2016 Diversity goals for Practicing Ruby and The Practicing Developer’s workshop


Plenty of projects and companies announce plans to address diversity issues, and in that sense this is yet another one of those blog posts.

That said, I don’t expect anyone to be even slightly impressed by this post: I’m neither trying to pat myself on the back for having an especially progressive outlook, nor do I want to overstate my ability to correct a deep-rooted, complex, and multidimensional problem, even in my own tiny corner of the world.

Instead, this is just a public statement that is meant to reflect a handful of things:

That as someone who nearly perfectly fits the stereotype of a privileged tech worker, I can and should be doing a lot more to help those who didn’t by pure happenstance get born into the same social, economic, and cultural status as myself. Or at the very least, I need to be aware of the various advantages I have in life that have nothing to do with my hard work and talents, and try to avoid taking them for granted.

That as someone who currently runs a business that centers around technical education and in particular supporting the personal and professional progress of software developers around the world, I need to make sure that my work is supportive of people from all different backgrounds, not just those that most closely resemble my own background.

That a commitment to diversity in the context of technical education isn’t something special or extra, it’s a basic requirement. This is not a buzzword to be checked off a list, but instead involves basic social awareness and empathy, as well as quite a bit of self-education.

That there are no shortage of talented software developers who don’t fit the narrow stereotype that dominates our current social environment. By paying attention to what those folks are doing, taking an interest in their work, and reaching out to them in a way that is genuine and supportive, I can cultivate a diverse group of collaborators without making “diversity” the main focus of our interactions.

By helping individuals from traditionally underrepresented groups get the support they need to improve their skills, to share their knowledge, and to be respected for their technical merits alone, I will be doing… nothing at all special that’s worthy of accolades. I’ll just be doing the right thing!

The above points reflect my perspective on my own role in helping with diversity issues. As someone running a business that has not yet fully covered my own salary, I do not have massive resources to make fast progress on any of these problems. However, I would like to commit to the following steps as a starting point, which should have been addressed a long time ago:

I am going to try to make sure that the technical stuff I’m reading, sharing, and supporting online come from people from many different backgrounds. As of right now I do some of this, but I definitely spend more time interacting with and supporting the works of white men than anyone else. Rebalancing this aspect of my work is an important first step, and it’s something I can put into action right away.

As my business becomes more about developing spaces for people to learn and practice together rather than just publishing educational materials, I need to commit to the very basic action of setting up a proper code of conduct and making sure to follow through with enforcing it consistently. I’m going to make sure this happens before The Practicing Developer’s Workshopis open for general admissions, and I will talk with friends who have implemented conduct codes before to make sure that I’m doing things properly.

As we transition the Practicing Ruby publication away from an invitation based model and towards an open call for participation, I will work towards putting a process in place that will encourage considering proposals from people from all backgrounds. This probably means a blind initial screening process along with a handful of other things, and I will do the research necessary to get this all done.

Whenever I see an opportunity to help any of my friends and colleagues who are from traditionally underrepresented groups, I will make an extra effort to do so. Not because it’s deserving of praise, but because again, it’s just the right thing to do. More importantly, I need to make new connections so that opportunities to help in a meaningful way arise more often.

I’ll keep reading the literature from people of all backgrounds about their experiences and their thoughts on how the diversity problems in technology can be solved. When someone offers to share their own experiences with me, I’ll listen and try to be as empathetic as I can. The process of making things better starts with educating myself, and though I’ve been doing some of this, I can always do more.

These commitments are intentionally fairly specific, so that I can be held accountable for my actions. And more importantly, posting this in public is my way of holding myself accountable.

There’s no more and no less to this story, but I’m glad to have shared it.

Now it’s time to shut up and do my part, rather than talking about it.