I am very excited to announce a surprise speaker. The epic Kim Crayton will be speaking at Clojure SYNC.
Kim Crayton has skyrocketed herself through the tech speaking circuit. She’s working with programmers and leaders on issues of diversity and inclusion in technology as a Community Engineer. She’s also working on her Doctorate of Business Administration. Kim has been thinking about the role programmers will play as increasingly capable Artificial Intelligence relieves people of more and more work. While it’s clear to see that many manual labor jobs will be replaced with robots, what is less clear is how knowledge work will be affected. Kim will trace this evolution and give us ways to remain relevant.
As we move towards automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, developers need to figure out ways to embrace and leverage their ability as problem solvers.
Please forgive the poor audio quality. We had technical trouble with the audio recording and had to use the backup audio. Please use the captions (CC) in the video player.
SlidesKim Crayton Slides
Eric Normand: [00:01] If I had to name one of the speakers who is going to positively change our industry. I would say, it’s the next one. She is a dynamo, so cameraman beware. There will be walking. Also, I just really like her.
[00:31] We know that our jobs are going to be obsolete soon. You can see some jobs that look like in the next 20 years are going to be gone. We’re even starting to see programs that write programs. That’s what we do. Maybe those will be gone in some time of the future. Not maybe, they will be. The question is when.
[00:55] We’ve been through this kind of evolution before jobs disappearing being recognized, being replaced by machines. We kind of want to know how do we stay ahead of this? How can we, people who are happily employed in programming, stay employed?
[01:20] I would like to have a guide. I’d love for it to be our next speaker. Please welcome Kim Crayton to the stage.
Kim Crayton: [01:36] Thank you. Come on guys, I’m a black female. I need you to give it up for me. Come on. Thank you.
Kim: [01:46] Hi. I’m Kim Crayton. I am here to talk about how you survive the robots. It’s professional development 2.0Some of you guys have trigger warrants in here. I love that title just because I’m me. Isn’t that like there’s going to be a big flashing that some people will be uncomfortable with it. Get used to it. That’s life. We’re just going to move forward with this.
[02:11] I am Kim Crayton. You can find me on Twitter at kimcrayton1. I am actively #causingascene. That should be your first warning. I’m going to give you my credentials. The reason I give my credentials, and I may be the only person that does that.
[02:34] Because I’m a black female, somebody’s always going to say, “Why should I listen to her in tech?” Let me tell you why. I have over 25 years of working with learners of all ages, all abilities, in school, out of school, all kinds of stuff.
[02:51] I am trained in crisis intervention, mediation, all kind of things. I have a master’s of training and development, which means I write curriculums, I write workshops. Yeah, like my presentation I can throw together my presentation in a minute. If my laptop goes down ‑‑ which it may, because it’s pretty old ‑‑ I just keep rolling until it comes back up. You know, that’s how good I am.
[03:21] All right, I’ll be done in August with a Doctor’s of Business Administration specializing in Technology Entrepreneurship. My doctoral study topic…I want to tell you the difference between a PhD and a DBA. A PhD is someone who studies theories or creates theories. A DBA is somebody who takes those theories and puts them into practice.
[03:42] I am used to taking stuff and being practical about it. I don’t want to be in my head all the time. The solutions that I have, the strategies that I come up with are actually to your benefit or to the benefit of my clients. My doctoral study topic is the essential strategies for recruits and organizational knowledge sharing through mentoring developers.
[04:02] I’m deep into this development stuff. I’m also in the process of writing a book, “How to Leverage Organizational Culture for Competitive Advantage.” For those who don’t know me, I’m a big disrupter. I believe in disruption. It wasn’t that I came into this space about disruption. I came into this space, because I was always interested in tech.
[04:26] I’m going to say this again being a black female. Not only am I underrepresented, which is about numbers. I’m in a marginalized group, which is about treatment. I found that trying to fit myself into the same mold as you white men just does not work. It does not work for me. It does not work for me, but it sucks. It so sucks. It so sucks.
