Comments on representations of our industry

I have not (yet) seen the presentation this post is referring to. But I think many of the comments Ted makes are very valid, and our industry as a whole should occasionally stop and think. I've seen Ted speak at QCon, and I've had a lot of time for his comments ever since.

I'm aware that this blog is rapidly filling with comments about gender and perceptions and people-y stuff, when I originally wanted it to be a purely technical blog. But I guess this other stuff interests me more. And there are less people talking about it than there are talking about pure technical solutions to problems.

Sexism in IT?

Let's celebrate our IT women

"Everyone" knows that there are more men than women in IT. That it's a "boys" job. Not a lot of people know that the first programmer was a woman. Not a lot of people realise the number of women in IT is DECREASING. And has been since the 80s. In a working world where I honestly believe that in general there are more opportunities for women (OK, inline with the other stuff I've been reading I'll caveat this with white, middle-class women), it seems shocking that such a growth industry as IT is actually losing women, and appears unable to determine why, or stop the flow.

I get asked a lot, as a girl programmer, why there aren't more women in IT. This is a complicated issue and one I've been thinking about for years and still don't have any good answers, but I personally think it's more about perception than anything else.

I don't think it's because you get more outright sexism and laddish behaviour in IT than anywhere else. I've worked in half a dozen companies, in a range of industries, including very male industries like manufacturing and banking, I've been a consultant so been onsite at a bunch more companies. And I have to say I don't think I've ever seen the sort of behaviour that is mentioned in the article.

I would go so far as to say IT, certainly in terms of programming or IT support, actually attracts men that are quite the opposite to laddish. So here I will succumb to gross generalisation and stereotypes myself, but the guys I've worked with are highly intelligent and more likely to rate you on your ability than on your colour, sex or background. These are often guys who were actually studying at school rather than absorbing anti-female sentiments in the pub or from The Sun.

I find being a woman in IT both a blessing and a curse. As a girl, you are, I believe, more likely to get through to interview, and since you stand out as different are more likely to be remembered and called back for a second interview. I think once in the organisation, we suffer more with low self-esteem and find ourselves constantly trying to "prove" that we're not just some token bimbo hired by HR. And do you know why? Not because anyone ELSE thinks that, but because WE think that. We are our own worst enemies.

We need to take a leaf from the boys' book and have more faith in ourselves, more confidence. We might not be as good as that person over there at this particular thing, or this other person at something else, but we are good at what we do, otherwise we wouldn't be there. And if we express our insecurities instead of our confidence, other people will assume we're as mediocre as we sometimes think we are.

Some of the very worst culprits for sexism in our industry are us, the girls who are already in it. Yes, it does exist, I am not denying that for a second1. But the way to overcome it is to reflect it back at them, not to internalise it as our problem, something wrong with us for being in the wrong job. The more we show that it's normal for us to be here, that we belong here, the better we'll feel about ourselves. And maybe we'll attract a few more girls too.

;1Take, for example, the CEO who interviewed me and said "I'm probably not allowed to say this, but how will you feel working in an environment full of men". To which my answer was, have you read my CV? I went to a boys' school for sixth form, I was one of 6 girls on my degree course (out of approx 150), I worked at Ford for 4 years. Don't you think I would be more freaked out working with girls?

Scrum but…

Having experienced Flaccid Scrum, I find this article interesting, and agree with most of it.

I'd also like to add though, that if you do the scrum practices (story cards, stand ups, retrospectives, etc) but don't buy into the fundamental principals, you will not succeed. And that means everyone on the team, not just the people in charge. In particular, if the team is not empowered, is not committing to the estimates and the iteration plan in its heart, and and does not trust, then you are probably better off using traditional processes. Or just as likely to fail whatever process you use.

Gender Stereotyping

I'm very interested in the subject of gender stereotyping, which probably isn't surprising as I'm a girl in a predominantly male industry. And I like cars, and sports, and get irritated if people assume I'm not "allowed" to be interested in these things.

Far from being discriminated against, however, I find many people ask me why there aren't more women in the industry and what can be done to encourage girls into IT. If these questions were easy to answer, they wouldn't have to be asked.

Continue reading "Gender Stereotyping"

Nine Things Developers Want More Than Money

Nine Things Developer Want More Than Money

Read if you're a developer and wondering what's missing from your job.

Read if you're a manager and you're looking to recruit the right types of developers. In particular be honest with yourself over whether your organisation is more aligned to "hygiene" or "motivation". At least one of the poor job decisions I have made is because the role was mis-sold as one and turned out to be the other.


Today, I found my own blog useful. I was configuring Spring validation on my new project, and had to remind myself how to do it. We configured validation on the new project in less than an hour, which beats the two days it took me to work out how to do it the first time.

And I impressed one of my new work collegues. Apparently I am now the Spring Guru. Oooops.

On the perils of Front End Design

I'm reading Joel Spolsky's User Interface Design for Programmers. A thought that's struck me is about architecture. It's easy to get fooled into thinking building software is a bit like being the architect for a building. I'm not even going to go into the differences between engineering practices à la building design and good practice software design. I'm going to start from the easy point, the stuff you can see.

Continue reading "On the perils of Front End Design"


I think the statement that struck me the most when I was on the Certified Scrum Master course was:

The start of the project is when you know the least about what you're doing

Which of course is absolutely true.

So why do we come up with extensive requirements, detailed design, and fixed plans at this point of time? We haven't put anything into place yet, we haven't played with the code, the customer hasn't seen anything of what we're promising to deliver.

Continue reading "Scrum"