Balancing your drinks & belonging - Inclusion & Diversity in Tech

Published December 8, 2019

It is really important to make sure our community is an inclusive environment for everyone to feel like they belong. In this episode, we are joined by Cher and Henry Zhu to talk with us about inclusion and diversity.

Guests

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Panel

Episode transcript

Ryan Burgess
Welcome to a brand new episode the front end happy hour podcast. On today's episode we have two special guests joining us. We have Cher and Henry are here to talk with us about diversity and inclusion. Sharon Henry, can you give a brief introduction of who you are, what you do and what your favorite happy are beverages

Cher
Hello, I'm Cher I'm a senior software engineer at web flow formerly known as share of Blizzard Entertainment, Starbucks, and USA Today. My favorite happy hour beverage is cider I guess the hard kind or the non alcoholic kind I will participate in many Apple beverages.

Henry Zhu
Right on, Henry. Yeah, so I okay, I'm Henry, I mean maintainer on Babel. I guess I'm doing that full time now. Yes, a whole year. I guess I should be more confident about that. Right. I guess I just like water. Cheers.

Ryan Burgess
All right, let's also give introduction of today's panelists. Jim, you want to start off

Jem Young
Jem Young senior software engineer at Netflix,

Stacy London
Stacy London senior front end engineer at Atlassian

Augustus Yuan
Augustus Yuan, software engineer at Twitch.

Ryan Burgess
And I'm Ryan Burgess. I'm a software engineering manager at Netflix. In each episode of the front end happy hour podcast we'd love to choose keyword if it's mentioned at all. We will all take a drink. What do we decide today's keyword is the line belonging all right from now on. If the word gets brought up, we will all take a drink. All right before we dive in, I figured we got to really talk about what is inclusion and diversity. What does that mean to each of you?

Augustus Yuan
different perspectives is like what I think of

Cher
to me the the baseline of diversity and it Inclusion is not only the perspectives of various different backgrounds and experiences, but then also the welcome newness of those different backgrounds

Henry Zhu
if I want to, I kind of want to use the word, do it. So it actually clean so I like having a sense of belonging right. Yeah, having enough of that kind of cheers.

Ryan Burgess
Cheers be I think that's an important aspect of it too, is that, you know, you can say that you're trying to be more diverse or be more inclusive, but you also need to have the people actually feel like they belong.

Stacy London
Cheers. Cheers. Maybe this was a bad word.

Ryan Burgess
Why is diversity and inclusion important specifically, even in our industry, maybe it's like, even at your companies, but why is that important? I mean,

Cher
specifically in technology, we're building products that not everyone can use. And from a business standpoint, obviously, like you're not reaching everybody you can reach but then also we end up actually excluding people from being able to use our products,

Ryan Burgess
I think that's super important if we're trying to build products for everyone. And of course, you can't get feedback from everyone. So being able to have people come from different walks of life, they're going to bring their own experiences to try and help influence the direction of the product that we're creating.

Cher
There's that old saying, which is like two heads are better than one. But really, it's two experiences are better than one below, like, Ooh,

Stacy London
that's really good. I like the thing that you make is better because you're going to miss things like your experience in this world. While you may have, you know, let's say moved around and travelled and seen things it still doesn't matter. Like, it's still not as good as someone who has lived a very different experience than you. So they're going to, they're going to bring something to that product development discussion or that way of programming that you may not have thought of. And I think of this like as an example for women, apps that you know, want to track your location or Things that are about entering lots of private information. If you've never had to worry about your safety before, then you may not think that that's a problem. And so you may not have ever even like it's never come up. But if you have a diverse team, someone on your team has thought that is going to bring it up and you're just going to build a better product. You

Cher
know, it's really interesting that you kind of bring that up is because on the right here, one of the things I was kind of thinking about was that every time I get into a Lyft, or an Uber, I make sure that I am watching where the driver is going. And I'm also looking to see that his his app is on the right page, like all of these different things that I think about that I know that other people who haven't had to worry about their safety would never even think about something like that. I like I know, I've gotten in lifts with other people and they're just like on their phones, they're doing whatever. And I'm constantly like being aware and like thinking about ways that like, I can make lifts safer. Like what if there was like a panic button that they had to have in their car and they couldn't accept Unless Lyft could locate the panic button, like things like that, like people who have never had to worry about being kidnapped by a Lyft driver, they would never think of adding products like that. And that's why it's so important that you have those different experiences in your product development.

Stacy London
Another example I can think of as like your product being better as a whole, you sure you mentioned, like accessibility or keyboard navigation kind of things. And, and that's something like as an example for for the pocket. The target user for that product is a lot of people doing really technical things or you know, using get command line there. They're doing stuff where they maybe love using keyboard shortcuts, they maybe don't like using mice or whatever productivity things for nerds. And so if you make the site more keyboard accessible, you've just made the product better anyway. For not necessarily people that aren't like that are using screen words are sighted but you're just better as a whole for everyone. That's using it.

Cher
And you know, it's super interesting is that a lot of made for TV products are actually for people who are disabled, but they market them to mass media because that's how you can sell a product is by giving a reason other than a lack of a boldness to sell that product. And so like I use the keyboard heavily, because, you know, like CLA, I'm not so good with actually just like using software, which is weird, since we like write software. But I'm definitely a keyboard user. And so I was talking with ej Mason, who they are disabled, and they told me how they use certain like menu features. And I realized that it was a little bit different than the way that I use keyboard features. So then also considering like, okay, now there's two, you know, there's at least two different types of keyboard users. How are we going to address what those two different keyboard users needs. So again, more experiences.

Ryan Burgess
I love that you just use pronouns. There. It is. too, because that's another form of being inclusive is just being aware that, yeah, someone may have different pronouns and just being aware of that. And I think that's awesome is even when companies add that into their profiles that were in making it very inclusive that way where it's like, feels comfortable, like, Hey, this is a normal thing for people to call out their pronouns. And I think that's even just a small, small smidgen of a good thing that can make people feel more wealth belong.

