I’ve been to every Lesbians Who Tech summit that has taken place in SF (6 total) at the beautiful Castro Theater and this year was the BEST. I love that this conference is unapologetically Political, that they are committed to modeling a world where 50% of the speakers are women of colour, that they highlight issues that are current and affect more than *just* tech, and that the level of technical acumen in the talks continues to rise year over year.
Also, the conference is just plain FUN. There’s always dancing and video montages and high fives. It’s very collegiate in ways and that’s light and fresh and certainly more engaging than some of the technical conferences I’ve attended where it’s faces in laptops all day long. This year there was a Queer Jeopardy opportunity and I wasted no time in grabbing a spot as a contestant.
When they said they needed 3 players, I worked my way to the front of the stage, which meant going against a stream of 1000 lesbians trying to make a break for the bathrooms! They said to come back in 10 minutes, at 11:40 am, and then I was on stage with 2 other contestants managing to clean up during the first round that day. I was then told to return the next for a second round which ended up being against 2 new players where I continue my winning streak, becoming (as far as I know) the first Queer Jeopardy champ at Lesbians Who Tech. I loved the “Name the drone footage” category – one of them was of a house and I guessed it was Edie Windsor’s but it was Mark Zuckerberg’s which I worried meant someone from LWT flew a drone over his house to capture but a simple Google search turned up the image used:
In the Tech Pavilion, GoDaddy had a photo booth where you could make your own sign to finish the sentence “Make Tech More”. It’s a cute idea and I see that GoDaddy is *trying* but looking at the options they provided, I found myself quickly wishing for other words like “intergenerational”, “accessible”, “authentic”, “socialist”, “anti-capitalist”, or perhaps “socially responsible”. I had to settle for “weird” from their pre-printed options. If someone else does this, I hope they might make a dry erase option for people to write in their own. The best swag was this poofy dog – @buttonspom on Instagram – which got me wondering if Snapchat could make it easier for people to have pet accounts on our platform?? I’ve created an account for Shortstack (@corgishortstack) but I don’t end up posting much to it since switching accounts is not possible in the app (that I know of anyway).
As I mentioned earlier – this conference is unapologetically political and centers the voices of black and brown queer women which meant the excellent work Alicia Garza is doing with the Black Futures Lab got center-stage with a packed house near the end of the day on Friday.
Another talk I enjoyed was “How to Prevent the Robopocalypse” where Cynthia Yeung flipped the script of “robots will take over our jobs” and pointed out how robots & humans will need to work together on certain areas long into the future, and more importantly how universal healthcare, revamped education, and basic income could pair with a welcoming of human/robot society being built. The robopocalyse is a lie, she said, the current systems are already broken and causing harm & risk to humanity. The robots are not the enemy in this scenario, the policies of dropping people from social safety nets, quality education and care, are the real culprits we should be fighting.
My talk went well. I was presenting at 10:30am on Saturday at Badlands with several other amazing speakers. The two folks who went before me both shared some serious knowledge and comfortable public speaking skills about Agile development and then geo motion capture. It was a packed house, impressive for an early, rainy morning. I presented “Ship Fast & Leave No Engineer Behind” which is a slimmed down version of an internal roadshow I’ve been touring to small groups within Engineering to familiarize them with Release; what we do, how we can help them get features ready to launch, and what some best practices and key tools are for being able to make trains on time. I saw a lot of heads nodding in the crowd as I explained our process of moving quickly through development, to stabilization, and then to monitoring releases post-launch. My friend Marcy, who is not a tech worker, was the best barometer of my success – when I was done she said she fully understood what I do now 🙂
Basking in the glow of two days of being immersed with queers who are empowered and vastly knowledgeable about many many things like AI, geo motion capture, Pixar animation lighting, and so much more has left me a little sad to be back to reality, however on the bright side – my laptop is now delightfully bedazzled and provides a daily reminder of the queerest event in tech. I’m super glad that Snap had a strong presence at the conference and that I met several coworkers that I hadn’t before. Looking forward to growing our internal initiatives over the course of the next year with all the awesome women @ Snap that I’ve met in the last month!Continue reading →
I’ve been at Pinterest just over 4 months and 2 months ago I sent out this email to all the women in my new workplace.
I was torn about whether to write this or not when I first joined Pinterest but today I need to say something because I just had someone be scared to come out of their stall when they saw me washing my hands. I’m not a fan of scaring people so here’s what I probably should have sent 2 months ago:
Hi! My name is Lukas and I’m a masculine woman (genderqueer/butch) and I use women‘s washrooms when there is not a unisex or gender-neutral option available.
It’s not easy to use a women‘s washroom when you’re constantly afraid of scaring/confusing/angering someone and so I’m hoping that letting you know about me will help decrease the likelihood of this happening when we happen to run into each other in that space.
