Come to Catskills Conf and meet Mandy & Jamey! Stay for the experience.
00:16 – Welcome to “Plant Parenthood!” …we mean, “Greater Than Code!”
02:19 – Shanise’s Background Story and Superpower
03:08 – “Lazy Perfectionism”, “The Explosion of Dissonance”, and “The Moment of Click”
12:49 – Improving Self-Directed Learning
15:35 – Having Tunnel Vision Past the Point of Where You Should and Moving Beyond a Comfort Zone
“I understood lazy perfectionism differently, more as the tendency to refactor, polish, and improve the various “-ilities” of your code long past the point when you should have moved on to something else. It’s like . . . tunnel vision on things that are important but not all-important. Finding the right balance there is super hard for me.” – Nathaniel Knight
21:50 – “Performative Diversity” and Community Building
28:33 – Words and Actions: Influencing Diversity and Inclusion (D&I)
34:25 – Being Angry on Social Media But Feeling the Need to be Perceived as Positive (All the Time)
Sam: Lazy perfection is a thing with a label and something to pay attention to.
Janelle: How shallow efforts can be to create change (i.e. conference diversity).
Mandy: Stop giving lip service! Step up and prove that you care about diversity and inclusion by supporting groups and missions like Greater Than Code.
Jamey: Having connections with people to prove to yourself you’re not alone.
Jessica: If you want to have diverse attendees, get a diverse leadership team.
Shanise: 1. Seeking a balance between wanting and not wanting explosions of dissonance.
2. Find opportunities to highlight people that wouldn’t normally get opportunities to be highlighted.
Are you Greater Than Code?
Submit guest blog posts to firstname.lastname@example.org
Please leave us a review on iTunes!
JESSICA: Hello and welcome to Episode 44 of ‘Plant Parenthood.’ I am glad to be here today with Mandy Moore.
MANDY: Hi, Jessica. I’m a little bit confused, though. I thought this is Greater Than Code but I could be wrong. Anyway, I am happy to be here with my friend, Jamey Hampton and I am super excited to announce that the two of us will be at Catskills Conf in October so you should definitely look that up and see how awesome it’s going to be: camping and lodging and hiking and mountaineering and get your tickets because we’ll have swag. Wooh!
JAMEY: I’m really excited about that too, Mandy and I’m happy to be here today with all of you and also my friend, Janelle Klein.
JANELLE: Hi, I’m excited to be here, too joining the party. I want to introduce my co-host Sam Livingston-Gray.
SAM: Hey, it is indeed quite the party today. As our special guest, we have Shanise Barona. Shanise is a web developer based in Philly, who’s passionate about the place where technology and social good intersect. She wants to live in a world where emails are short, empathy is a forethought and Netflix doesn’t ask if you want to keep watching because the answer is always yes. When her eyes aren’t glued to a computer screen, you can find her doing yoga, reading and plant parenting. Welcome to the show, Shanise.
SHANISE: Thanks, Sam for such a nice intro. Hi everyone and I’m super excited to be here as well.
MANDY: Can I just say that I actually get happy when Netflix ask me if I’m still watching because sometimes I’m like, “Oh, my gosh. It actually cares about me.”
SHANISE: [inaudible] looking at it.
SAM: I’m just like, “Why are you starting the next one already? Go! Go! Go!”
SHANISE: Exactly. I saw thing once where they were like, Netflix should be like a dating app. It should be like, “Other singles in your area who just binge-watch the entire season of Supernatural.”
SAM: Shanise, we like to start the show with our superhero origin stories. What got you into tech and what is your superpower and how did you acquire it?
SHANISE: When I was six years old, I wanted to be an astronaut and that obviously, didn’t work out. I had a series of different moments in life that I was messing around with HTML and CSS and AP Calculus is my favorite class in high school. I was experimenting with STEM, in science and math classes but I didn’t realize that this could be something for me. Fast forward to now, I discovered ‘Girl Develop It’ and started attending Girl Develop It classes and that’s how I got involved, not only in tech and learning web development but also in community building.
JESSICA: Oh, so that means Girl Develop It is basically a superhero training?
SHANISE: Yes, exactly.
MANDY: When I reached out to you because I think you’re super cool and you have a lot of amazing discussions on Twitter, you came back at me with a pretty lengthy list that we put in our Slack community to see what we wanted you to talk about today. An interesting conversation started about the term ‘Lazy Perfectionism.’ Now, I interpret it as, I have this problem and it’s called ‘buying books that I really want to read.’ But then when I buy the books, it just kind of sit here.
JESSICA: Do you want to read the books or do you want to have read them?