Augustus Yuan
Yeah, see,

Ryan Burgess
I was trying to avoid it, there's an easier thing to do.

Cher
Cheers. I think if we want to talk about the importance of inclusion, I actually think that that's almost more important than diversity. And maybe that's because they're so intertwined, because I think you cannot have diversity without inclusion. Like anybody who has been discriminated against that goes and works at a place that is like, we're a great place to work. We're diverse, you know, so quickly, if you've been hired, because they're trying to fix their diversity problem. And well, it's commendable that that's what they're trying to do. If they aren't also trying to make this space welcoming for the people that they're hiring, and actually do away with the problems that made them, you know, homogenous environment to begin with. Those people that you hire that I have done, this will leave and they will tell everybody they know in the whisper networks, not to go work there, because it's a toxic work environment for your identity group. If you're not working on inclusion side, which is really rooting out the toxic problems that are in your organization and making sure that the space is is welcoming for those people that you are trying to hire, which, I mean, most businesses are trying to be more diverse for business reasons. Like you know, we all work in tech, we understand that at the end of the day, it's about you know, making money and growing the business. So, us coming back and saying like you have to do more than just hiring black people or hiring women or hiring disabled people or you know, People who aren't heteronormative like all of these different things, it's being inclusive isn't just about hiring. It's about building health care programs and safe spaces for those people that you hire to be.

Augustus Yuan
It's not just tech, right? This is a problem like across many different industries. And like there's still a lot of work to do. But I love how tech is. So many people are very outspoken about this and they feel comfortable, or at least I can see like people feel more comfortable in tech to bring it up, bring out bring up these problems and in other industries, but honestly, like, this is a problem like in every industry, and it's gonna be a problem for a long time too, as it doesn't doesn't change overnight.

Cher
I think another thing that comes up a lot in these conversations is you talk about hiring is that like, oh, okay, well, there's a pipeline problem. There's not enough girls or, you know, young black people interested in specifically for us for technology, right? There's not enough coders. So we teach all these people to code but role models are actually so insanely important for not just, you know, development in children, but development at all ages. There's this thing in the brain this process called vicarious reinforcement, which is where you see people who look like you, and you actually experience the dopamine neuron firings, that make you feel like you're experiencing the success of the people that you see. So, as a result, because of you know, dopamine makes you like, do awesome stuff, right? Like, you end up being more productive and more motivated and more believing in yourself. Because you get this sense of belonging into that.

Stacy London
Cheers

Augustus Yuan
Cheers

Cher
into that group because you literally see yourself feel yourself experienced yourself in those roles. And so it becomes very apparent that we have to have truly diverse sets of people at every single role especially in specifically in you know, tech engineering for that's, you know, What we know, you know, not just the interns and the software engineers of every single level, but also management and executives and chairs and boards and advisors, like you have to have diverse leadership at every single level, I have to be able to see myself in a role above where I am, in order to grow

Stacy London
as fast as I have never heard the science behind that. I read a lot.

Ryan Burgess
I was blown away. I was like, wow, honest.

Stacy London
Actually, like, I was like, holy crap. Yeah, that does

Augustus Yuan
kind of happen. Like I've seen, like, Asian actors are really like senior executives who were Asian. And I was just like, I was like, I felt empowered. You know, I couldn't explain it. But holy crap you just explained. So my

Stacy London
mind's kind of blown out enough. Interestingly, I guess, been in this industry long enough, where when I first started working, I worked with mostly people that were quite a bit older than me. And there were a lot of women. I worked in industries, maybe like, financial industry stuff, but there's not a cobalt. PL one. So there was a lot of women, you know, close to like 60 something that, you know, were were leaders of the company and they had been there forever. They've been doing this work. And so I actually did see women in these sort of like, high level roles. And so my first experience out of school was seeing that it's diminished and gotten very opposite over time, which is sad. But it speaks to, you know, it's not a pipeline problem, blah, blah, blah. It's about inclusion and feeling like you belong. And so I had that, and I'm very grateful for that. But I think it's a different trajectory. Now you're just coming into the industry.

Cher
There's this writer from Nigeria. Her name is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. And she has this TED talk that is so old, and I've shared it so many times on Twitter over the last 10 years, but it's called the dangers of the single story. And one of the things she talks about is growing up, she only had access to like British animation. Can books which were stories of people in Britain and America. And so the first books that she wrote were about people that she knew from writing and to her Africans didn't belong in books. And it wasn't until she got into college, or somewhere along those lines, that she was able to see herself in her own writing. And, you know, you talked about like, what you're exposed to on TV like we grow ups, we grew up seeing ourselves on TV, and I looking back now I can see how important

Jem Young
television shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, you know, we're for people, like, I grew up in an area that I mean, I wouldn't say it was terribly diverse. It was if it was diverse, it was mostly like Asians because it was the east side of Seattle area. But the the family that actually my family was closest to was black and I don't think I ever realized Like why certain television shows were so important to them, I just enjoyed watching them with them. But now looking back as an adult, I can see that like, 90% of the television that we watched were, you know, these white, you know, upper middle class families. And so to see somebody who looked like them on TV, even if they couldn't relate to, you know, The Fresh Prince, because the, you know, hit the family was, you know, wealthy, at least they could see themselves like, getting to wherever that was. So I'm interested to hear everyone's thoughts too, because I feel like this has become a more important topic recently, like, I don't know, where, where the recency bias is over, you know, maybe it is 10 years, five years, but I feel like it's become a more important topic. And I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts. Why, why it has become more of an important topic that we're discussing. One of the reasons is, the world has become a smaller place, especially the internet interconnectedness. Like I can meet people who Don't look like me, you don't think like me and, and by that I mean, I don't mean like tall black, I mean, American or like Christian or have my same cultural values and we start meeting more these people realize we can't really have a good dialogue with them because we don't have the same basis. So let's step back and try to understand where they're coming from. And actually, when people that look different and think different you like, let's include them too. And then let's build something out of that. Let's become better. And I think increasingly, we're just becoming more aware like, hey, that's the right thing to do.

