Go Beyond

Written by Teran McKinney
/ About Me / Half-time Remote DevOps/Systems Engineer /

Diversity in Tech

I launched my profile on Hired.com. To be honest, the process has been fantastic. I haven't had any bites, but it's already been better than what I expected after having it hyped up to me.

On their website, I stumbled across this page on diversity.

For better or worse, I have my own opinions of diversity in tech.

I will pull out a quote from that page:

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are requirements for innovation. Sameness doesn't drive anything forward. Sameness ensures mediocrity. Diversity, however, is a force multiplier. Diversity is not a growth hack. Diversity is a pillar of humanity.

Specifically, on the topic of innovation.

I've held two jobs with engineering roles. One was at a company with about a 30% American engineering team. The rest were on VISAs. This was based out of San Francisco. The other was what I would consider a typical Bay Area mix, maybe 70% American, the rest international.

If we are talking strictly about innovation, not once did I see a case where someone's race, sex, or country of origin determined how they thought or how much value they added to the team. You can guess a bit more at prior experience and where it was probably from. If you're in the US and you are working with an Indian on a Visa, there's an exceptionally high chance that they have a degree. Given a certain age, they are more likely to have school experience than work experience. If you're looking at an American, there's a higher, but still low, chance that they were more "self-taught". But, a quick interview and a glance at a resume can probably tell you most of what you want to know.

Being innovative really comes from outspokenness, confidence, intelligence, and technical background. There are other backgrounds as well that play a part -- no tech job is purely technical.

I just don't understand the claim that innovation comes from "diversity". Technical diversity, sure. Having people with mixed opinions on the team is a nice thing. Or biases, like wanting stateless systems, wanting stateful. Or different approaches to queueing, or other architecture. Or even slightly different coding practices to help spur a bit of evolution in everyone.

From my experience, I feel that the business case for biological diversity is mostly just made up. If you want "innovation", put together talented engineers with different ideas on engineering. Ideally, with different levels of experience with the product, itself, and opinions on the product.

To be clear, I don't care who I work with. As long as it doesn't interfere with work in some way, I don't care where you are from, what you look like, what religion you practice -- or don't. If you are personable and easy going enough, shouldn't your drive and skill be most of what you are evaluated on?

I've never been a manager and have much less experience than a number of people, but I don't think that trying to hire for diversity is worthwhile. At least, for my goals. I will admit -- I tend to prefer working on a team with women and not just men. I just find that men and women tend to balance eachother out a bit.

Diversity, particularly of nationality, does have its drawbacks. You might have the Indian speaking to the Spaniard, both with heavy English accents, each having a hard time understanding the other. There are different customs that may never quite jive. And there's remarkably different work ethics between different nationalities, as a rule of thumb. While I've seen this work suprisingly well, I don't feel that anyone was better off for it in terms of the business. Personally, I enjoyed learning Spanish from a Spaniard, a Cuban, and two Argentinians. A couple of them turned out to be great friends and it was amazing to find how much you could have in common with someone who grew up so far apart.

So there may be some benefits to making close companions that you wouldn't otherwise. I do appreciate melting pots to some point, but it's just not something that I would actively try for. It's hard enough to find someone who is both humble and competent for the role you have -- I don't see how one could manage that, while trying to hire by numbers of diversity.

I'm sure that racism and sexism is still a thing and I'm sure it's tough for those impacted by it. But, my general impression is that if you are optimistic and confident and don't back down, you can prove yourself to almost anyone.

As such, if I ever am hiring someone in the future, I don't care much what you look like -- unless I'm hiring a model, which I don't expect I will. But I also wouldn't care about graphing the numbers and trying to be as evenly represented as possible. It just doesn't make sense to me.




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