The community of computing and technology needs to work towards creating a diverse community. In this field, diverse entails diversity in gender, background, race, experience, origin, whether you went to public school or private school, how many siblings you had, if you were in band or played a sport and so on. What I am targeting here is the notion of diversity of experience and self knowledge. Diversity proves incredibly important for tech due to its ability to generate the most creative and innovative ideas. Bringing together those who are different and even sometimes better disagree can greatly promote innovation. A perfect example of this is Pixar. In the Integrated Business and Engineering Fundamentals course, Professor Kitz showed us a clip of the producers at Pixar. Instead of gathering like minded individuals, Pixar purposely chose personalities they knew would collide and conflict, as they understood it would only make their projects and films better.
As a woman, I have definitely experienced both sides of this inclusion and exclusion. During my first summer internship of college, I was definitely not in a warm environment. I was on a team with practically all males except for one remote female. Normally, I don’t have a problem with this environment as I enjoy working with all kinds of people. However, during this summer I experienced extreme isolation because I was a woman. I sat in between two male developers in their late to early thirties. When I would ask one of them for help, he would treat me as though I was a 12 year old while treating the other male interns differently. He was constantly shocked that I knew anything and was incredibly condescending. I eventually had to report this to HR because he would make comments as though “of course you wouldn’t know that” or make fun of my lack of knowledge of a topic while in perspective I was about 10 years behind him in the industry. I experienced a much more welcoming and inclusive environment at Amazon Robotics last summer. There were many more females in the office in engineering roles. I also had a one on one meeting with my manager weekly where he asked how I was feeling and doing at work.
Outside of inclusion and exclusion in the workplace, I want to note on the importance of keeping a professional self. Though I understand notions of free speech, the harmony of the workplace is drastically killed when employees use free speech as an excuse to not be professional. For example, this summer there was an intern who constantly referenced sex and drugs. Of course, as an American, he is free to discuss whatever he wishes. However, these topics of conversation in the workplace not only make others feel incredibly uncomfortable but influence the way that others worked with him in the work-place. Given this experience, I definitely think that we should practice respectful self-censorship and maintain a professional status. I view this censorship not as a suppression of individuality but more as an emphasis on the productive, creative and other sides of the individual that they can only really develop and express in the workplace.