Cher
I actually think I feel like there's that and then there's the other side to like, I was like a closet gamer growing up because it wasn't like super cool for a girl to be playing MMOs my friends, but really, for me, like places like Everquest were the first place where I felt like I could talk about the stuff that I was hiding. At school, and I mean obviously not just the games, but there was other stuff like abuse and my family's poverty like it was not cool at my school to be poor. But there were a lot of other teenagers who were online not just in gaming, but in chat rooms, who had really similar stories especially other girls who also played video games also got abused at home also were poor. And so getting that sense of belonging online I started to realize that I just started to realize that I wasn't really all that alone. And I started to feel like I could be safe to start talking about the things that I was hiding that I felt like were unjust

Ryan Burgess
interesting, too, is like very powerful the internet. Yeah, it means that you're just not exposed to in your maybe in like you said in a school, or now you can actually grow this community and find the people that are more like you and that you can actually see show up to be yourself. Because I think that's another piece of inclusion that I think about at a company going to work, you spent a lot of your time there a lot. And you should feel comfortable showing up yourself, right? You're going to do your best work if you aren't having to have this cognitive load being worried that like, Oh, I'm different, or are they judging me on this, it's like if you can really, truly show up to be yourself.

Jem Young
So a lot of this stems from the recent economic conditions that well in the world Generally, the past 10 years is done very well, in general. There are outliers, of course, but what that meant was, employment rates are like at all time high, at least United States, a lot of other countries as well. So in tech, which is always understaffed and understaffed for like, 20 years now. They go and they're like, gosh, darn it, we have these six figure jobs. We can't find any qualified engineers. Like Where did you look? And they're like, Oh, well, you know, I look for people in wearing suits and ties and they went to Harvard and Stanford and all these things. So some smart If people came around and said, Hey, you know, there's people that went to other schools and don't look like you don't look like the type of person you're looking for and have names that are, well, traditional Anglo Saxon names. And people like, Wait, what? You're blowing my mind. I've been trying to hire them for two years. Yeah. And then the, you know, it's a

Stacy London
talent shortage. It's a talent pipeline problem. And

Jem Young
I think a lot of it started with women just saying, like, Hey, we're really good engineers to people like what? You're kidding, prove it.

Cher
Yeah. Name every single browser API.

Jem Young
And that's how that's how it was. That's how it still is a lot of places. But that was the truth was people said that we have this problem. There's not an engineer. So like, What do you mean, we're graduating tons of engineers there? They're right behind you. I'm like, Oh, so now, thankfully, tech is like the leading industry, one of the leading industries in America. So we have the money and we have the power. We have the time and they're like, Oh crap, we should open our pipelines. A little bit more. And then Google started saying what their studies saying, hey, if you build a more diverse team, they're actually better than this team of Ivy League graduates. People like what? Well, Google said it so and then other tech companies started. I mean, credits all the all companies have their own but that's why it's become an important topic. And because tech is so dominant right now in the world, we tend to push that conversation a bit more to that's saying, like, I think tech does a pretty good job, but we can do better, we can always do better. And there are other industries that have not been held accountable. I won't call them out finance, but no No, no call

Augustus Yuan
them out. Like I 100% agree that is actually the industry I was thinking about. Oh, yeah. is such a great one. Yes.

Jem Young
So like I i'm not saying let's all pat ourselves on the back and you know, hugging Oh, we can?

Ryan Burgess
Not Yeah, we have we have a long way to go.

Jem Young
But like we're doing something I like to think in tech people in this room are trying to do something. But there are other industries that are like staunch Lee anything not doing anything. So Exactly, you know, don't beat yourself up too bad, maybe a little, but not too bad. So we

Ryan Burgess
talked about a lot about inclusive environments and diversity in our companies. And I'm curious, where have you all had an example where it's been a positive experience that you've had? Maybe it's your, I hope it's your current company, but a company like where have you had a positive experience?

Cher
I would say that since I have started working in engineering 15 years ago, the first positive experience that I had was at Blizzard Entertainment. There was is still a lot of problems there with, you know, sexism, but there is a lot of inclusion that they do really extremely well and I felt very supported one because I had a female manager. I wasn't her direct hire, but she was above my manager. And for the first time, I felt like there was somebody I could go talk to about the way that I was feeling about how was being treated and talked to. And not just having somebody to vent about it who understood but actually having somebody to validate it. Because prior to that, there were times where, and this one that specifically stands out to me was when we went through a reorganization at USA Today. And literally everybody on my team quit except for myself, and this guy, Craig, who had only been there for two weeks. So basically, it was me with all of the knowledge of how our mobile website had been built at the time on velocity templates and in Ruby on Rails, and literally nobody else in the company worked on this technology. So you know, they were all like already in like Python and like, and I was over here in like ancient Grails days working on this stuff. And we're in this meeting, because we combined the mobile and the desktop teams into one because we wanted to build a responsive website and just talking about the technology and how things worked on the previous site. And the manager kept asking Craig, the questions that he Did not know fuck all about and brand new, brand new, and I kept having to answer the questions. But for an hour, it didn't change. The questions are never directed at me. So and I could there was nobody I could talk to about that, you know, like I tried. And it was just like, that's not what happened. Like, that's definitely what happened. Like we weren't even sitting next to each other like I was like, Hello, hello, I'm the one who knows this stuff, which to that managers credit at the end of the year following that, like I was like his go to engineer, but that I had to like earn that right this guy Craig who'd been there for two weeks just got that automatically and I didn't. And so, to go back to to go to Blizzard and have a manager who it'd be like, this person assumes that I'm an idiot and Harvey like yeah, that really sucks. It still happens to me. I've been in this industry for you know, 20 years longer than you should so much older than me. And so that was a really positive thing. Just having that female leadership right there. That female mentor And then now at webflow, to be able to say like, I need to take a mental health day when I'm on Twitter, talking about, you know, all of these different sorts of topics and spending what looks to people like all day, fighting for on other people's behalf. Somebody will tag Vlad and webflow and they'll be like, she's not doing any work. She's been on Twitter all day, she needs to get fired, and he will step up and be like, this is work that she's doing that I think is really important. He's like, and, and she knows that and that's why she's on here doing it and she doesn't feel like her job is in jeopardy, because this work is very important. And I think that that just going back from where it was finally feeling validated and having a mentor at Blizzard all the way to now where I have that and then I also have all of these other layers of like, inclusive health care and you know, I work remotely which is super important to me as a single parent, and feeling like I can leave at any time during the day if something is going on with my daughter or I need to Go to the doctor for a physical or mental health thing like that I can do that. And not only do I not have anybody bothering me about it, but for the first time ever, I don't feel guilty. Like I don't I not having anxiety that somebody is going to be like she's not holding her way, which even at companies where it was like, we know you're a single mom, and it's fine. There was always somebody making some comment about how I left more during the day than other people even though my output was so often

