Reading 04: Diversity, Codes of Conduct

Q: From the readings and in your opinion, is the lack of diversity a problem in the technology industry or is the gender gap overblown? Is it something that needs to be addressed or is it just a (possibly unfortunate) reality?

  • If you believe it is a problem, then what are some obstacles faced by women and minorities? Why do these challenges exist and how could the technology industry (or society in general) work to remove these barriers and encourage more participation from women and minorities?

In the article, “Why is Silicon Valley so awful to Women?”, it listed three main reasons as to why women leave tech: “workplace conditions, a lack of access to key creative roles, and a sense of feeling stalled in one’s career”. A lot of side thoughts said out loud, what may be deemed as harmless to one, can build and become just a complete mess to the other. I think either Silicon Valley has a major superiority complex, or pride issues. I think there’s also a lot of misunderstanding, and not enough perspective in the field as well.

I’ve also wondered why such a progressive place in the world, had so many equality issues. The article above blames it on the idea of meritocracy, but I think that idea is permeated by bias of the ones who make it first (because being first is very important), and then that just sort of continued on and on for generations leading to and creating toxic behavior.

In an Observer article called, “I’m a Latino in Tech, and I Think the ‘Diversity’ Discussion Is Utterly Broken”, by Eric M. Ruiz, he discusses that most workplaces don’t understand what diversity might mean in the first place. And just like in the article, I agree that diversity just doesn’t mean race. If a company tries to specifically target a demographic, but they all come from similar experiences, then there’s not much diversity at all. It all comes from what one actually experienced, such as their socioeconomic situation, their neighbors or lack of, and so much more. And I could relate, because overall, even though I am Asian, my background is so much more than that. My background isn’t and shouldn’t be defined by just that.

  • What do you make of the events at Uber? What is your reaction on the events and the aftermath and what do these events say about diversity in technology?

After reading about Susan Fowler’s experience at Uber in her article, “Reflecting On One Very, Very Stranger Year At Uber”, it’s kind of a no-brainer on how Uber became a public HR mess. It also shows how bias can make people so ignorant to a fact that women were dwindling in the company, and the fact that other employees were looking for faults in their women employees, without taking a moment to reflect and wonder if they themselves could possibly be the reason.

It seems as though it would all be common sense, it’s not really hard to be a respectful person. It doesn’t even mean you have to be nice. All it means is that every person is simply their own person, and it’s not that hard to take a step back and think about what you would do in their shoes if these horrible situations ever came to you.

Reading 03: The Rabbit Hole that Never Ends

As I was reading through the requirements and content of the H1-B visa on a government site, the more I found myself scrolling and searching and clicking on more and more links to find more additional information that seemed crucial. It felt like I was Alice in Wonderland but the rabbit hole just kept getting deeper.

Simply put, I lucked out on one major thing in life. I was born in the US. What that meant was that even though my parents weren’t US citizens, I automatically became one without having the need to go through any of the circumstances and details that one not born in the US needs to go through in order to come / work here. But even though I was a US citizen from day 1, my parents still had to go through the complicated process of getting green cards, and then ultimately becoming US citizens as well.

So should the H1-B program be expanded or rescinded? I honestly think that before even considering these options, that the program should first establish its myriad of complications and make them more understandable and reasonable before considering its options of expansion or deletion. The H1-B is such a complicated contract, that I think it’s necessary for a company that has employees specialized in taking care of those legal documents to take care of it for you. In addition to its inherent ambiguity, it’s even worse that its purpose is also mystified and misconstrued. In the article, “America’s Mixed Feelings About Immigrant Labor: Disney-Layoffs Edition” written by Bourree Lam on The Atlantic, the author presents the case where Disney replaced its current employees straight up with H1-B immigrant employees who would be trained to replace their current positions. The problem with this, is that it completely outright rejects the purpose of the H1-B program, which was intended for skills that were needed that were not inherent in the US. But when employees are fired because Disney can pay H1-B workers much less to save costs, that presents the current problem of people viewing work being stolen by immigrants. It’s the whole issue behind the saying, “Get out my country, you…” followed by usually derogatory terms. I’ve had this happen personally myself multiple times even though I am a US citizen, and after seeing cases like these, I can’t help but see where they are coming from. Don’t get me wrong however, I think it’s ultimately unfair to state that America needs its independence from immigrant workers, since that’s what the nation’s foundation was built upon in its humble beginnings. But when American companies decide to replace workers for workers they can abuse for lower pay, that’s where problems arise.

Its apparent in Silicon Valley, that the Valley itself is made up of many visa workers. The talent that diversity brings to the table has been realized in those places, and that’s why they thrive. But I think first that the H1-B program needs to be refactored and less complicated in order for any consideration of expansion, which I ultimately want to happen, to actually come through.