MANDY: I want to read the book and I wanted to get something out of the book. But these nonfiction books like ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck’ and ‘You Are a Badass,’ once I’m done working, I just don’t frickin’ feel like. I want to either sit down on my couch and drink a glass of wine and watch mindless TV like The Bachelorette — shout out — or I want to skip into more of a fiction novel. Then I’m like beating myself up because I really want to read this book but I’m just too lazy to do it. I know that if I do it, it’s going to improve my life. That’s my definition of lazy perfectionism. What do you think about that?
SHANISE: I think that’s spot on. That’s very similar to my definition as well. I can totally relate to buying books that I don’t end up reading, especially when they’re more technical. I just bought a bunch of web development books. They came in a pack and it was pretty penny so I convinced myself maybe I’ll read this because I spent a lot of money on these books. I did start reading one but I can relate to what you said like I want to just have already read it. I don’t really want to go through the process of reading it, if that makes sense.
SAM: I feel like that’s extra hard with tech books because so many of them are not written to be engaging.
JAMEY: I have a similar problem that I’ve experienced where the act of reading the book is very stressful for me because logically I know I’m reading this because it has information that I don’t know and I’m going to learn something. At the end of it, I’m going to know something else. But as I’m reading it, it gives me a sense of failure, like I don’t know any of this stuff, like I’m so stupid. I’m not doing as well as these other people and not quite impostor syndrome but almost like fear of missing out kind of thing. There’s all these people doing all the stuff that I’m not doing but the process of getting there, like reading it and learning it, it becomes very stressful. Doesn’t that resonate with anybody else?
SHANISE: I think, the book I started reading was the history of HTML or something and I was feeling that stress for sure. I’m sure a ton of people don’t walk around knowing the history of HTML but I was like, “Ugh! I don’t know this. How am I going to retain this information?” I was very stressed.
JANELLE: Question for you then what made you pick up a book like the history of HTML? What inspired you to take that book?
SHANISE: I think the perfectionism side of my lazy perfectionism is I want to know all of the things and I want to know right now so I don’t just want to learn how to use HTML. I want to know everything about it and how it came to be in the different versions of it. But again I don’t really want to go do that process. I just want to know these things.
JESSICA: So we want to have learned it?
SAM: To know kung fu.
JANELLE: One thing for me about learning is I do enjoy the process, especially when it makes my head hurt. Piano is the best for this. It’s fair liable and that can be like take this particular headache, it is like I know my neurons are rearranging themselves in my head and I enjoyed that feeling so it’s not about ever being perfect. It’s about continuing to have that feeling because I know that means improvement.
I think I have a similar experience where I get obsessed with the explosion of dissonance in my brain of all these new ideas that I didn’t have before of mixing ideas from a new book I hadn’t read before, a new perspective, a new way of thinking with all these other ideas I had before. It’s like all this synergy of ideas start spinning around in my head and I love that feeling of just like productive thinking. I think that’s why the panel is really fun too, just listening to all of these different perspectives kind of coming together that make you think about things in a way that you haven’t before.
JESSICA: And if history of HTML is not clicking and being relevant to anything and making you think about things that you haven’t before, maybe it’s the wrong book.
SHANISE: Right. I really like the term that you use, ‘explosion of dissonance.’ I feel like I experience that quite often.
SAM: Yeah, I really enjoy that when I have the energy for it, which I guess brings it back to the laziness part, like sometimes I’m done at the end of the day and I don’t want to deal with that. But when I’m in the right frame of mind, that’s absolutely wonderful. The other thing I like is being able to mentor other people so I can sort of experience that vicariously.
SHANISE: I really enjoying listening to the way that you’re all describing how much you love learning but the explosion of dissonance feeling is a little bit overwhelming for me. That’s like a feeling that I feel like I’m waiting through a little bit until I get to the other side and then there’s a moment of click. That moment of click is the feeling that I really love. It’s like I read all these things and I think I understood them but I’m not 100% sure and suddenly, it all comes together in one second and that’s very exciting.
SAM: You’ve been staring and staring and staring at all the blobs and suddenly they turn into the 3D image?
JANELLE: And you have to push through long enough to get to that point. First, it’s painful and uncomfortable and you have to stick with the problem long enough and let the thoughts spin long enough that you can get to the other side of being able to organize thoughts back in your brain.
SAM: I’ve been struggling with this a little bit recently because on my last visit to the office, my coworkers finally managed to get me into building and flying drones so I have a kit that I’m slowly putting together right now. They also gave me the wonderful advice that I should learn to fly in a flight simulator so I get all of my crashes out where they don’t cost me anything. That’s a really hard to try and learn to fly and really suck at it. But the thing that I’ve been trying to remind myself of is one of the previous times that I’ve learned a skill that I had no previous reference for, was trying to learn to juggle.