That email generated 65 replies – all positive – from women throughout the company. I was blown away by the kind (and often hilarious) responses from my co-workers regarding an issue that has been a lifelong struggle. It also helped lessen (though not eliminate) much of the stress around using the women’s bathroom, which was the point.
Queer/outsider coping skills vs. Taking risks
At least for this (white, able-bodied, class-jumping) queer, the way to get by as someone who doesn’t conform to gender norms has been to lock down with a group of people where I feel seen. This has been the case at every paid gig I’ve ever had. Get foot in the door, find ways to connect with co-workers, create a tight-knit cabal of ‘my people’, and then hang in there. However I have some kind of restlessness gene and so I’m always trying to push myself to get more out of life than hiding in a particular group. I’m petrified of ‘groupthink’. I crave more experiences, learning, and opportunities to develop increased skills & resources that I can bring back to my communities to lift others. I’m constantly pushing myself out of the nest every time I start feeling comfortable. Examples include going back at 30 years of age to do a 4 year degree in Software Development with 19/20 year olds, moving to San Francisco to work in tech with a majority of young men while leaving behind my Toronto community of queers & artists, and moving away from Mozilla where I had spent 8 years establishing myself as a contributor in many areas of the project to work at Pinterest where I knew just two people. Those are just recent examples. If I dug further back, I know the pattern would still hold.
Pinterest has a commitment to diversity
Every tech company is chasing its tail right now to prove how committed they are to “Diversity”. Head of Diversity positions are abounding in the want ads, articles and data every day espouse how each company is going to try and take on this hard problem (hint, it’s not as hard when it’s authentically driven).
Pinterest has made statements and posted goals. They also have done things that show their commitment including Unconscious Bias training for everyone, changing interview methods (laptop instead of whiteboard for coding in interviews), creating measurable standards for what our culture fit interviews should be checking for so that we aren’t unconsciously moving the goal posts or building a homogenous environment.
On top of these ever-improving system-wide changes, in our new building down the street there are going to be gender neutral washrooms. I noticed this on the plans when we had a launch party and asked the Workplace team about it. They confirmed, yes, we would. I was excited and pleased to think that in 2016 I’ll be in that building and able to relax a bit about a thing that so many people do without a second though several times a day, and take for granted. It’s not something you can understand if you’ve never felt it but the best I can explain it is like you’re getting the side-eye from people you want to feel on the same team with and while you’ve built up the “thick skin” to handle 100 instances of being on edge, the 101th time in a week, it wrecks your day. That sucks for productivity, for team-building, and it’s one of the millions of paper cuts that can build up into feeling you’re in a ‘toxic’ workplace that doesn’t try to openly and honestly tackle true diversity. The objective of working on increased diversity in workplaces isn’t only to end up with a pretty-looking set of numbers for large umbrella groups, it’s also to take on tiny things that quietly shift the status quo by making it possible for more people to have less friction in their workday.
Yesterday Pinterest’s Workplace team sent out a note regarding our current building:
The 1st floor women’s restroom has now been converted to a unisex restroom and is now in service ready for use! Thanks for your patience during construction.
They might as well have said: From now on, Lukas will be 150% more productive because she’ll always be able to comfortably go to the bathroom.
Thank you, Workplace:
p.s. Don’t worry, I’m not so comfortable that I’m ready to leave this nest 🙂Continue reading →
I’m trying to bring the second pilot of the Ascend Project http://ascendproject.org to New Orleans in February and am looking for a space to hold the program. We have a small budget to rent space but would prefer to find a partnership and/or sponsor if possible to help keep costs low.
The program takes 20 adults who are typically marginalized in technology/open source and offers them a 6 week accelerated learning environment where they build technical skills by contributing to open source – specifically, Mozilla. Ascend provides the laptops, breakfast, lunch, transit & childcare reimbursement, and a daily stipend in order to lift many of the barriers to participation.
Our first pilot completed 6 weeks ago in Portland, OR and it was a great success with 18 participants completing the 6 week course and fixing many bugs in a wide range of Mozilla projects. They have now continued on to internships both inside and outside of Mozilla as well as seeking job opportunities in the tech industry.
To do this again, in New Orleans, Ascend needs a space to hold the classes!
Space requirements are simple:
* Room for 25 people to comfortably work on laptops * Strong & reliable internet connectivity * Ability to bring in our own food & beverages
Bonus if the space helps network participants with other tech workers, has projector/whiteboards (though we can bring our own in), or video capability.
Please let me know if you have a connection who can help with getting a space booked for this project and if you have any other leads I can look into, I’d love to hear about them.Continue reading →