[04:49] I said screw it. I’m going to do my own thing, which meant I needed to disrupt. For most people, when they talk about disruption, they talk about services and products. For me because of my background, I’m about education, about learning, and all these things. It’s about changing your mindset. It’s about changing how you approach problems, how you approach situations.
[05:10] As we move towards more automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, programmers ‑‑ you guys ‑‑ need to figure out ways to develop and leverage an essential, yet often overlooked, skill set…”What could she mean?”
[05:33] This is a post I did on Twitter, because I’m always talking about innovation, destruction, what’s coming and also the idea of being in an underrepresented and marginalized group that people always put me in “others.”
[05:50] Fellow programmers, white men and white women, Indian, whatever, you’re part of others when it comes to automation. Your jobs are at risk. What are you going to do about it? It doesn’t feel good to be an “other.”
[06:09] What you want to do is what I do is create my own space. We know that the CEO of GitHub left. He wants to talk about how to get noncoders to create products and services where they don’t have to code. People are already talking about this. He’s saying, “Why isn’t it happening already in software development?”
[07:11] We already know the value of a WordPress. Before I even got into tech, let me give you a little bit of background, I knew I was going to be a regular consumer of tech, but nobody in my space was telling me about being a producer of tech.
[07:28] I never saw myself as a producer of tech. I knew that I had an interest more than being a consumer of tech, because I [inaudible] the Apple Keynote not for the products but why they did certain things, answering certain questions.
[07:42] When I wanted to build a business I went on YouTube, Google “How to build a website,” and I followed YouTube videos or WordPress and they turned out to be damned good. I was like, “All right. Great.” I didn’t know a thing about code. I was like, “How do you compete? How do you compete?”
[08:02] This is where the business part of me comes in. There are only two effective ways to compete, either on price or on differentiation. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, they’re going to beat you on price. There’s no way in hell you’re going to out‑beat a machine that can work 24 hours, 7 days a week without taking a break.
[08:28] As programmers you must master differentiation, but you have a problem. Whether you’re working in an enterprise company or a one‑man show or you’re a multi‑person team, you need to start now thinking about identifying and marketing those points of differentiation that you have.
[08:52] If you’re that coder that sits in a corner with their headphones and not wanting to engage with anybody, you have nothing to differentiate yourself from. You’re going to be competing on price and you’re going to lose that game.
[09:08] As programmers you must develop a new skill set. Not even new, but a different skill set beyond programming to remain relevant, because this is an information economy. Before we had an industrial economy, where it was about what you could do.
[09:28] Now it’s about what you know, so you need to have human‑centric skills. I’m going to be honest with you, as a person who’s only been in this space for almost 40 years and have actively recruited, encouraged people to come into these spaces, your human‑centric skills suck.
Kim: [09:54] Oh, they suck so bad. Oh, my word. What happens is you use that as a checkbox. You say, “We brought them in, but they left,” because your skills sucked. Your culture sucked so bad. You had no idea how to be mentoring. Oh my god, you sucked.
[10:18] It’s their box so we checked their box. We brought it in. That’s no longer going to work. Google did a survey, and I’ve been talking about this for years, and to their surprise, stem cell…stem cells.
Kim: [10:37] Skilled expertise was dead last and they were looking at the skills that were, what’s the term they used? The [inaudible] , the Arabic, the…Whatever, I’m thinking it’s not. They basically were saying that stem cells…stem cells, lord have mercy. What is going on? [laughs] We’re not doing stem cells here.
[11:05] There is skilled expertise, the science, the technology, the engineering, the mathematics skills, were at the bottom of the list of the most important skills. That shocked them, because they just knew. These two geeks, tech guys, these two, coding guys just knew that were being progressive and innovative because they had great programmers.
[11:31] You know at Google, all they want to talk about when you come in for an interview, speaking to what you were saying earlier, talking where have you gone to school? Can you do this whiteboard, blah, blah, blah, blah, does not matter. That’s the bottom.
[11:46] What they’re saying is the skill that you need are not these…We’ll talk about these later but I do not like the term soft skills. Especially since most of you don’t have them, it’s got to be hard skills.