Stacy London
double other people's. I'm glad I'm really happy for you that you have that.

Augustus Yuan
belonging. Cheers, cheers. Cheers.

Ryan Burgess
That's actually a really good, good trigger word.

Augustus Yuan
I had an experience back at Evernote. I haven't been at twitch long enough actually, when we were talking about different industries. It made me think of something that happened Evernote once were when I was on marketing website probably pass when Brian was there also but we have people from QA and they're from like, Many different backgrounds, um, a lot of them are Russian, some are. We have offshore QA in Vietnam. And it was it was really random, but I really appreciate it. We have this one senior QA engineer, her name's Ilana. She's been working at Evernote for a really long time. And she's like, she's from Russia. She has a crazy story. And I think one time she was like QA, she was looking at Evernote and Russian on the marketing pages. And this is like the homepage and she said, this copy is like, super offensive. Like, and I couldn't, you know, I don't know Russian, but it was like, the way it was phrased it was like, she said, this like, sounds like super, super offensive, like, and so I wish I had like more details, but I just like really appreciated that she brought that experience in perspective. And well, then I was like, wow, that's sucks. And and well, and we got it figured out. I think we talked to the translation team and they got someone to like change it and they agreed with her. So So I I thought that was like a time when I thought like, wow, this is this actually it makes an impact because like we do it's like if you think of all the different types of users that you have like, like the homepage of all the all everyone from Russia came to our homepage and are like, downloading Evernote for the hotel. They're calling me like, I don't know, it said, but

Stacy London
so yeah, so she asked she saw something she said

Augustus Yuan
she felt comfortable saying about it. Right?

Jem Young
I'll say Ryan has done a really good job. And I'm not saying that he's not my manager anymore. He can't give me a raise. So this gets you nowhere. But people around in tech and people around the company have said, Brian, you do a really good job at like, looking for candidates that are non traditional areas. They they're like, how do you find all these talented people? And you're just like, well, I go out to conferences and I talk to people I talk to everybody. I don't talk to them based on what they look like or what I think their skills I actually asked them, and we have a very, very diverse team on, I can say just our team is extremely diverse. And it's a really good team. So jobs you,

Ryan Burgess
thank you. Yeah, I think to me that maybe were the whole pipeline aspect boys get said, it's like, well, Where are you looking? The schools got brought up. And like, if you're looking at the same schools that the typical, like schools that have great computer science courses, and like, that's where you're looking to hire. Sure, great. That's not a bad idea. But it's like you're really limiting your funnel. At that point. You're only looking at one type of person,

Jem Young
it goes deeper. And this is a broader episode. We don't have time for that. But it's not just race and gender and things you consider. There's like a religious background. Like, yeah, not everybody in the world is Christian. But I say this because America is predominantly Christian, but not everybody is. Oh, absolutely. Yeah. And he's a Christian. Yeah, there you go. It's an easy one to assume. It's like that comes to holiday celebration. And when you talk about inclusive, like, Hey, we're gonna go celebrate Christmas sounds like, Why don't celebrate Christmas, I'm Jewish or something. And they're like, why don't you make them feel weird? It's a little stuff like that, that I think you got your way not to do.

Ryan Burgess
Yeah. Or you can change the wording like a holiday party. Like that's what it is.

Jem Young
But when we think of diversity, we also think with not just the things I mentioned, but socio economic diversity, which is something we don't think about at all. We're like, Well, yeah, of course, we can go and hang out. Yes, please cost $50 get in white. Right? The tears just go. It's nothing. I'm not joking. so much stuff, but it extends to that point. We're all like, Oh, yeah, we're okay. I'm friends with people from a lot of socio economic backgrounds. Well, if you're a hiring manager, you're someone in leadership and you got to hire somebody, like I can't find anybody qualified in my pipeline, or everybody do kind of looks and sounds like you. Where are you going? Oh, you're going to I won't call me conferences, but there are some $2,000 ticket conferences. Who do you think's going to those? That's a very certain subset and you miss out people like and resume amazing engineer, but you're not going to $2,000 conference like you're you're an open source developer who relies on donations to keep going as your job. You'd never meet someone as qualified as you. And that's kind of what this whole thing is about is just reaching different people that you wouldn't normally run into. Yeah, I

