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16: Stigmas, Stereotypes, and Pizza

Published 2/9/2015

In this episode, we talk about stigmas and stereotypes.

As developers, and as humans, we have a responsibility to treat each other fairly. We also have a responsibility to our craft.

In this episode, I discuss the one thing that developers should be measured by.

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Hey everyone and welcome to Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and today I'm going to be talking a little bit about stigmas and stereotypes. You know I'm not a very funny guy and that's kind of a problem because as a podcaster I'm supposed to be at least a little bit funny and I'm just not I'm not very naturally funny. I guess some of my friends might would disagree every once in a while because they're supposed to because they're my friends but I'm not I don't joke around a lot and you know somebody said that as a podcaster you're supposed to be funny and that somebody I think is is the collective expectation the collective expectation that podcasters are supposed to be funny which is informed by what well I think it's probably informed by the fact that a lot of good podcasters are funny and therefore to be a good podcaster you should be funny. Now there's some merit to this obviously if you laugh on my if you laugh while you're listening to this show then you have some positive feelings about the show and it's enjoyable it's entertaining or whatever but that puts an expectation on me that doesn't necessarily come along with with my description as a podcaster. In fact the only thing that I have to do to be a podcaster is podcast or cast a pod I don't really know I'm not sure and there's there's the end of the joke but the truth of the matter is stereotypes and stigmas exist all over the place. This is especially true in the development world so for instance there's the stereotype of the programmer the guy who goes to hackathons and eats pizza and drinks beer and stays up all night and codes and has some kind of crazy algorithm in the back of his mind and he's probably in his mid 20s and he's probably white that's a stereotype and I'm white and I'm in my mid 20s and I program but I hopefully am not a programmer. I don't want that stereotype and unfortunately there are a lot of people who reinforce that stereotype for me but you as a listener you have a responsibility as well. Your responsibility is to understand that stereotypes exist and that some of them can be hurtful in poisonous and when those stereotypes become hurtful in poisonous that's when they turn into stigma or whatever the plural of stigma is. Stigma actually has a negative consequence. Stigma is oh he worked in IT so he probably doesn't understand user experience. Stigma is oh that person is black so they probably feel entitled. Stigma is oh that person is white so they're probably overpaid. There are a lot of things that come along with these negative perspectives. Now I personally believe that people should be able to go to hackathons and eat pizza and drink beer without being considered programmers. I don't think there's anything particularly wrong with choosing to go to a hackathon and stay up all night and drink beer and eat pizza. What I do think there's a problem with is when you expect me to do those things just because I am a white male in my mid 20s and I'm a programmer. But you know there's also a positive side to stereotypes. As programmers we are considered people who have a particular set of skills not to take the line from the movie taken. We have a particular set of skills that allows us to create things that non programmers don't really know how to create. We have kind of the new rock star. I won't call it a stigma but it definitely is a stereotype. We are considered to be powerful because we can create things on computers and we can do things with code that people who are not programmers are entirely incapable of doing. So how do we protect ourselves against the negative of the stereotypes and take advantage of the positives of stereotypes? First of all start by saying that the things that are important to be a good programmer have nothing to do with your background. They have nothing to do with your race. They have nothing to do with your gender, your age, your orientation, your religion. None of these things should be factored into whether or not you should be considered a good programmer. That seems like common sense, right? We can all agree that those are not the ways of judging whether or not somebody can be a good programmer. What we should also understand is what are the ways to judge somebody as a good programmer. The number one way is can they write good code? I'm not going to sugar code it. It doesn't matter how outside of the normal... It doesn't matter how outside of the normal stereotype you are for a programmer. If you are far away from that stereotype and you write bad code, you don't get a free pass just because you are a minority. You have to write good code too. All of us should be expected to live up to a standard that is set by the problems that we solve, not by some cultural, strange identity crisis that we or someone else is going through. Here's the other thing. We need diversity. We need diversity of background. We need diversity of gender. We need diversity of age. We need diversity of orientation. We need diversity of religion. We need all of these things because we need a representation of thought in the programming community that represents the larger community of the world. Why we need that? It's because we make things for all kinds of people. It's because the things that we make are accessible to the world. They're accessible to the world. The people who are creating them should also represent the world. And the world is very different from one house to the next. The world is very different from one neighborhood, one country to the next. So let's go back through and let me make sure I cover some of my tracks here. I'm not talking about inequality because the world has leaps and bounds to make when it comes to inequality. We have to close the gap on pay inequality, for instance, particularly between two employees that have the same competencies but are paid differently, regardless of what those employees are. Even if they are of the same exact background, that kind of inequality needs to be fixed just as much as gender inequality or racial inequality. I also want to make sure that everyone understands that what I'm saying is stigmas are the negative side of what stereotypes can become. So there's nothing particularly wrong with some of the stereotypes of programmers as long as they don't prevent that programmer from having an opportunity that they otherwise would have on their merits. So for instance, saying that IT are not real programmers simply because they come from a technical support background, that's not an adequate way of judging that particular person's ability to be a programmer. Again, let's go back to our canon for judging whether or not somebody can be a good programmer. That is simply good code. Again, just good code. If they can write good code, then they can be a good programmer period. It doesn't matter what their background is, what their previous experience is. None of that matters. If they can write good code, they can be a good programmer. But we do need diversity. And the reason we need diversity is because we need different people who understand the world as a whole. We need a representation of the world as a whole because we are building things for people from around the world. Thanks so much for listening to this episode of Developer Tea. If you have any thoughts or comments, you can contact me on Twitter at atDeveloper Tea or you can email me at developert.gmail.com. There's also a comment section on developertea.com and a contact link on developertea.com where you can send me an email through a form there. If you're enjoying the show, please don't forget to drop in iTunes and leave a rating and review. It's the best way to help other developers just like you find developert. Thanks for listening until next time. Enjoy your tea.