Reading 02: A Coin Flip

Q: What has your job (or internship) interview process been like? What surprises you? What frustrates you? What excites you? How did you prepare? How did you perform?

What is your overall impression of the general interview process? Is it efficient? Is it effective? Is it humane? Is it ethical?

A: A lot of what I’ve done for my entire life so far has been analyzing and understanding what I needed to do to achieve greater accomplishments. So when society tells me that education is the way, that the eventual SAT is the way, and that going to a great college will eventually lead to a great job is the way, I did everything I could to get there. I sacrificed a lot to study for the SAT, I spent a lot on college applications, and I hope I’m doing everything I can in college right now.

But now what I’m considering is whether what I’ve had to do has been worth anything, because I’m not even sure that those tests have to do with me testing whether I’m worth anything in any way. If something is so down to a science in many textbooks, preparatory materials, and etc, then it almost feels as though I’m just a regurgitating monkey, just spitting out answers I’ve seen over and over again. I’m not even sure that those major milestones were due to any of my achievements, but due to a system that’s so biased in the first place, that even though I may be going through the ropes, who knows whether I’ll succeed in my own right. So now that I’m going through studying the preparatory material again, this time, for technical interviews, I can’t help but feel as though the job interview process is so familiar to all those other major milestones, and can’t help but wonder whether the end result of being able to support my family with getting a quality job will all be left to chance or randomness in difficulty or even a simple dislike of just looking at me.

After going through I think maybe around 50 interviews since freshman year, I think that interviews are really chance. It depends on the rapport between the interviewer and me, it depends whether it’s not a random puzzle or a data structure that was covered very briefly, or it’s something so complicated that it intimidates me right off the bat. I can’t trust my gut feeling either. There have been times where I felt as though I’ve had the best interview in my life, but I’ve ultimately just been rejected or never contacted again.

There’s the screening process as well, where there have been times where if I missed  a single question or case, I would be flat out rejected. There have also been times where the process came down to an interviewer being cranky, obviously tired, or didn’t even understand the language that I was using. And worst of all, there have been times where I had to do most of the rapport, and all I got as a reply were “uh huh” and “sure”.

The interview process right now is extremely hard. Even getting entry or a chance to interview is tough, the amount of ridiculous problem solving and regurgitating of algorithms that one doesn’t need to do interview-wise makes it tougher. And even if you get the questions right, the fact that its left to a coin flip as to how some people are feeling that day is the thing that makes this process just topple on itself.

I may or may not be being too negative right now, but I think that I’m justified in my negativity because of how the process is due to so many circumstances that it feels like it’s out of my control. At least I hope networking seems like the surefire way to at least get a foot in the door.

Reading 01: “But I worked hard to get here!”

Q: From the readings and from your experience, is the technology industry a meritocracy (what does that actually mean)? If it is, then is that a good thing or a bad thing? If it is not, should it try to be?

A: The amount of times I’ve heard the phrase, “but I’ve worked so hard to get here!”, has probably desensitized me from its impact. It’s not that it isn’t genuine nor is it filled with malicious or sarcastic intent. Instead it usually is quite the opposite, filled with compassion and authenticity, but that’s also where the problem lies in considering the technology industry a meritocracy lies.

In the article, “The Capitol of Meritocracy is Silicon Valley, Not Wall Street” by Timothy B. Lee, the main basis behind the opinion that the technology industry is indeed a meritocracy was the distinction between legitimate criteria and fake criteria of merit. While Lee compares the Ivy League and Wall Street’s use of SAT scores and the status of the Ivy League itself to Silicon Valley’s pure criteria of the ability to make great software, I think that naively thinking that software engineering as pure criteria can be dangerous. Just like the same logical fallacy of the very same introductory statement made up above, it’s based off of ignoring that a lot of what’s here and what’s possible today has a foundation built from the many people in the past, and that a lot of success is also circumstantial and luck.

A solid foundation sets up the possibility of hard work paying off for whatever goal is needed or wanted to be achieved. I don’t think many people in this class would have exposure to other’s experiences where they do indeed work hard, day and night, but never see the fruition of their work. If one is never exposed to that sort of experience, then the view of the industry being a meritocracy becomes even more established. For example, a person in high economic status will have more potential for opportunity, more chances at meeting the right people, and more time to develop skills needed than a kid in low economic status whose primary concerns center around surviving than living. I think the time that one is exposed to technology matters too, such as whether it began in college (if college is even presented as an affordable opportunity), in high school that had an AP Computer Science class, or even at a young age where a family could afford a computer or something of the sort to experiment and become familiar with. A journey laden with concrete bridges certainly seems more likely to stay stable than an old wooden rickety one.

