Discouragement in IT


I was relieved to see this thoughtful series of tweets last Sunday that Micahel Dexter commented on:

Given the amount of in-your-face discouragement I receive from a handful of people on a regular basis, I can only imagine it is 1000X worse for newcomers and non-privileged-white-guys. Rest assured your instincts are almost always correct.

It was in response to this tweet by @Jtu on the conduct and views of several prominent members of the free software community, to put it mildly. We’re told that women just aren’t interested in IT, but how many of them mentally checked out or moved on in response to how these people act? And also tragically, what creative energy and intelligence have we lost in the process?

I can speak from experience that it’s been a huge struggle to finally start contributing to software projects. Given how much nasty, condescending, rude junk I used to have flung at me back when I had blog comments enabled, and more recently from dull trolls on social media, the temptation was there to work silently in my little anonymous silos. It’s mentally exhausting having to constantly justify your decisions and existence.

And as Michael says, both of us are still on the easy mode compared to what so many people have to endure.

As one example, my partner Clara once told me that she envied my appearance. Whereas I could just waltz into a job interview and immediately look the part, she felt as though she had to prove she even belonged before discussing her qualifications and experience. She’s just a cute Chinese girl, what would she know about programming? She had internalised it to such an extent until I told her how I’d had mine, and she couldn’t believe it.

We have a husband and wife client at work who chose us over another cloud provider because I spoke to her as the engineer the entire time, instead of instinctively talking to the husband who had no IT background at all. The fact she even needed to point it out and thank me afterwards gave me but a tiny glimpse into the nonsense she must otherwise need to deal with.

I have an inkling that toxic members of the IT community are attractive to people the same way Mr Orange is for so many American voters, and Morrison in Australia. People see them as stalwarts against politically-correct speech, who voice their mind and tell it how it is. Except it’s almost never how it is, it’s just inflammatory bullshit. And those edgy social media commentators who troll and end threads with “lol jk” are just as bad.

Ultimately it demonstrates how immature this industry still is, and we’ll keep paying the price for it.

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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