I’ve been quiet on this blog for the past few months. I often struggle with finding the right words, to hit a poignant note that meets whatever “standards” I have to publish something.
But the only way I’ll improve / become more comfortable with my online-self is to write, and to make that writing public. So I’m starting what will hopefully become a collection of posts where I just share a bit about what’s going on, a low-stakes stream of consciousness that gets my creative juices flowing.
For the first time in my life, I’m genuinely motivated and happy about the work I’m doing. It’s not every day one gets to have great co-workers, a strong sense of personal contribution in the day-to-day, and clear opportunities for growth. I feel incredibly lucky to have landed where I am now, but am also acutely aware that this isn’t the case for a wide swath of people in the industry.
Personally, the past few years have been a rough professionally. I struggled with the feeling that my work wasn’t valued, that no one cared to see my skills improve over time. Being noticed was difficult, and trying to advance myself to better opportunities was rife with questionable interview processes. While thankfully this is no longer the case, I wonder how many other people go through similar issues. It’s incredibly easy to question your self worth when external forces reject you, when you freeze up trying to figure out a solution to a random data structure / algorithm problem.
I’ve come to the conclusion (after interviewing at big-name gigs and startups alike) that most tech companies optimize for technical aptitude in a vacuum. While being able to implement & correctly use a complex data structure certainly provides credence to the idea that one can be a good engineer, in 2019 evaluating on that basis alone is simply not enough.
In my assessment, great engineers have a high degree of emotional intelligence alongside technical aptitude. Factors such as working collaboratively with others, knowing how to handle conflict gracefully, and being kind are just as important (if not more so) as being able to come up with sophisticated technical designs and banging out large amounts of code.
But sadly, emotional intelligence is not what most of the industry optimizes for. There’s countless stories of individuals (many of them minorities) being frustrated with how hiring is conducted in tech to the point of considering leaving the industry.
I do have some hope though. When I was interviewing in April through June I made a point of optimizing heavily for culture fit, preferring companies that matched my values and that had made an attempt to fix what's currently so broken about tech interviewing. I'm happy to say I found several companies with the thoughtful ethos I was seeking (including the one I work at now 🙂).
The future of hiring needs to be more human-focused. Strictly focusing on technical ability opens the door to a whole lot of bias that keeps us homogenous and lacking in perspective. To anyone reading this that is struggling to gain a foothold, know that there are places that will recognize your worth.
My experiences still come from a relatively privileged place since I look like the many already in tech, but I hope to do my small part by engaging with places that are making a genuine effort to move the needle on some of our industry’s issues. If anyone reading this is interested in finding constructive ways to improve on what is currently not the best situation, feel free to get in touch.
And so ends my first (very rant-y) stream of consciousness post. ✌🏽