Diversity in tech companies or software development teams is a subject that I keep hearing of. I can't resist putting my 2 cents even though, you'll see, this is not a game changer.
Why would I write about diversity? To talk about my experience in a less technical way and because it is an important topic.
Youth and utopy
When I started my career, I had a strong point of view on what is – or should be – a developer. I sincerely thought that every developer was absolutely passionate about his job. I also thought we all had side projects, watched tutorials on YouTube to better ourselves at night, read Uncle Bob's books to improve our skills and become an expert in our field(s).
In my first job, I didn't really see how wrong I was. I worked for a bank where my colleagues weren't developers. They used the computer for Word and Excel and even that was not really mastered.
I then had an internship in a startup, which really only had the working schedule of a startup. We were 6 employees : the boss (who is developper), an assistant, a salesman, a qualified electrician and two developers. The three of us were really passionate, even though thinking about it now, I think the boss was more passionate with the product he developed than with development really.
I have been into coding since I was 12 years old and I never stopped. I code for my boss, for myself, for my friends, to relax after a long day of work : coding is all I do. So it was logical for me, at that time, that everybody had the same passion. That's all I knew.
I had my first epiphany when I got a new job in a service company. A big company with about 10 000 employees, a very traditional way of doing things.
Anyway, in this company I met for the first time a kind of employee I never thought I'd meet in a tech company. A developer that is here only to pay his rent. It was a really difficult concept to grasp for me: I didn't get why you'd inflict yourself such pain and frustration if you didn't like programming in the first place. Of course, he was here for the money but there are so many other well-paid jobs out there that are simpler!
It was my first approach of diversity. Those people were different but I understood that they also did an amazing job at programming. They just had a different approach than mine on our job.
It looks like nothing but from this different approach, you make a lot of choices and decisions that are very different than the ones I would've taken. This is this different approach that you want to see when you are looking for diversity in a team.
It was a big company, as I've mentioned. Present in numerous (eleven) countries, it makes for a lot of different cultures and origins. A big dose of diversity here again. But what is the link between employees' origins and tech?
Long story short: everything. Cultural differences, native languages or origins are key elements to diversity. Thanks to those differences, you introduce new ways of thinking that can be very different than everyone else's countries.
Humans are unpredictable and the elements influencing their thinking process are very numerous. The technical skills they owns are actually a very tiny part of what they are and of what makes them great developers and great team members. We have to think of humans globally which include their origins, language, culture and personal experience.
To these various elements which concern ethnicity in general, you can also add the gender factor. This one is important in the tech industry. We see a lot of initiatives flourishing to draw women to the digital industry. I think every women already in the tech industry must be congratulated because some people are not easy on them.
Some don't even see the importance of having women in their team or think it would be worthless. However, it can upgrade the technical skills of the team (ways of dealing with issues, problem solving) and even make the team more stable, stronger and more productive.
Women don't have the same sensitivity than men and it can really affect all sides of the work life!
The last point I'd like to talk about is vocational retraining. We don't see a lot of posts on the topic but I think it is quite important.
I left my job at the service company where I had a colleague who was a former biology PHD and researcher for the NIH in the USA. I now work for a startup where one my colleague is a former sound engineer.
Their organizational skills, way to manage stress and share their knowledge are also very different. This is what we call "soft skills": those are skills that you acquire, that are very useful to work better alone or in team but that are not directly related to your job field. It increases the productivity and thus the money the company makes at the end of the day.
Having this kind of people in your team is very beneficial for productivity (creating new software, problem solving or software maintenance). It also benefits the whole team who can learn those "soft skills" too if they didn't have a chance to learn before.
You probably got the point by now: diversity in a team makes it stronger and successful. It might make you change your management methods but the benefits will really outweigh the efforts putting into making it work! I didn't talk about all kind of diversity obviously – there are way too many – but you can keep reading about the different personalities or on anything that could limit the cognitive bias in our apps...
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