Everyone knows the legend of the Silicon Valley developer. He’s a 20-something white guy who sits in a dark room, face barely lit by his black computer screen covered in code, empty packets of Cheetos and cans of Red Bull strewn across his desk, sometimes going for coding jaunts lasting longer than 24 hours.
The reality of the developer
But that legend is not the reality. Not only because developers come in every gender and color, but because the dark rooms and spending hours “jacked in” aren’t really conducive to the teamwork it really takes to build great software.
In fact, most tech firms in the valley now boast high-end campuses with communal areas, cafeterias, and loads of outdoor space. But if you thinking they’re hiding their dungeons and energy drinks elsewhere, think again.
“Sometimes I like to put my headphones on and just bash out some code, but that’s really only part of the work,” said Erica Anderson, a Senior Cloud Security Engineer at Xero.
Developers are not a lone wolves
“Thinking it’s just people working alone ignores over half the job. You’re working in a team to solve a problem, so you have to work with everyone. You also have to communicate with all the other teams around you to understand how what they’re working on is going to affect you and vice versa,” said Erica.
Rowena Joe, a Senior Developer at Xero, leads a team of developers at Xero. She has found that her team prefers to work together collaboratively rather than alone at their desks.
“My team really likes to get together in group programming sessions to get work done. We’re really collaborative. It may be different on other teams, but that approach works for us,” said Rowena.
“I worry that the misconception of how developers work could discourage women from wanting this as a career. But it’s nothing like how it’s shown in movies. You’re really a part of a team.”
Diversity is essential for moving forward
Add this to the list of things the tech industry needs to do to address diversity. Both Rowena and Erica cited school as a make-it or break-it point for most people.
“When I volunteer with grade-school kids it’s always 50/50 in the classes, 50% male and 50% female. So something happens between then and now where we’re not seeing the same amount of women in the field,” said Erica.
But a word of encouragement or even access to an after school program can make all the difference.
“I was studying accounting, but knew I didn’t really want to be an accountant. I was lucky to have some really tech-savvy teachers who knew then that technology was going to change the industry. They really guided me toward my current career,” said Erica.
Both Rowena and Erica are committed to giving back and making the path easier on the next generation.
“It’s crazy that we don’t have more diversity after all the studies that have shown that diversity, meaning ethnic and gender diversity, increases the success of your team,” said Rowena.