After I remind myself that it took a week of solid practice like 40 hours or so, just not dropping the ball every single damn time. Then after that, it was months or maybe even years before I got to not dropping the ball as much to it being anything like smooth. Just having that self-awareness of it’s going to take some time, my brain is going to have to do its thing that it does, that sort of helps a little bit.
SHANISE: That’s a good point. I think something that I’m still learning to work through is that part of the lazy perfectionism, just having patience with yourself and just struggling through like you said. I do have moments that I think it click and I say to myself, “So I suffered through this but I got out on the other side,” so I just need to keep at it. But then the lazy side says, “If I can’t get this in three tries, I’m just going to give up. I don’t want to keep working on this right now.”
It’s helpful for me, at least to combat that aspect. It’s just like jumping around to different things so that I’m doing something different each time when I feel like I’m at that point where I want to give up. But I feel like when I’m learning, I also have an obsessive personality so it feels like a… What’s the phrase? Jack of all trades, master of none?
JESSICA: Compared to calculus, is it frustrating that HTML and CSS and all these things that they’re not quite perfect?
SHANISE: Yes, it is very frustrating, especially because there are so many different ways to get to one result and there are standards but a lot of the time, especially with fun and things, that’s very relative as well and what people think is the best course of action and the best practice. I don’t love calculus itself. I just love that class and my teacher and the way that I was learning and feeling like, “Oh, wow. I’m grasping this really difficult concept.”
JESSICA: That was cool, though because we’re back to loving the learning process.
SHANISE: Yes. I guess it also depends to what that process looks like. Maybe the lazy perfectionism is that I’m not excellent at self-directed learning. Maybe that’s what I’m learning about myself is that I enjoy that class because I had a really great teacher and the material and the format was really conducive to our learning for a concept that was really difficult that I would say most high schoolers don’t particularly enjoy. But now it’s like adding in the relativeness of web development and doing something like an online bootcamp, which I’m enrolled in. It’s hard to keep that focus when you’re self-directed.
JESSICA: I wonder if a lot of people have that problem when they get past that beginner courses, that are really restructured and then it’s like, “Here. Make some things.”
SHANISE: Yes, and you’re like, “What do I make? Where do I start? I don’t know.”
JANELLE: What kind of things have you found that help with that? I’m assuming you’ve learned a lot of things about how to improve at self-directed learning through this process
SHANISE: Yes. Definitely, this is where the community aspect was really big for me. I’m kind of an independent worker and that’s how I like to function and I’m very introverted so I do like going to events and networking with other people but it can be very exhausting. Going over code with other people, like I had something on my website that was really stumping me and I just wanted to give up. I was discussing it with a friend and she made me sit down and say, “No, we’re going to figure this out.” She didn’t necessarily tell me the answer but she sat there with me and basically forced me to do it. Something that maybe a teacher would do. That community aspect is that peer mentorship that happens organically that has really helped me.
SAM: Yeah. I have ADHD and one of the tools that a lot of people who talk about that recommend is using some form of external accountability because you’re much more likely to do something if you’re on the hook for somebody else socially to actually do it.
SHANISE: Yes. Sometimes that doesn’t work, like 100 days of code, I don’t know if you all have heard of that challenge but I was very loud and vocal about it on Twitter like, “I’m going to do 100 days of code,” and then I got to the point where I was skipping certain days and then it was like Days 13 through 30, then I got to the point around Day 70 that I just stop, I just gave up and didn’t have time to do. The external accountability definitely helps someone like me with my personality but I also don’t care about what people think so if I just needed to stop the challenge, I was just like, “All right, I’m tagging out.”
JESSICA: That’s great. There’s also the thing where sometimes if you picture in your head a goal, you’ll not achieve it because your brain has already experienced it. Sometimes I avoid telling people I am going to do something to avoid that effect.
SHANISE: Yes, that’s such a good point. I try to work on that. I just get really excited about things and I want to tell people but then, I’m working on perhaps just keeping things to myself and plugging away at them, slowly but surely.
MANDY: It’s like when I work out and I tell everybody on Facebook that I worked out and then I don’t work out the next day or the next day or the next day and then I look like a fool.
JESSICA: But still better than not working out at all.
MANDY: Yeah but I have an end goal in mind and that is to lose 10 or 15 pounds and working out won’t just clearly not going to make me lose 10 or 15 pounds.
JESSICA: We mentioned getting work done and I wanted to relate that back to someone in our Greater Than Code Slack community, when we were talking about lazy perfectionism, he saw that phrase — this is Nathaniel Knight — and he understood it as, “More of the tendency to refactor, polish and improve the various ‘-ilities’ of your code, long past the point where you should have moved on to something else. It’s like tunnel vision on things that are important but not all-important. Finding the right balance there is super hard.” Do you ever suffer from that kind of perfectionism? What’s the lazy in that? I missed the lazy in that.
