Leading a Software Rewrite at Your Company

Bertrand’s Health Insurance has a problem. Their software system is hard to maintain.

The systems still rely on tools that had their heyday in 1990. The SOAP API doesn’t always return valid XML. The search calls take twenty seconds to return.

Bertrand’s CTO and CIO decide that it’s time to rewrite the system from the ground up.

And you’re going to lead the team that will do it. Congratulations!

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Adding Members to Your Software Team

Congratulations! Your startup is taking off, or it’s time to accelerate the pace of your internal project or consulting work. It’s time to hire more people to join your team. You have chosen promising candidates, and they have accepted your offers. Now all you have to do is wait until their start dates…right?

Not necessarily. If you want to get your new team members up to speed as quickly as possible, you need a system for orienting those new team members to all the important context they need to do the best possible job for you.

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A Survival Guide for Female Employees in Male-Dominated Companies

*This post originally appeared on the blog of The Digital Dames under one of my pseudonyms.

No. Way.

You just got an offer from that amahhhhhzing company with the $70M venture round and the [insert tech buzzword here].

Maybe the business is super-secretive, or maybe all their glassdoor reviews rave about how fun it is to work there. Beer! And Starcraft!

You show up on your first day, eager to meet all the badass women in leadership.

All zero of them.

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Diversity, Inclusion, and Money.

Does hiring women or people of color affect a tech company’s bottom line?

According to some data, yes.

But so what?

Numbers like these  are uplifting, but they don’t convince companies to change.

So why not?

Let’s talk about two reasons:

  1. We don’t definitively know why diverse leadership improves a company’s financial performance. So we can’t draw a causal link that captures leadership’s attention.
  2. Metrics for overall company financial performance don’t motivate lower level managers and directors. Those lower-level positions, more than the C-Suite, influence the office practices that affect company diversity numbers. But those positions don’t get individual rewards when the whole company does well.

Let’s talk about both of these.

Then we’ll talk about a more focused metric that you can use to argue for, and measure the effectiveness of, inclusion-related efforts at your company.

Bonus: our new metric will help office leadership focus on retention of women and people of color, rather than only lamenting the pipeline problem.

Continue reading “Diversity, Inclusion, and Money.”

Bias doesn’t start with skin color.

Look around your office.

If you’re in tech, I suspect I can predict what you see: lots of white faces.

We’ve known tech to be a sea of white faces for a long time. Big companies respond by sponsoring code education programs and hiring (usually white) Directors of Diversity. But the numbers aren’t changing: tech remains 95-98% white, just like it was before the Directors of Diversity got hired.

Continue reading “Bias doesn’t start with skin color.”

Allyship in Times of Crisis

This presentation is for allies who are looking for a way to take care of the communities affected by the Pulse shooting in Orlando. I gave this talk at lunch at my workplace.

In the event of a tragedy like this, we need allies to step up. It can be difficult to know what to say or do if you are not a part of the affected community. That’s what this talk is for: it’s a starting point for allies.

We start with some terminology and talk about what we mean by terms like target, ally, bystander, and crisis. Then we discuss the grief and fear that prevail within a target community after a crisis, and where allies can start to help with that.

Finally, we relate the discussion back to what an ally can do on a daily basis to help fight for equality—and how social change happens.

The talk may be helpful to you if you have coworkers, friends, or acquaintances whose communities were affected by the Pulse shooting. These communities include the LGBT+ community, especially trans or queer people of color, and the muslim community.

More generally, this talk may be helpful if you know anyone who is a member of a target community in the aftermath of a crisis.

Professionalism

Ladies and gentlemen, I work in a fantasyland.

When I enter the front doors of the software consultancy where I code, I usually do so in jeans and a hoodie. I walk past frame after frame of funky art into a kitchen area with a ping pong table. A large stack of puzzles and games sits on a shelf in the corner. A partly-finished puzzle takes up one of the eating tables. In front of the far wall, burgeoning shelves offer me popcorn, chips, snack bars, and nut dispensers. Our massive refrigerator stays fully stocked with soft drinks and Noosa yogurt. In the corner, we keep two taps from which I can pour myself unlimited free nitro cold brew or beer.

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Remote Pair Programming: Best Practices

For the past four months, I have worked on a project in which I needed to pair program remotely with developers in other states, other countries, and other time zones.

Remote pairing feels different from pairing with someone in person: you lose the benefits of colocation for asking each other questions and reading each others’ moods and body language. That said, I have learned some practices that work better than others for pairing remotely, and I’d like to share them so that you can make your remote pairing experiences go as smoothly as possible.

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