Ryan Burgess
think even conferences, it's in general are hard, because someone is a lot fortunate if they have a company paying for them to attend. That's not always the case. And I'm actually really appreciating where I'm seeing a lot of sponsorship from companies where they're offering to pay for tickets that people can apply for, which is really cool, because then you are exposing new people to a conference, which I think is so great for so many ways. You you build a network, you learn you meet people that you can talk to and learn from, but I think it's also really good as an engineer, I've always tried to always encourage people on our teams, any company I've worked at, I think you should go to conference if you can, once a year. It is like super inspiring to like watch some people's talks. Henry. It's a good speaker. I'll give him a shout out because he was actually at Netflix today. But you know, being able to see someone else kind of share their ideas is, is really inspiring. And so I think like it's really good if people are able to go and so yeah, not even even the cheap conference that we're not a $2,000 conference some people still can't afford to go and so I am liking seen more and more that even conferences and companies are trying to be better

Cher
about that. So react rally the conference that you and I met at Starbucks actually would not pay for me to go to that. And Ryan, Florence reached out to me and asked me if I wanted to go and, you know, his, his company, they sponsored me to go to, to react rally. And and that's one of those things where it's like, I wouldn't even be having this opportunity if it weren't for somebody else, you know, being like, I think that she should go like, I think that she needs to be exposed to that for whatever reason. And I mean, really, that I know a lot of people knew who I was before that but that catapulted me to another level, you know, of my career and I know that that's why The CEO of the company I work for now I know that that's why he knows you know, who I am is part of those kinds of networking. And those things are super, super important. And to that same fact, that's also important, why you have to have a diverse speaking lineup. Because again, you're going back to seeing yourself where you are, in that role like that you can be not necessarily that you're going to be that speaker, right? But that you can see yourself in that role that the person has outside of speaking, so you know, that you can be the open source, software engineer, all of those things. So that sense of belonging. Cheers, cheers.

Henry Zhu
Yeah, yes. I mean, this goes into the topic that you speak about in first place, you know, I guess I used to think that I had to talk about the the technical aspects of valuable and then I was like, wait, my actual store that I really want to tell us about? What's it like doing open source and, and yeah, I have had a lot of people come up to me, like, Hey, I never really thought about open source in this way. And really encourage that you were talking about maybe the non even the non coding aspects of it. And now that's kind of Like the only thing I focused on, I guess, even at Netflix today, I think it was really great to hear from someone that just like I never seen, thought about, like you just open source in that lens, I think giving people a picture of what it could be like and even also not doing a company, whatever it is, we always have all these, I guess, dichotomies that we create, or you have to do it, you have to get paid for you have to do it full time. Maybe you just want to do it as a volunteer. Like, I think there's like open source is so vague. And that could be a good thing. Cuz that's like the beauty of it's like, we don't have to force anyone to do anything. We're doing it on your free time volunteer, you can get paid for it, too. I think that's that's what's great about Yeah,

Ryan Burgess
yeah, I love that you've actually shared your story around the open source because I think it it is very inspiring, and also almost better for everyone to hear to is like, even if they're not wanting to do open source, but almost even appreciating the work that's going into it, because it's really easy to forget that that there's someone behind the scenes that is making a framework or making tooling like Babel who likes companies using So many people use it touches, so many people make their lives easier. It's so easy to forget that that son and so I think sharing your story has been inspiring in that way to just great,

Henry Zhu
especially when I first quit to do this full time and even before you feel guilty, kind of, you know, not writing commits. And you know, that maybe this is a way like, you know, we this is how we think as engineers, you know, you gotta measure the thing that you're doing, it has to be quantitative, you know, GitHub tracks, like your contributions, and it's only through prs and issues and comments. And, you know, people want to get to the net, that's how I got started, I do want to get to the top of that list of contributors, you know, get to number one or whatever. And then you slowly, you know, I guess, over time, you're like, that's not really what I want. It's also not really going to sustain you, if you're gonna keep doing this. Eventually, you're like, actually, I want a lot of other people to help out because there's an infinite amount of work to be done. And that's another I mean, yeah, open source has the same issues around like, how do we get people involved? And I think one of the bigger things I'm trying to get into is just like we talked about, like, you know, open source not all about code, but like, how do we, we talk about it a lot, but I think I'm hopefully I'm kind of, in a way living that now because I used so yeah, I used to feel guilty, like if I don't make a PR, because people are paying me money now. What am I supposed to do? Or be as a maintainer is just like the one that just fixes those bugs? Or is it someone that can do all these other things? And now I'm like, now I finally realized it's like, no, like, nobody is doing those things for most projects, like, kind of thinking about, like, coordination and communication, those kinds of things. And I even you know, at this GitHub conference, I talked to like a salesperson and they were like, super interested. And I was like, that's interesting that you know, they have no background that or like, someone in design or someone that is really good at like copy editing, like I think those are all viable roles, but um, we don't Yeah, that's true. Also, nothing. We don't see any doing those things. The only maintainers we see are the people that made them in the first place. I didn't make the project and but then people assumed I did. And and then in a way, you know, it kind of helps because I don't care. Like, not I don't care about the coding, but like, I don't care as much about like, kind of know, what specifically is going on because I'm trying to think a little bit high level. And I think that helps me be a better maintainer, actually, because I'm not like arguing over this nitty gritty stuff necessarily, and, you know, thinking a little bit bigger. So and I think that's a little that's about the inclusion, there's really two of like, you know, we have a very limited view of what open source is about maybe because of the name too, but yeah, I hopefully, you know, have been okay, not feeling guilty or being okay with kind of trying something different is probably why it took so long for me to get to that point. And that's what's good about resources like

Jem Young
You need all the help you can get. And it doesn't matter if where you come from who you are, it just matters like, can you code? That's it, they're there. You're just a needle

Ryan Burgess
that you can learn to code

Stacy London
to like, yeah, to Henry's point, I think you are greater than your code, you're greater than your commits. And like that is so important to making great software and to recognize that is, I think, how you get to build great things. And something about open source, I think that's really like to talk about feeling like you belong in that world. share yours, yours is, you know, you don't see for me, you don't see a lot of commits or attempts to try and participate in that world. And a lot of it is because I've seen how scary it can be and how people get torn apart and how mean people are to each other in that world. And I was like, I don't have the emotional capacity to try and you know, deal with some of that and like, and that's sad, because I think there's So many, I think it's probably a lot of talent and a lot of people that self select out of contributing to open source because they don't feel like they want to use the word but no one right or that. And that and that's, you know, that's unfortunate for the open source community and I, I want to contribute, but I'm also kind of scared.