Kim: [12:04] These skills of being able to be a coach, communicating, listening, processing insight, all those things were more important than you being able to go to the keyboard and code. I don’t know how many alpha males are in here, but you know how you get a whole team of alpha males, and they start beating their chest and stunt like that.
[12:31] Although you are productive, you’re not the most productive teams in Google. The most productive teams in Google are people who people don’t think are that smart which is another thing that we have a [inaudible] . How we define what smart in this space defies me. We need to change that.
[12:59] They were saying this, and we see this it has to be these, again, these soft skills term, quality, generosity, curiosity, to empathy, emotional intelligence and emotional safety. There is not a lot of emotional safety in this space, at all. It’s very hard to have challenging conversations with people without people getting offensive or emotional about it.
[13:25] That’s one reason I do hash tag cause a scene, because I’ll just throw stuff on Twitter. I know it’s about to blow up some stuff. I don’t care. We need to talk about it. We need to start getting uncomfortable, getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, because when they’re removed to the next side of this thing to be through these things.
[13:44] There is something that’s missing. This whole hard skills is technical and soft skills is not technical. If I have to fill out one more CFP to ask me is this is a technical or non‑technical talk, I’m going to scream.
[14:00] Although the studies show that business success requires a set of skills beyond programming, they don’t address these things on the major barrier which is that we’ll never change tech until we change these terms we have. Soft skills equals non‑technical and not valued.
[14:23] When it comes to programming, considering…Programming is the only thing that considers technical, what happens is that soft skills are just thing that’s a nice to have. It’s damaging the health of our communities.
[14:39] I look at open‑source projects, and I’m just like, “Oh my God, their community soul sucks. They don’t even know how to talk to each other. They don’t know that this is a platform where there is a lot of nuances that are missing, because you don’t have the personal in front of you, you don’t have tonation, and all these things. Just how stuff blows up or just gets misinterpreted. These things are damaging our communities.
[15:09] I did two keynotes at a note conference last year. I accepted right before it all blew up on Twitter last year. I actually had to call them and say, “Hey, I’m not going to be safe, because I’ve never seen such hate and vile stuff coming out of Reddit. I don’t hang out on those spaces.”
[15:29] It was like, “Oh my god what are they…This is a technology. Why are we acting like somebody threw a baby out the window?” People get really serious about these things, and it’s damaging our community, and it’s damaging our ability to bring in underrepresented and marginalized communities and members in.
[15:48] I’m going to keep harping on that, because White man, you cannot create quality services for a global market from your perspective alone. It’s not going to happen. It’s going to start hitting you on your body hard.
[16:00] Non‑technical content does not hold the same value, as I said, and so it’s that rather it’s nice to have, but it’s not a must have. That’s a problem. Due to the current…We devalue so much that, as was talked about at an opening presentation, no one is talking about ethics, no one is talking about how to help someone develop these skills that I will be talking about beyond programming.
[16:28] All we focus on and see is programs and other stimulus education, boot camps, all these things, is learning this thing. We don’t talk about the nuances of this thing has to affect humans.
[16:45] This is what we’re experiencing in our organizations and communities right now. I’m a big person. I’m a researcher. I’m a big person, I admit to find something in Google in a minute, because I feel that if everybody says what this term is together, then there is no reason and no opportunity to say, “I didn’t understand. That didn’t make sense to me. I have a previous definition.”
[17:08] We’re going to clear all that up. For me, not even for me, technical means relating to a particular subject. That’s all technical is.
[17:23] Alrighty, oops, it’s the technology. It’s the machinery equipment. We need to be careful our terms. The fact that I am very ‑‑ I’m going to be calling everything, I don’t care ‑‑ I’m very good at what I do.
[17:45] I have been able to deescalate certain things. I’ve been able to negotiate certain relationships, I’ve been able to a whole bunch of things that a lot of you in this room will find very uncomfortable, because they were uncomfortable for me, but I had the skill set to do all of them.
[18:00] Which meant that was technical expertise. The thing that I may have been using, if it were a game, or if it were email, or a slap, or an approach. That would be considered a technology that I was using to solve that technical problem.