SHANISE: Perhaps, the lazy is he’s not moving on. He’s being lazy by just working on one thing continuously.
SAM: Oh, I know this one very well.
JESSICA: Do you find it lazy, Sam?
SAM: Absolutely. I’m totally being lazy. I think the first time I really noticed and recognized this as a thing that I do, probably five six years ago when I was working on a new application in a domain that I didn’t know anything about. I found that instead of tackling the areas that I knew the least about first, which is the best way for me to actually make progress on an app. What I was doing was I was starting with one little corner of it that I knew I was going to need. Then just polishing the heck out of it and gold plating it until it was perfect. Still didn’t understand the rest of the application but that one part, I was able to indulge myself in my perfectionism and my in wanting to get that part right and I was using medicine avoidant behavior to not grapple with the uncertainty that I was afraid of.
JANELLE: That’s interesting, I mean, I am listening to that quote. I don’t totally get the meaning of lazy. This seems like obsessive addiction to doing the thing that your mind is in and not being able to move on but I don’t see how this is laziness. Maybe it’s lazy in thinking not in working.
JAMEY: To me it’s like a comfort level. Maybe lazy isn’t the first word I would pick but I understand how it’s related because it’s like, “I’m so comfortable working here on this code that I know that I’m not willing or ready to move on to something else.”
SHANISE: Yeah, I think that’s a really good point.
SAM: Again, bringing it back to ADHD because that’s what I do apparently. When people first hear the name of the diagnosis, attention deficit, they think that somebody with a diagnosis has less attention to go around. That’s not actually the case. What’s actually happening is that I have as much attention as anybody else but the part of my brain that kicks in to regulate it to notice, you’ve moved past the point of utility and that other stimulus that you’ve been ignoring is actually important and you need to go and switch focus on to that. That part is a little weak so sometimes, I realized that I’ve been doing this and I internalize that and I feel like a failure. I feel like I’ve been lazy. But in my case, it’s actually my brain just doesn’t quite work that way.
JANELLE: Discomfort. I like that word, Jamey, that you’re trying to stay in a place that’s comfortable. Shanise, what do you do to help yourself move out of what’s comfortable?
SHANISE: I think that’s something that I’m always still working on. I just start doing the things that make me uncomfortable. I can totally relate to what Sam said earlier about just working on one part of the application because you know that that other part is just going to be challenging and you just don’t want to deal with it. I’m not perfect in that obviously but I just try to kind of get out of that comfort zone as much as possible and some days are better than others.
JANELLE: So just to clarify then, I’m seeing laziness is about the self-control aspects and that we don’t want to exert self-control and that’s what the laziness is applied to so we want to stay in that mode of circle thing with constant perfectionism that’s the thing that we’re comfortable with and the self-control that it takes to move beyond that or lazy in wanting to move on to the next thing or get excited about something else.
SHANISE: I really like your description on that. I think that’s what it is, at least for me is self-control. Whether it’s moving on or trying other things or just sticking with something, it’s not always just moving on. Just sticking with something that is proving to be challenging and not wanting to power through that, I think that’s self-control and self-discipline. I believe you said the comment earlier about being… Or Jessica said it about being laziness as far as lazy thinking because I would say that my thinking is very obsessive when I want to learn something but it’s doesn’t always translate my actions because I sometimes give up sooner than I would like to.
JAMEY: I like the self-control, self-discipline description too because I think it also relates to our first definition of lazy perfectionism from before where you’re talking about learning in the books, like it takes self-discipline to remind ourselves that this is going to make our lives better and we have to get through it. I think it kind of ties them together.
JESSICA: Sometimes I timebox that stuff and I’m like, “I’m going to do this for half an hour,” and then I’m having a glass of wine.
SHANISE: There’s always time for a glass of wine. I think that that’s a valid reason to avoid whatever task it is [inaudible].
JAMEY: Self-care is very important.
JESSICA: We would like to thank our newest $50 a month patron, Josh Schmelzle. Greater Than Code is a listener funded podcast. So far, we are open to the right corporate sponsor and if you sign up to contribute to our Patreon in any amount, then you get an invitation to our community Slack and you get to influence the conversations and also chit chat with all of us. It’s my favorite Slack, personally out of the 15 I’m in. You should join it and tell us what is your definition of lazy perfectionism?
Meanwhile, the second most popular topic that’s Shanise proposed is Performative Diversity. What does that mean?