Cher
That's an interesting point of an equity. That's the idea of spoons, right? Like you only have so many resources to give so much energy to give and you start out with a more depleted tank than other people because women, especially in open source software, face a lot more bereavement than their male or men counterparts. I don't want to say male because I know that people who are gender normative they also, you know, face a lot of harassment as well. But another point of inequity is that a lot of, you know, single parents or people from different socio economic backgrounds, they actually don't have the financial stability to work. On compensated, I know myself like I've literally never been in a situation where I can work for free. And that's another inequity when people start using OSS to measure how much of an engineer you are or like if I go up against another candidate who I'm maybe have more experience or we have the same experience, but they have a ton of OSS work that they're known for. That person gets hired, like they're literally getting hired because of an equity that I can't match that because I've never had the financial or, or support from another parent or timing, time in order to to contribute to open source in the way that this other person that doesn't have kids or, you know, doesn't come from generational poverty has to get

Henry Zhu
is still unfortunate. Like, it's not normal for your company to pay for you to work on open source work. And that would help with this kind of issue that you know, it's so sad that like we assume that if you're doing it, it must mean that you know, you're doing On your free time, it's like, you know, we're using all this software. And it's not that different from our regular code at your company, the dependency, we talked about this idea of ownership that you're, you're actually depending on this thing, you might as well figure out how to work with it. Because waiting around for some random volunteer to fix your issues, it's not going to really work in the long run. And yeah, I think it does goes both ways. It's like, it's great that it's free, and anyone can volunteer. And then but of course, you know, I talked about this in my talk today. Kind of, you know, I actually titled it like, why you shouldn't do open source full time as a joke. I do. But just to say that, yeah, there's a lot of nuance, like, there's a lot of great benefits and just people you get to meet in the community. And it was, it's amazing. But then yes, you shared a few, you know, things that people have said about things and open source. And yeah, that's a normal thing, which is such a weird thing to say, right? It shouldn't be that way. And other people point I would say is that it is kind of this, I guess you could say cyclical, toxic thing where it's like, if you see other people behaving that way, the maintainers, maybe they have, they have good intentions at first. And, you know, we all we all want to help each other out and you kind of end up doing the same thing as other people, quote unquote, other people, and then you are the person. So I used to hold Dark Knight quote about, you know, how, like, you start off as the hero and at the end, you become the evil person. And it's like, important to be aware of that and like, you're not always the good person. And we all start the negative place and then somewhere else, it's like, we need to know that. And also the, you don't even have to be a part of that project. You see it somewhere online, and now you don't want to be involved in any open sources, which is horrible. Or, of course, the you know, some issue gets linked on like, you know, social media and then now, all those open, I think maintainers have a really hard time of like knowing what to do in that situation because maybe that's never happened. They get In some sort of trouble with them, they don't know how to deal with it, they get burnt out, you know, there are certain things you can do that you have done, you know that you can lock the issue, you can even temporary lock the whole repo, because people will make another issue just to complain again. And it will just keep going on forever. So you can do this thing where like only people have interacted with it previously, you can enter it, maybe you did it for like one like 24 hours just to kind of chill. But yeah, there's a huge amount that's kind of nice to to almost get that mental health break from that that's stressful for anyone to have to deal with.

Stacy London
I think that as much as we sometimes feel like, there's like a dystopian technology place that we're going to work, computers control everything. There's also a place where we can take it where computers help us with this problem. And one of the things that I made something during a hackathon at work that I think we can use more of in the industry in the world, and it was using natural language processing and things to monitor tone and to monitor assess people's inputs. So it was a thing called Sasquatch, which was like, if you if you make a really crappy comment on a pull request to somebody that's mean or has like terrible words that it would give you an assessment of the sentiment and like, give it back to you and give it give you that moment of pause to be like, Hey, that was kind of a cheesy thing to say don't post it until like intercept people's communication in a way that's like thoughtful and helpful to like make them pause. And maybe just a little bit of that might help and not to say that it solves anything but computers in some way could could try and like this before you post the fourth house. Yeah, doesn't assessment and what I what we built is it did the sentiment assessment and then it shows you the emoji that was like, if the sentiment was really bad, it was like a little poop emoji and then if it was good, it was like a smile and it's not perfect because we know that kind of language processing is not perfect. Stuff like that I think would help make people feel safer communities to protect dissipate knowing that people are getting feedback immediately without having have humans at every step to say, Are you being, you know, a kind of person,

Henry Zhu
right? I think like making a little bit more subtle not just like you saw kind of thing but like the smiley or frowny face I think that would at least signals you that that's something you should think about. And also not doing after so then everyone's

Ryan Burgess
just not forgetting the pics I do want to say thank you everyone sharing this is not an easy topic. It is definitely a hard topic to discuss. I want to thank everyone for just sharing their stories and viewpoints because this is not an easy topic. Yeah, let's go around by and share pics with our listeners today. Jim, you want to start it off

Jem Young
today? I have three picks. The first pick is a blog post by Steven Popovic. Maybe mispronouncing that, but it's called oxy seniority. And, Henry, it's funny you brought up what you said about thinking about engineering in a different way. Because this blog post addresses that in terms of When people hear senior engineer they think someone that types can type with keyboards or something like that. But in reality, being senior actually means generally less coding, you're trying to make people around you more productive. And oftentimes, that's just being the one to document things or being the one to call the meetings and doing that unpleasant work that people take for granted. But that's a lot of what being senior is it's not just coding a lot more. Actually, I could probably less than I ever have in general, but I get more done, which is like a weird dichotomy that I think people have a hard time switching over. It's a good blog post got lots of charts if you don't want to read my second blog post or my second pick is a music pick. It is the included so I'll I probably mentioned it enough, but like Aesop Rock is one of my favorite artists of all time, like know him. You know him personally.