[18:22] April Wenzel recently said, “Emotional intelligence…” She was talking about emotional intelligence. She said, “Let’s replace the term ‘soft skills’ with ‘catalytic skills.'” Dr. Kaku was talking about, “Your goal should be to become an intellectual capitalist being that person with the skill set that cannot be easily replaced by robots, AI, and machine learning.”
[18:54] This morning, Ask Gail, “All problems become people problems.” This is what we need to remember. I love…this is my third Clojure conference, but I’m going to tell you the truth. No one in the real world gives a crap about Clojure.
Kim: [19:17] Ooh, ouch, did that hurt?
[19:36] These are the skills. I’m going to let that sit there for a minute. Because I need you to assess, do you have any of these skills? None of this talks about programming. This came out of the recent World Economic Forum last month. This is not old data.
[19:57] We’re talking about complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management, coordinating with others, emotional intelligence, judgment decision making, service orientation, negotiation and cognitive flexibility.
[20:17] Those are the skills for the 21st‑century workforce. None of these skills can be easily replaced with our future technologies. As I said, in an industrial age it was about what you can do. In the information age, it’s about what you know.
[20:37] That’s why I’m studying knowledge share within organizations. That’s very important. When we talk about explicit knowledge…explicit knowledge is that knowledge that can easily be documented. Put it in a manual. You can write documentation about your trial to service. You can put a binder. That’s what explicit knowledge is easily documented and shared.
[21:06] Explicit knowledge can and will be the thing that’s automated. Tacit knowledge, on the other hand, is that stuff that’s hard to coordinate. It’s hard to capture. It’s that thing that makes me do my job better than Billy doing his job. We’re doing the same job.
[21:28] It doesn’t even have to be better. It’s different. You know when you get something. Then you do it a few times and you get a process in place, but you can’t explain it to anybody else because this is your process. That’s tacit knowledge.
[21:42] What’s happening is, that’s the thing that would help us differentiate. We don’t want to compete with Walmart or Amazon on price. What we want to do is differentiate. It’s the tacit knowledge that allows businesses to differentiate because that’s the secret sauce to how they do stuff.
[22:04] You can have 10 trelos but if our secret sauce is this ‑‑ because are so concerned sometimes got to steal my cold basic…No one can replicate what you do. The problem is we’re not effectively getting that information from your head to your head. The organizational leaders are not being able to use that tacit knowledge to innovate to scale. You can’t scale one person.
[22:39] Programming is a skill. It’s explicit knowledge which is…It’s a commodity. It’s a commodity. What we forget is the programmer’s experience is the tacit knowledge. That’s what you need to be leveraging. That’s the secret sauce for you and the robots. You cannot call this.
[23:10] Conversations related to technology ‑‑ A to stick on B and whatever, blah, blah, blah, blah.
[23:18] Let me say, as I was saying to you last night. It was a decision I made not to become a programmer because I recognize that I have some skill sets that many people in this industry don’t have. You guys still bore the hell out of me! Of the conversations you’re talking about, this is talking about a tool. What you need to do is leverage the tool user.
[24:36] I want to go back to this. How many of you honestly can say that you have these skills? That you actively try to develop these skills? There you go, thank you. Thank you, exactly. That’s not enough hands up.
[25:03] It takes hard work to…That’s another reason why it just takes me way over there with their poly soft skills. Do you know what I have to deal with all or any of this? Do you know how challenging it is for me not to just want to go up to somebody and punch them in the face?
Kim: [25:23] You know? You get mansplained to. Say, “Dude, I just said that.” “No, that’s how we…” “Next!!” That’s exactly what I said. [laughs] Or I say something and someone says, “Oh. That was aggressive.” “No. Not aggressive at all,” as the black woman in the front laughs at that because she knows exactly of what we speak.
[25:52] We’re always called aggressive, intimidating, defensive. “No, I said no and that’s what I meant.” Just because you come of privilege and you disagree does not mean that it invalidates what I have to say.
[26:10] These are the things we deal with every single day. You want to call these “soft skills?” You need to develop these skills because without these skills, you have major problems.
