Dear Googler, Diverse Teams Build Better Products – Shannon Veerkamp – Medium
I want to address one specific anti-diversity topic in the disgusting Google document sent out last week.
Some white men feel they are being passed up for jobs they are “more qualified for” solely because their counterpart is a different gender or ethnicity.
These men are hugely misunderstanding the hiring process and looking outwards for something to blame. Bringing in a new person is much more than just individual programming performance, but also how the person will function on a team of mixed skills or under the company’s cultural umbrella.
Besides the obvious life-enriching benefit of getting to work with people different from yourself, leveraging other ways of thinking levels up the team in a way no school could ever teach. In my opinion, this is equally important as raw, technical skill.
As someone who works in a creative profession, there is absolutely a tangible business outcome from having an influx of ideas, especially during the beginning of new projects. And what brings about diverse ideas? Diverse teams. Diverse people. Having teammates with differing cultural backgrounds and experiences is an easy way to bring life into your creative process.
One of my former colleagues was extremely fun to work with because he would suggest “outlandish” ideas, such as our team page consisting of a slot machine with a pull for randomly displaying three employee bios. Although this idea may not get used literally, it could be a building block for later designs by using the “Yes, and” method, which I discovered from a design presentation by Vivienne Kay. Originating from improv comedy, the goal is to build on your colleague’s idea by using phrases like “Yes, and” instead of phrases like “Yes, but” which take you to a dead-end for ideas.
In addition, I think Silicon Valley sometimes forgets we are not just shipping for Silicon Valley. A company like Google would have worldwide customers, yet minorities do not always get representation even in minute ways. By keeping a homogenous workforce, we alienate everyone else.
My favorite example from recent years was when Diógenes Brito created a graphic with a brown hand for Slack. Although it was a just a tiny graphic, it stood in stark contrast to the tech world filled with a Caucasian default created by companies filled mostly with only white, male engineers.
Diversity programs are one way tech companies are trying to attract and train new recruits. I can’t imagine any logical reason why the author would not be in support of these types of efforts which better the company and industry as a whole.
Lastly, I want to talk about job hunting and applications. There’s a reason they’re called “opportunities.” We are not entitled to any position just because we went to a California college or have X years working at Z. Also, we should be thankful for all the choices we already have in one of the most lucrative and satisfying industries. It’s not like the engineering applicants won’t find another amazing job after getting turned down from Google.
If I was a white man applying to some of the most prestigious tech companies in the world, I would work to make myself stand out from the crowd. For example, become an ally to diversity groups by mentoring junior engineers, attending meetings, giving educational presentations and contributing to open source projects. I highly doubt these efforts would go unnoticed against the other 10 Berkeley grads who do nothing to help minority groups.
Unfortunately, reading commentary such as the Google document brings up opinions I know are underneath the surface for some people I have and will work with. For today, I’d rather end things on a lighter note: Non-Threatening Leadership Strategies for Women.
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dominicotine/