SHANISE: Right now, tech is having this conversation about diversity and inclusion and I see a lot of companies that are involved in making these statements and its promises but I don’t really see a lot of action behind that. Now, that I’m involved on the community building side and speaking with companies, that is becoming even more so apparent than just being a participant or an attendee at an event. That’s been super frustrating. Just a performance that they’re putting is what I feel.
JAMEY: Can you give us an example of something that made you feel that way or is that too invasive of a question?
SHANISE: I don’t think it’s invasive. Definitely, I’m not going to call out any particular companies but just with interacting with them at different events that I’ve either been a part of organizing or attending and asking certain questions and seeing what their reactions and what their responses are, compared to what they have listed on their site or what’s on there About page and what they say that they’re looking for, it doesn’t really match up.
JAMEY: I had that experience also.
JESSICA: The stuff on their About page, does that sound like they care about diversity more than their actual hiring?
SHANISE: Yeah, it sounds like it’s just a very carefully worded PR statement to say, “Look at us. We do care about diversities,” but that’s a whole other conversation too, like what is diversity if there isn’t any inclusion. Diversity is not going to last there. It’s been something that now, that I’m involved in community building that’s these are the things I’m looking for, as far as companies that I’m partnering with then working with and talking to. It’s been a huge disappointment to be honest.
JESSICA: What are you doing with community building? What is that?
SHANISE: One of the most recent organizations that I just joined is Ela Conf. It’s a community and conference for individuals with marginalized genders in Philadelphia.
JANELLE: It sounds like there’s a lot of companies doing PR stunt wanting to pay lip service to these ideas but when it comes to actually making things different, you’ve got a lot of people that are not including others in the conversation and moving to a place that they’re actually changing anything but are talking about these things like they value them anyway. You said you’ve been disappointed. I’m really curious as to what kind of things you’ve seen, this pattern-wise generalized —
SHANISE: I would say like meetups and groups, not just these companies. It’s even groups and the local community saying, “We want to be diverse. We want to be inclusive. We want to add more people to the space,” but then that whole leadership team is just white people are just cisgender man. There was something that I was volunteering for and it was a very particular event and it’s a well-known organization nationally. They have different chapters in different cities and they were putting on this event and saying that they really wanted it to be diverse and have different representation. But their whole leadership team is just cis people and white people.
Them kind of keeping that core leadership team as just a very specific and privileged group kind of directly goes against the message that they’re sending and inherently, makes people not feel welcome. It doesn’t matter what you’re saying. If people don’t see people that look like them and people that they can relate to, people are not going to want to be involved.
JANELLE: So the first step in making change, you would say is changing your leadership to represent the type of culture and inclusiveness that you want echoed within your organization or community group?
SHANISE: Absolutely. I don’t think it’s enough to just say, as insert privileged or whatever here, I want this to be for everyone. When we use the term ‘allies’ they could really be doing a lot more. You could also say, “I don’t need to be here. I don’t need representation but I don’t need to be this representation. I’m going to step down and give this position to someone else.” I don’t see a lot of that happening either. I’m in Philadelphia. It’s a very small community compared to other bigger cities but that’s just been my experience. I’ve also had a really good experiences.
JAMEY: I totally understand what you are saying in the way that I’ve thought about this in the past is that actions speak louder than words when it comes to diversity inclusion. But I also think that inaction speaks a lot louder than words and when somebody says that they’re going to do something and then they don’t follow up on it, that’s a really clear signifier to me that they’re more worried about how they’re coming across and their PR than actually caring about these people that they want to represent. I think that people don’t think a lot about what their inaction is saying about them and the impression that it’s making about them or their company. I think that it’s really important that I wish more people would think about. You were talking about allies and something I really believe that is like, ally is something you do, not just the word that describes who you are. You have to continually be working at that to retain that status if that makes sense.
SHANISE: Absolutely. Perhaps, some people think that, “Oh, this is just something that I have to do to get to this level and I’m done and the work is over.” But it is absolutely something that you have to continuously be doing.
JANELLE: It seems like there’s this shallow level of identity that people are striving for to be represent this ideal of diversity in inclusion that is really limited but at the same time, a lack of awareness of how it seems from what you’re saying, people are not recognizing the shallowness of it and recognizing what it takes to actually… I don’t know. I’m wondering why people aren’t recognizing that gap of why, and maybe it’s just humans. It’s kind of a sad statement in a way but at the same time, we have to move to a point of giving a damn, you know?
SAM: Shanise, you said something much earlier about contrasting diversity and inclusion and then Jamey, you said something about action speaking louder than words. But I do want to talk a little bit about the words because I feel like the words reflect how people are thinking, whether or not you believe that our words shape the way we think, I think that they certainly are indicators of what’s going on beneath the surface. I feel like 10 years ago, we just weren’t having this conversation at all. Then five years ago, we started talking about diversity a lot and then, I don’t know maybe I’m slow on the uptake but maybe just in the last year, I’ve started seeing a lot more of DNI as the shorthand for diversity and inclusion.