[26:31] What I want to get to is a belief in providing…I never like to leave a stage without providing strategies. That’s just the educator in me. You identify a problem, identify a challenge and try to come up with strategies for that.
[26:48] One of the strategies, I can come up with tons of these. Seek opportunities to be a multi‑disciplined team. Go outside your comfort. I say this all the time. This could be my catchphrase. Learn to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. These, as you know, industries changing so much. What’s valid today is obsolete two years from now.
[27:20] Seek out these opportunities. If you don’t have, because, again, not many people raised their hands. This is your opportunity to develop that list of skills.
[27:31] Seek out to be on multi‑disciplined teams. That means coming out of your policed space. Heck, get on a team that’s dealing with a new HR policy. Something that has absolutely nothing to do with your job, but it provides value for you and everybody in your organization.
[27:57] Seek opportunities to mentor and be mentored. Again, this is where you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. What often it shows you, because I find people like, “Oh I don’t want to mentor people. They just don’t get it.”
[28:12] No, you have just have lost time because you’re just are really bad at explaining things. It’s you not them who just suck at this because everybody thinks they can teach. Dealing with learners is a whole different level. That’s one reason I have an issue with boot camps. When you have one curriculum, everybody has to learn the same way. Everybody has to learn the same pace.
[28:36] Most boot camps do that. I have people who understand learning theory, who’ve created the curriculums. They also don’t have processes in place for people who get behind. Or even get ahead.
[28:48] I’m a certified special needs teacher. I have all kinds of abilities in my classroom. Could I get away with…oh yeah, you just…no, that was my job. I had to make sure everybody got the information that they could get, they were able to get at their ability. There were no excuses for that.
[29:08] Being able to mentor, you’re going to have somebody who’s a little bit, “done that.” You are doing something, and they don’t understand why. It’s your job to recognize, to self‑reflect that if you can’t explain it, there’s a problem. You need to question why you’re using that tool or doing that thingy. If you don’t have a good enough reason, then maybe you shouldn’t be doing it anymore.
[29:30] Seek these as opportunities to grow and learn. I always tell my students this all the time. If you can teach it to somebody else, that proves to me you know it.
[29:43] Seek feedback for skills other than programming. This is hard for a lot of people. Because you’re not ‑‑ I don’t like again so the ones who it’s about me because I’m on stage, so it is about me.
[29:54] I don’t like terms like Ninja. Rockstar. Blah, all those things. Again, Google found out that those people on the team are not their most effective employees. There’s a lot of ego going on. There’s a lot of all kinds of stuff. What it does, is it closes people off.
[30:15] When you are looking for feedback, that Rockstar or that Ninja. If we’re not talking about programming, you might get your feelings hurt.
[30:28] You might get your feelings hurt, but it’s OK. How often do you learn from success? Most people don’t really because they don’t evaluate. They don’t go back and say, “This is what we did, this is how it worked, this is how we’ll replicate.” Most people learn their greatest lessons through pain. It’s unfortunate, but that’s what happens.
[30:50] When you get embarrassed, when you’ve done something, when you’ve cost your company some money, you better be damned sure you’re not going to make that mistake again. It’s OK in this space, because it has a reputation, it has an ethos, it has a DNA of mistakes, of getting feedback from failure, so use that.
[31:14] If you don’t recognize it, take some stranger, somebody in your…Not a stranger. [inaudible] . Somebody who’s not afraid of you, somebody who doesn’t feel that they would be jeopardized by being honest with you and take them that list and have them evaluate, “Hey, you look up some certain things. This is what critical thinking is, how do I rate on these skills?” Be willing to take the feedback and be willing to do something about it.
[31:49] Offer to write documentation. Documentation is one of the most inclusive things you can do in a community, because it’s something that you have to think about the user and not yourself. It also should be a living document which is updated often. Documentation should not be looked at as something that’s done once or twice and it’s done.
[32:13] Documentation is something that should be done constantly. If you can’t explain it and you get issues or pain points where people are like, “I don’t get this,” you have a problem. You have an issue with effective communication at least in textual form and maybe some other things.
