willing to be Katniss Everdeen and volunteer as tribute to this cause.

Your job posting says what?

Many companies filter out most diverse applicants right at the very beginning whether intentionally or unintentionally. Here’s an example of a recent job posting I came across…

I’m just leaving this right here…. actual job posting for Eligo Energy, Chicago, Illinois
  • The use of the word “you”: Multiple times in this posting the company references this new candidate as being the solely responsible for a lot of stuff! This implies that there is no team to support them — there’s multiple things wrong with this but I won’t go into them here.
  • 3+ years in a professional development organization. Experience is usually the biggest kicker. It is a statistical fact that people from nontraditional backgrounds historically (and currently) account for a very small percentage of developers; which also means they will most likely not have the years of experience since this field is new for most of them.
  • Finally, that last requirement — I can’t even and I don’t think I need to expound on it.

At least a 4-year CS/CE/EE degree from a top engineering school (coding camps/academies do not count)

Circle of Influence

It is a well-known fact that most people land jobs by reaching out to their network or immediate circles of influence (sorry recruiters). I am not referring to the over 1,000 connections someone might have on LinkedIn but those they actually communicate with on a regular basis. This would be people someone reconnects with at events, community programs, former coworkers, friends, family, etc. If you look around you on a daily basis and only see one or two groups of people — those will be the same people that you turn to when looking to recruit, network, hire or collaborate with; thereby, greatly limiting the chances that any company you start or join will reflect a more diverse culture without a change. I will not go into all the benefits to an organization for having a diverse culture but there are many posts regarding this out there to be googled.

Resolution

There is a long-term resolution to this gap in tech that does not get stated and if it does it is not being said loud enough. Making tech or any industry more inclusive, more diverse and in my personal opinion less boring requires purposefully expanding your network. Again not your LinkedIn circle of friends but your real-life-people-you-actually-speak-to network!

  1. Get out there and attend events that draw a diverse group of people.
  2. Resolve to work with and for organizations that reflect a diverse workforce and teams.
  3. Better yet join or start a company that is owned and/or operated by a person of color or a female.
  4. Expand your group of friends. Move into a neighborhood and live next to people who don’t look like you.

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Kimberly Lowe-Williams

Kimberly Lowe-Williams

CEO at The Difference Engine. Providing real-life software development to nontraditional developers and nonprofits. #PipelineBuilder #NonprofitLeader