Cher
Yes, I do, his name is Ian

Ryan Burgess
Introductions for Jem.

Jem Young
I would love that. I genuinely think a soft rock is a genius. I I don't put that label on many people but I generally think his his level of wordsmithing is like another level. He's

Cher
an incredible person too. He's someone

Jem Young
I want to hang out eventually. I'm probably not cool anything other than but like

Cher
I have.

Jem Young
Anyways, the uncoded is a super awkward I've heard artists and kimya Dawson from the moldy peaches which is like this weird dichotomy of sound because you have a soft rock who's like kind of gravelly a little bit and you have kimia who's like, kind of a higher pitch voice very unique sound, but they come together and it's just like, they offset each other brilliantly. It's, it's an album worth listening to. My third pick is I feel like I've done this before Henry zoo. Everybody donate to Henry. Money. I know you use Babel, and I know you're probably not giving me Yes, I don't see a role like we

Stacy London
do. And we all use we do at webflow last,

Augustus Yuan
Babel. Evernote was big and Babel. We we use TypeScript that will we also use TypeScript at Evernote but We use TypeScript at Twitch. But I mean, Babel is, of course, just incredible. Everybody can donate $5. If you're a software engineer, you're probably making enough money to donate five or $7, whatever.

Henry Zhu
Well, I guess what I'd say about the TypeScript thing, or any of that stuff is like, if you care about JavaScript, our tool is obviously not just about the backwards compatibility, but the future of JavaScript itself. Yep. So I think even if you don't use it, you care about JavaScript, you should probably donate

Jem Young
or make a PR, but you know,

Henry Zhu
Yeah, that'd be nice. I mean, I can help out with that, too. So

Ryan Burgess
all right, Stacy, would you have

Stacy London
to see music picks, as always, the first one, the song, a friend of mine, Katie sent to me one morning and it's called proud by the nunnery and they're from Minneapolis. That's where Katie lives. And they're kind of a pop ambient electronic band, I guess. But I think the song is appropriate for this topic. Because maybe maybe if you're feeling a little, having a hard day, it's hard. Maybe you're feeling like you don't belong at work, listen to the songs. It'll make you feel just a little bit better. And then the second song is called 16 psyche by Chelsea wolf. This is also I guess, I would say diversifying my music picks. It is not electronic. She's from California and she's sort of like a blended element of gothic rock do metal and folk music.

Jem Young
Wow. I love it. You're just making those up now.

Ryan Burgess
All right, Henry, what do you have for us?

Henry Zhu
I guess I didn't come up with any pigs. I didn't really I didn't know why I was doing this today. But

Ryan Burgess
a special special

Henry Zhu
guest that shows us why I couldn't mention some stuff I even talked about the talk today I gave it was a really great essay I read called the programming as theory building. From I think 1970s but it's talks about this idea that theory building LLC use the word mental model. programming, to many of us maybe just seemed like the we talked about this, like reducing everything to some code. But really, it's about the theory, the mental model we have behind the code. If that's true, then the people behind that code is very important. This is I use the analogy of you know, every time you go to a new company, or you just go to open source, you're working on code, that's legacy that someone else wrote. And, you know, you have to like, essentially be an archaeologist figure out exactly how it worked. But ideally, if you work with that person, they work there, you can talk to them about the bad things, everyone's changed their job all the time. So that you know, you're gonna call them and be like, hey, how did this you know one function in this file work? So it's a great essay, just thinking about how, you know, the the code is tied to the people Because ultimately, the the code reflects the thoughts or views of the person I think, I read Justin had a great We the other day about like detox and how, you know, kind of like no one really understands how it works, but then they use it and they complain, it's because none of us really have gone into embracing, like kind of the mindset behind it. And and this idea that I actually tweeted something to use a more religious term or phrases that insight and knowledge is similar to conversion, in the sense that it literally will change how you see the thing. If you understand it, then it will change. I see all of those things. So I recommend that and then I and then another book then attempting to read is really difficult. It's called tools for conviviality, which I really like that word conviviality. I don't think we use it much, being jovial, that kind of thing. And it's actually a book about, like more of a philosophy of technology book we've been talking about, like tech and, and kind of even ethics of tech and where's tech going and this book is about, I guess, this idea of, you know, kind of anti industrialization kind of thing where like, you know, we tend to think that more money for the if something is going wrong with x, we need more of it kind of more is better. You know, if there's more of tech isn't working, you're going to use more time, you know, so write more code. So let's go. Yeah, I mean, yeah. And it's just really, I mean, it's really hard to, to, like think like that, because it's not how we work. But it's an interesting topic to think about. And then, I guess this personal thing I wrote a blog post a few months ago, about why I live in New York, so I don't have to live anywhere now. But I chose to live in this expensive place. But um, and then the the word I kind of have for the reason is serendipity, which is a chance encounter that kind of idea that, you know, maybe the world is a little bit more magical than you think you get to meet some random people on the street. people you don't know people, you know, people that you used to know like from middle school and just randomly see them in the audience. What are you doing here? Which is like amazing, and I think that doesn't really happen in all places. And it also got me thinking like, how does that relate to what we do? Like how do we create a space that encourages that kind of thing? And I listen, that's kind of related to blogging too, in the sense of like, not

Ryan Burgess
Cheers. Yes.