[32:34] Writing documentation gives you the empathy of understanding, of putting yourself in the place of a user and how they’re going to…I hate when they’re learning, “Hmm, [inaudible] thing.” Did you read the documentation?” “Yeah, it didn’t make sense, so I’m coming to you.”
Kim: [32:58] There is no reason to be a jerk. If you wrote it for somebody other than yourself then maybe I can understand it. Spend some time in the customer support department. Put on that special headphones, click that button and hear [screams] and figure it out.
Kim: [33:25] I would be that support person, I would put you in that seat, and I’ll just go back like this, [laughs] “Yeah, I heard what they said.” As programmers you’re arrogant. You think you wrote the code and, “I’m done with the code, I’m done with this thing.” I love the whole thing, “It works. It works on my computer.” That’s a problem in this industry.
[34:01] We need to spend time talking to and listening to our customers, hearing their pain points. Look at that list of every year that comes out, like that 2017 list of products that got a whole bunch of VC capital and failed, because they sucked. They weren’t businesses. They were just some product the…Oh, my lord, what is it? I can’t think of the…
Kim: [34:31] No, no, the one that starts with B, the places in New York…Yes, the portable bodegas. They didn’t…No one. “Well, we did so…” “Yeah, but you’re dealing with white folks.”
Kim: [34:55] I love the one with the pouch and they show you just [inaudible] . [laughs] That was a whole bunch of [inaudible], because that machine was absolutely worthless at that point. You need to listen to your customers. Lunch‑and‑learns with nonprogramming staff. They have no freaking idea what you’re doing.
Kim: [35:25] They’re like, “Oh my gosh. Oh my god. I don’t know what they’re doing. I have to manage these fools and I don’t know what they’re doing.” Think about this. Think about how many of guys you get recruiting emails for stuff that you’re not interested in or they say they need five years of Swift and we know Swift hasn’t been around for five years…
Kim: [35:54] because somebody just had some database, somebody in HR not their fault, they don’t know what you do. Somebody gave them some parameters. That’s the whole constant here because we still say that’s the thing that when the majority of people are learning the code are not learning from college programs, they’re not getting CS degrees.
[36:16] It’s about, have a lunch‑and‑learn. You don’t have to get deep. You don’t have to get real geeked out. Computational thinking. Just tell them about what computation thinking is because they’re doing it in their jobs and they don’t understand it because they’re not using the same verbiage.
[36:36] If you can talk about computational thinking and connect it to what you are doing, then they can see that you’ve built a bridge. You’re not those weird guys, women, whatever, over there who are [inaudible] .
[36:48] Participate in their lunch‑and‑learns. You’re not that freaking busy. You can take your sandwich and go listen to them. That call’s not going anywhere. Participate in job sharing or job swapping. Now that’s a good one. Oh, oh, I would love for some of you guys to go sit at the reception desk. You would lose your minds. You would not be able to handle it.
[37:23] Do you know how much crap receptionists take? That’s the first line of defense at every company. They are the gatekeepers. They’ve got to keep people out, they’ve got to know who to let in, when to let them in, they get blamed for everything.
[37:37] Do that job for a day or just shadow somebody in another department because you might want to understand how these things work. Definitely. Go into marketing. Go into sales, because these are the people who are spin masters.
[37:57] You’re creating a product, and this is what gets to me when I’m talking about business, and I’m going to say this here, “A product or a service is not a business, it’s a product and a service.” If you don’t have underlying systems, processes, procedures and policies in place that can scale, evolve and recover, you do not have a business.
[38:20] This is why many VCs are like, “They just came in and they took those people [inaudible] ,” because all they have is a product or a service. They don’t know how to make a business out of it. They don’t have a business. They don’t have a foundation to grow anything. If you want to be relevant, find out what’s happening in marketing, sales and HR.
[38:40] Think about that. Somebody with programming experience, if they could transition into HR, woo, that’s a bonus. Think about that. If you can go in there and look at their system and say, “Oh, that’s not how that…” and do it in a nice way, “Oh, we can go in there and do a more efficient way to do that,” because your thinking is different than theirs.
[39:08] Think about the heroes you can be in that and what that would allow you to do. Speak at conferences about something other than your technology people. We need people to talk about something other than technology. These are human‑centric skills.