That’s an interesting reflection to me of where the conversation is going because I think people brought in diversity and inclusion because they realize that you’re not going to get diversity without inclusion. What I’m interested in is whether we can get it to the point where we just talk about inclusion, with the implicit assumption that once we work on that, the diversity will take care of itself.
SHANISE: Right. That would be amazing if we could just have that conversation.
SAM: So get on that, everyone. Listeners, you have your job.
JESSICA: It’s like accessibility, that inclusiveness work helps the people that are on your team now and helps you welcome more people onto your team.
JAMEY: I think maybe something that would be cool to clarify is that when we say diversity and inclusion, what are the difference between those two things? I want to get Shanise’s take on that, if possible.
SHANISE: I’m speaking specifically to tech events. I feel like when people say diversity, they’re thinking amongst attendees, people that look differently and people that have nontraditional backgrounds, people of different gender, etcetera. But I feel like they’re not really thinking about inclusion. I don’t really think that even inclusion is mentioned at most events like this. But in my opinion, I would say inclusion is everyone feels like they have a space and that they feel comfortable and that they’re respected and they’re not just there to be X amount of this diverse group is present here.
JAMEY: If you do diversity without inclusion, I think you’re going to find that it fizzles out. Maybe you can get less attendees this year but if they don’t feel comfortable, they’re not to come back and they’re not going to invite other people.
SHANISE: Yes, exactly.
JANELLE: Or you end up getting very cliquish kind of behavior where you’ve got a diverse group of people there but they don’t talk to each other and they only feel safe in independent groups.
SHANISE: Yes and that happens all the time. When I decided to learn how to code about a year ago, like I said I’m very introverted, I don’t want to network, I don’t want to talk to anyone but I thought if I’m to be in this industry, I have to see if I like it and what these people are like, what these events are like. I kind of forced myself out of my comfort zone and just went to events and spoke to people that look like me, people that were different from me. But not everyone can do that and not everyone should be expected to give.
I’ve had people come up to me and say, “I wasn’t sure about this event. This event brands itself as an inclusive event but I saw that you’re attending,” Or, “I saw that you’re organizing,” Or, “I saw that you are friendly with the organizers and that made me feel comfortable to attend this event now.
JANELLE: It seems like you started this whole discussion, talking about leadership and how leadership basically creates this model or this example, that the entire culture of the event ends up echoing. With speakers who you end up putting on stage and what those people represent, the same kind of thing as leadership is that those people sentiments are echoed throughout the conference or event too. It seems like if you want to influence diversity and inclusion, it has to start with the culture and values of the people that are leading non-stage. I guess the question is from your experience in doing this, what kind of things can people do to start breaking down those walls?
SHANISE: Do you mean the leadership that’s not diverse or do you mean attendees breaking down walls?
JANELLE: Well, I think a little bit of both. You can affect things from both sides and it’s not necessarily an easy problem to solve because going outside of our boundaries is always uncomfortable and as you said, you can push yourself to go outside those boundaries but if the context isn’t really supportive of that, it’s going to be hard for other people to do that.
If you’re leading in events, you’ve obviously got more influence but at the same time, there are specific things that you can do like you talked about being willing to step down and also maybe, going out of your way to find people. What kind of things would you do? You’re writing an event and you’re trying to make a more diverse, more inclusive event, what would you do differently?
SHANISE: I don’t think anyone has that figured out. It would be nice if we did. But I think something that can definitely be done is like I said earlier, if a leadership team is an inclusive, I don’t think it’s lash or harsh to have someone step down and have them add a person that is qualified and is different and can bring a different perspective and make that be a more inclusive just by them being present on a leadership team. We’ll kind of inherently and organically have that begin to happen.
JESSICA: When we started Greater Than Code, one of our specific aims was to have a diverse panel. It’s not as diverse as we would like. Dave and Sam were both like, “I would happily step down to have representation from people of another race because we’re mostly white.” You want to join our panel?
SHANISE: I’m just always afraid of saying the wrong thing and I said this to Mandy, I’m very angry on Twitter so I’m flattered that she thinks that I have hot takes but usually, it’s just a moment of rage, just black out and just upset about something.
JAMEY: That’s where hot takes come from. Twitter is number one source of hot takes.
SHANISE: Raging on Twitter?
JESSICA: And those are meaningful to people.