Henry Zhu
That's not just a bunch of people online, but like, find your community

Ryan Burgess
right on, Augustus, what do you have?

Henry Zhu
Okay, cool. Um, I usually have tech pics, but I'm going a little wild here. You know, ever since that our church has been like, it's only ravioli here on

Ryan Burgess
Trader Joe's is wait till you Yes.

Augustus Yuan
Now. Yeah, well, one thing is I'm trying to embrace remote work a lot more now. And it's hard to find like really good coffee shops sometimes like the coffee might be great, but they don't have enough outlets or blah, blah, blah. So I have like this Google Map saved places. So maybe I'll just like so one. I kind of liked that was really close to every now it's space in Redwood City it's called cyclisme Oh cafe have a really good lavender coffee, plenty of outlets. There's always tons of space and it's just like a really really nice environment. So yeah, that's one of my picks. It's worth checking out and another and my next pick another wild wine is only it's not ravioli it's boba there's there's a lot of good boba you know to go with the rabbit. Oh, yeah, that's Oh, my Oh my gosh, what

Cher
about ravioli filled with boba once.

Augustus Yuan
Wow. Oh my gosh. Wow. There's lots I'm not that wild yet but. But, but yeah, yeah, there's a lot of different types of boba shops. This one. I don't know how big it is. But it's a very, very small shop in SF called Black sugar. And I definitely think it's worth checking out. The guy there. We started it. He started by himself with oil not by himself with someone else and He was next to another very, very famous book shop. And surprisingly, they took off people like swung by and they're like, wow, this is really good. So I think they're worth checking out as well.

Ryan Burgess
Right on charity have.

Cher
I had three but now I have four more. So the first one is a book. It's called stamped from the beginning. It's by Dr. Ephraim x Kennedy. It is the definitive history of racist ideas in America. It is the winner of the national, a winner of the National Book Award. And it provides a clear history of how racist ideas were created, spread and deeply rooted in American society. This book, I've pretty much always been an activist in when it comes to equity. But this book helped me to understand a life a lived experience that I didn't have and to see history in a way that I wasn't educated on. One thing that I I took from another that TED talk that I mentioned earlier, which is the dangers of the single story is that one, if you want to be detrimental to a people is to tell a story starting with the second part of the story. So a lot of the education that we have here is about how we, and I mean, we as colonial America responded to Native Americans or to Africans, instead of talking about what happened first, which is, you know, we we came to America and you know, started violent activities as it were. And and I think it's really important to look at these stories that we've been told from the other side, and this book is absolutely essential in understanding racism in the United States of America. At the very least. The second pick is an owl is fk twigs new album, Magdalene. I originally heard her song on the first season of Mr. Robot, which was actually played well, someone was being murdered, but it's just a TV show. It's not real. But I really really loved that song. And this boy that I really liked time, he also really liked the song so it's really stuck with me. So it's an artist that I really hung on to for personal reasons, but I really like her. She's English. She actually started her career when she was only 17 years old. And she is just absolutely incredibly talented and just super cool to check out especially if that's not really the kind of music you usually listen to really enjoy her stuff. Third is a different podcast sorry to get along with a lot my co hosts. It is the modern figures podcast, which is hosted by Dr. Kyla Macmillan and Dr. Jeremy waste. And they are currently recording their second season there is a first season which is available to consume right now. And they are elevating black women voices in computing, working to dispel the myth that there is a pipeline problem, for example, and just generally helping, you know, black women who are already in computing and then also who, you know, want to see themselves in computing have a sense of belonging,

Stacy London
cheer shares.

Cher
And then there's the fourth thing is a a quote that I heard earlier today from Megan rapido, that I think we all should live by. And somebody asked me earlier, which I know that this was a bad faith question, but I'm going to answer it anyway. Which is like, why do I work so hard? To speak for people other than women when it comes to diversity inclusion, and that is because I believe like Megan Robin now that it is my job to work relentlessly to dismantle the system that benefits some over the detriment of others.

Ryan Burgess
All right, and I'm actually keeping it on topic as well with some two videos that I think with. Part of inclusion I think comes a lot with trust. I think trust is a really, really important thing to make people feel inclusive or feel welcome, as you also have to, like earn and build trust. So there's two really good talks that I highly recommend. Bernie Brown has one called the anatomy of trust really good. Just in so many ways. I don't want to give too much and I think you should all go watch the video. And the other one is by Francis spray, she does one called How to build and rebuild trust, which I think is she has this really cool framework of thinking about how to build trust for like trust that isn't there. But then also we sometimes lose trust in people and like how you can rebuild that. I think it's really helpful for even thinking about how you work with coworkers. Or partnerships in your team. I think it's really good not wait. And then if you're wanting some really, really good tips on diversity, inclusion and doing better within your company or just in your life in general, there's a really great newsletter called better allies newsletter, they send out five easy tips once a week on Friday always hits my inbox sometime in the morning. It's just great. It's a really quick, easy thing to digest, and I highly recommend checking that one out. Before we end the episode. I want to thank Sharon Henry for joining us pleasure having you both on Henry This is your second time on you were on brief instance at a react rally A long time ago. But share finally getting you on that's great.

Cher
Now you can't just talk about me but add me on to

Ryan Burgess
so where can people get in touch with you?

Cher
You can reach me on twitter at share dot dev and.is spelled out d o t so ch er d o t DB share dot dev on Twitter Henry.

Henry Zhu
I'm still left underscore pad on Twitter, if you don't know. I should first say I did not do any I didn't do that. The thing is a lot of people assume that I made that happen. But yeah, are you and then I am 800 on GitHub. So if you want to sponsor me there, you can do that

Ryan Burgess
right on. Thank you all for listening to this episode. You can follow us on Twitter at front nhh. Any last words? Love all our listeners, you all belong

All
Cheers. Cheers.