In the article, “Why hiring the ‘best’ people produces the least creative results” by Scott E. Page, he states that there is no metric for measuring one’s skill in development, and that trying to measure that is an impossible task. It’s true because usually the needs that need to be met aren’t solely going to be measured by one piece of criteria anyway. It’s also true that breakthroughs, which is what the industry needs and wants, don’t happen from staying in one mindset or background or frame of thought. And that’s brought by different backgrounds, instead of measuring people by one standard.

Hard work does indeed matter, it can make and be the difference between skill in developers in the industry with its ever evolving challenges and changes. So I’m not dismissing the fact that hard work is needed to actually dive in and understand these topics in the technology industry in order to enter the workforce, but I’m not going to dismiss the fact that there are more barriers to entry than one might think to enter it in the first place.

Reading 00 Pt2: Programming is Magical, but not a Super-Power

Q: Is programming a super-power? Why or why not? What are the implications if it is (and what is your power)?


A: “The programmers of tomorrow are the wizards of the future”, said the founder of Valve, Gabe Newell, in a YouTube video labelled, “What Most Schools Don’t Teach”. I remember watching this video before deciding to switch my major from Chemical Engineering to Computer Science a few years ago. I remember resonating with the hype of creating a simple Hello World program, and thinking that if these amazing people in that video initially came from a humble start, that I could do it too. But even with these recent pushes of hyping up working in technology, it’s misleading in terms of it being a smooth journey, and I don’t think that it is indeed a super-power.

Don’t get me wrong, I do think programming is something magical, but to compare coding to the abilities of the heroes of Marvel or DC universes, may seem a bit farfetched to both non-programmers and programmers, and maybe that’s because those super-powers are portrayed as something inherent, or innate in the protagonist. However, programming, has created almost magical-like properties in its advancements. Programming has created new needs, new products, and new ways to do all things imaginable. As an example, maybe 20 or so years ago, one couldn’t imagine talking to whoever or being wherever in the universe in the span of seconds, yet the instant communication available to all, the space tech that lets humanity explore outside of its home planet, and the transportation that exists today make it viable! I do think as this trend continues, the analogy comparing super-powers and programming may be closer than ever as more impossible things continue to become possible.

But programming is still not a super-power. Rather it’s something that’s been built on the backs of many people, and it continues to be handed down so that programming now becomes available to use to anyone. Just as in the reading “To Serve Man, with Software”, it states “we collectively advance the whole of programming for everyone”. So rather than blasting fire or shooting laser beams from just one person, programming is something that’s created by and available to everyone. Yet even though it’s built on the work of programmers, its feats are attributed to very few people that represent that product. It’s parallel to the fact that it’s easier to remember the main figurehead like in superhero movies where only the superheroes / actors are remembered and no one wants to stick around for the end credits. Yet, those people had everything to do with that final product, and just like coding, never see that recognition or daylight (which also in turn, blame to be unseen from as well).

Programming is also a bit over-glorified. People tend to forget the frustrating parts of it as well, as who would want to advertise something as sitting at a computer possibly staring at a huge codebase that no one knows how it works (with no documentation) or possibly just ripping your hair out and questioning your life’s existence only to realize that your error was a simple syntax mistake.

So just because programming is not a super-power, doesn’t mean its impact requires a lot of responsibility. Just like any advancement, its use needs to be ethically defined and we as programmers as responsible for what we make as well as what it’ll be used for. Great power can’t have ethically complacent, lazy programmers.


Reading 00 Pt1: Classic ND Introduction

In your first blog post, please write a short introduction to who you are, what your interests are, why you are studying Computer Science (or whatever your major is), and what you hope to get out of this class.

Additionally, in your opinion, what are the most pressing ethical and moral issues facing computer scientists and engineers? Which ones are you particularly interested in discussing this semester?


To introduce myself, my name is Paul Kwak and my interests include game development as well as music production. I’m studying Computer Science because I think it’s a necessity to have in the future as well as it provides the most interesting fields to explore and puzzles to solve. I hope to be uncomfortable in this class: I want to hear opinions on difficult topics, and I want to listen and discuss views that aren’t quite the norm, or views that are the norm but may not be mine.

During my time in Silicon Valley, I think the most apparent issues were autonomous vehicles and privacy. Hilariously enough, there’s also an issue with companies offering free food to employees, as apparently it has caused major impact in the Valley’s economy. I would like to discuss the consequences of autonomous vehicles and particularly the impact it will have on jobs.

Overall, I hope this class is full of debate that make people uncomfortable but also realize that it’s a safe and academic place to share these opinions. When we enter the industry it’ll make us realize that we shouldn’t be so complacent in ethics in the industry.