JAMEY: It’s very meaningful to me because I’m also angry a lot. Sometimes I post about it and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I just don’t want to be perceived as angry. Sometimes I don’t know how to express my anger but seeing other people get angry about some of the things that I’m angry about is very therapeutic for me.
SHANISE: Yes. That is something that I am learning now on Twitter and that’s something that I had on the topic list, the struggling with meaning to be positive. In tech, I kind of toy with, should I just be honest and angry on my Twitter like I just want to be? But that’s unprofessional. That’s going to reflect negatively on me, even more so being a black woman. Everyday, I’m not sure like should I retweet this thing? Should I post this thing that just happened to me at the tech meetup that really pissed me off? I kind of looked to people that I admire in tech and see what their Twitter feed looks like and how angry they are and kind of gauge it by that.
I wasn’t realizing that I was doing this at the time and it took me a couple of months to realize that I’m checking other people to see how angry they are. If these are people that I’m friends with, I would want them to also be angry. There’s a lot to be angry about right now in tech.
JESSICA: It’s my job to be the positive voice on this podcast so I do want to say that in my five years of speaking at conferences, there’s been a tremendous increase in conferences aiming for a diverse speaker lineup and inviting people and seeking that and I’m glad. And, oh, conferences that are canceled because of, “Shit. We published a panel that was all white men.” You know, at least companies are feeling pressure to give lip service to diversity. This is a step. We just have to keep up the pressure and get further. I’m sorry, there’s a fucking lawnmower. I don’t have anything positive to say about the lawnmower.
SHANISE: Does anyone else feel like they struggle to be positive?
JAMEY: I feel incapable of feeling and expressing anything other than the way I feel right at this moment. When I feel positive, I come across as very positive and I feel negative, I come across as very negative. I feel like there’s not much I can do to control it because I’m just emotional. I try to be genuine. It’s not so much that I’m struggling with being positive. It’s just like this is how things are going and this is how I genuinely feel about it and that’s what I want to try to express the people because I think that it’s important to be able to celebrate and commiserate with other people. I like to set the ground for that.
JANELLE: And we all want to be understood and felt. We’re upset and frustrated and angry at the world because it’s not the way we want it to be. We want other people to be there with us and when everyone else isn’t in their bubble world and can’t see us and we feel invisible, it hurts. It’s like being angry and wanting people to be angry with us is a way to feel connected and cared about.
JESSICA: And if we express that anger, then we’re connecting with the other people who are angry, as opposed to the people who are just fine. They don’t really need that connection that badly, anyway.
SHANISE: I know when I post angry stuff on Twitter, a response I get a lot from friends that means a lot to me is, “I see you,” and it’s like I see you feel like you’re invisible, you’re being erased and I see you and also I see your anger and I understand it and validated in a way.
JESSICA: Jamey, I like your point about being positive when you feel positive and angry when you feel angry. One thing I like about Twitter is that it is about expressing this particular moment because you can’t go back and edit it. It’s not something like a blog post that I would go back and refine if I decide that I was wrong. It’s just right now.
JAMEY: Immediacy is an important word to me. That’s how I feel about Twitter.
JESSICA: Shanise, we talked about needing to be positive on Twitter. Is there anywhere else where you feel the pressure to be positive?
SHANISE: I guess, when I’m interacting with people at these tech events, I feel like just my years of being involved with a local tech community, I’ve been involved with different organizations and I’ve met a lot of people. I kind of feel that pressure to be positive, on whatever group that I’m volunteering for or if I’m on some sort of organizer team, I feel like I need to be positive for the people that I’m serving. But at the same time, I feel like Jamey was saying, I’m so going to be genuine and I want to be genuine and I want people to see my anger so that they can know that if they’re feeling the same way, that’s perfectly okay.
JESSICA: Yeah, that’s the thing. When you express your feelings, you’re okay for other people to feel that and that can be powerful.
SAM: I almost feel like as somebody who is in a relative position of privilege, I feel like I have an obligation to be more negative about things because there is stuff that people will only hear from someone like me. That gives me a platform that I can and should be using to promote visibility of some of these things. There’s always going to be some person who is just there to argue and I’m going to wind up blocking them. But I feel like part of my job as somebody with a lot of privilege is to help amplify and signal boost folks when they’re hurt and upset about something that they have every right to be upset about.
SHANISE: Because you’re performing, I said that as a verb and not a noun.
JESSICA: This is the part of the show where we each reflect on what it made us think about or what we might do differently? Sam, do you want to go first?
SAM: There’s a lot that we talked about that’s really interesting as always on this show but the thing that I think I’m going to takeaway today is just that really useful reminder about lazy perfectionism as a thing that I sometimes forget is a thing. I always find that having a name like lazy perfectionism for what’s happening in my brain, that having that name helps me recognize it and spot it and label it. Then choose how I want to engage with that. Thank you for bringing it up and reminding me, yet again that it’s something I need to pay attention to.
JANELLE: This whole conversation, Shanise just made me really think a lot about how shallow a lot of the efforts have been to try and create change and being on a conference tour where I’m the only woman on the tour [inaudible] and I’m in a position to influence a lot of things just because I can go out there and get on stage and lead and make change. There’s a lot that I could do and there’s a big difference between saying that you care about something and actually going out there and making stuff happen.
I very much appreciate that perspective, especially when it comes to the distinction between diversity and inclusion and actually breaking down those walls and bringing people together in a way that they’re just not right now and seeing those people. Thank you for that.
MANDY: I think that’s why we do this show. We do this show because I see these conversations happening on Twitter and I want to hear more opinions about the topics that can only be said in 140 characters. I also think on the line of performative diversity and inclusion. Right now as the producer of the show, it’s pretty frustrating for me because I am reaching out to companies who say that they care about these things and while they expressed interest, it’s lip service.
We are recording these shows every week and are so close to going back to weekly that if just one company steps up, I feel like other companies will as well and sponsor us. If you say you care about diversity and inclusion, sponsor our show. We are probably the most diverse and inclusive tech podcast out there right now and I am proud to be the producer and person that helps to run the show. Again, please reach out to me: Mandy@GreaterThanCode.com and step up.
JAMEY: One thing that I’m taking away from this and thinking about is being kind to yourself and the reason that this kind of popped up in my mind is that we’ve talked a lot about not being alone in what you’re going through, I guess. In the last part of the conversation, I was talking about this in terms of being angry on Twitter and seeing where other people are angry and perhaps, being kind to yourself for wanting to express those emotions. But even as I’m thinking back, the other thing we’ve talked about like when we were discussing lazy perfectionism and being able to say, “I thought it was just me struggling with this,” and hearing other people say, “No, I also have all these books that I haven’t read and I struggle with the same things.”
To me having that kind of connection makes me feel less like I’m failing at something and more like, this is something that we all go through and need to show ourselves those kindness. I think it’s easier to show other people kindness than to show ourselves kindness and that’s what’s on my mind right now.
JESSICA: The point that stood out to me was the one about, if you want to have diverse attendees, get a diverse leadership team. Bring diversity in right next to you or step down and replace yourself with someone more diverse. At work, our whole company is white and our leadership team is all white men. When we start hiring again, we have an opportunity to change that. I’m going to push for hiring someone on the leadership team and you always get the push back of, “Oh, we need the most qualified candidate,” and I think the trick there is I read that white men get hired based on potential and women and people of color based on experience and therefore, they don’t get that experience.
I’m going to push for hiring someone based on potential because I bet, we can find a lot of people with really high potential. It’s an untapped market and that is still under-tapped. It’s the same with conferences that I’m on the board of, or when I’m looking for speakers to suggest. I’m not looking for people who might have seen speak, who are already on the circuit. I’m looking for people with potential to speak and trying to encourage them and offer any help that I can. I’m going to be thinking about bringing diversity in at the highest level, looking past people who are obvious at people who might be fantastic. I’m looking to make myself and my organization better, not safer.
SAM: I know we’re in reflections here but I just have to respond to that. You mentioned that the next time you’re hiring is going to be another opportunity to make your team more diverse and I would point out that it’s certainly your best opportunity and if you leave it alone for long enough, if you missed that one, the next one is going to be a little less valuable and a little less valuable. The longer you leave it, the harder it’s going to be to change the direction of your organization.
SHANISE: I have a two-part reflection. Part one would be the explosive dissonance and recognizing that there are moments where I enjoy that feeling and moments where I avoid that feeling so seeking a balance there and kind of reflecting on that these feelings are okay and that they wax and wane and it’s a normal learning process.
Part two of my reflection would be, when we were discussing diversity in leadership. It led me think of a tweet thread Lara Hogan. She’s a VP of Engineering at Kickstarter and she mentioned that on a dev team or a company, a person can say, they can find opportunities to highlight people that wouldn’t normally get these opportunities, someone that is more underrepresented than this person. If someone is pitching a project, someone like gay cis white men can recommend someone that is different from them and say, “I think that this person would be good for this job,” and kind of promote them in that way because it seems that people like this, especially in the tech community, they have this set credibility that everyone just believes. Using that platform, using that privilege and that credibility to set other people up and promote other people, that wouldn’t otherwise get that opportunity would be a way to shuffle that along, I guess.
JESSICA: That wraps up Episode 44 of Greater Than Code, which is also Greater Than Plants Parenthood, in my opinion, especially if there are lawnmowers involved.
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