[39:23] I know everybody at these conferences, they’re like, “We got surveys back and they say they don’t want beginner level things, and duh, duh, duh, duh.” We’re talking about closing in on diversity, you just eliminated a whole set of people when you do not have beginner content, when you have content that is only about technology. What you want to do is create a community.
[39:54] Think about if you went…No, no, no, I was going to say, “You went to…” OK, not with your regular friends, but you went to Thanksgiving dinner and all you talked about…If you started talking about your technology, somebody at that table at some point will say, “Could you please shut up?”
[40:13] You have to be more well‑versed than just that. Also think about doing things, socializing with nonprogramming staff.
[40:30] We do too much drinking and drinking gets us in trouble. I know we’re in New Orleans, so I pray you don’t act stupid tonight. Drinking impairs decision‑making. We don’t need the research. All of us at some point, I don’t want to say “all,” many of us in this room have been impaired by alcohol.
[40:54] We need to be doing things with our nonprogramming peers that do not involve alcohol, so that you can have a conversation, you can get to know people, they can get to know you. Volunteer to teach programming to someone from an underrepresented or marginalized group.
[41:17] I love how you have a panel or a conference thing and it’s all white men and they’ll sprinkle in some white women in there and they’ll think that’s diverse. Let me say this, “When we talk about women are making gains in tech, let us be clear, white women are making gains in tech.” Everybody else is falling behind.
[41:43] That’s again the difference between underrepresented and marginalized. Find a church, an after‑school program, your kid’s friends, something, and teach them at least computational thinking, because they’re going to need it. If nothing else, share your excitement. I’m going to be honest, I had never heard of these two books until last night.
Kim: [42:11] They were not even on my radar, but the excitement that you nerds had about these two books and the authors, oh my God. I have never seen people in this age this freaking excited.
Kim: [42:28] It was like the Second Coming. I was like, “What the hell is this?” As I talked to one of the authors and I talked to somebody else I recognized, “This is connected to the stuff I do as well.”
[42:45] You don’t have to get into the very technical parts of these books. From what I understand, you got through chapter three of this, people around you would have a better idea of not only seeing themselves as consumers of tech but producers of tech. Then the whole point with this was there were a whole bunch of nontechnical people in the class.
[43:11] Share in your excitement, share in your enthusiasm, because when you guys start talking technology, you can get really freaking boring. My face just glaze over, it’s just like, “Oh my god.” When you play games at night and all that stuff, you guys really come out of your shells. People want to see that.
[43:40] In closing, if you want to survive the robots you have to be able to do something more than be a commodity and programmer. You have to see value in developing human‑centric skills that not only help you but help all of our organizations and communities.
Eric: [44:19] Thank you so much. I don’t know where to start. Thank you so much for that. I don’t know where to start. I have a few questions. If you have questions, start writing them down, passing them to the volunteers. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that was the first dictionary definition at that programmer conference.
Kim: [44:51] [inaudible] decision. I want to make sure before we start we’re on the same terms.
Eric: [44:55] You nailed it. That’s what we do. You talked about a difficulty with businesses about scaling tacit knowledge. That the person is there, they know how to do all this stuff and then they leave, or they’re just one person and they can’t do everything. What would you recommend for businesses that want to scale like that?
Kim: [45:18] That’s one reason why my doctoral study is about mentoring. That’s one great way of providing…Tacit knowledge, I use this term, comes from lived experience. When I do something, just like you have a mom who has this recipe, she really is not following the recipe, the recipe is right there but she [snaps fingers] has her thing going, she knows. The recipe and what she’s doing is not the same.
[45:53] For her to be able to tell you that is a challenge, so mentoring is a great way for organizational leaders to…The problem is in the information economy, and I talk about this also, you talk about definitions, all of us can Google and get definitions or we can Google something.
[46:13] Our perspective and how we internalize and perceive that, it can have all different kinds of meanings. If I Google “dogs jumping,” we can all get the same first hit, but how I respond or how I, what is the word I’m looking for, engage with that is different.
[46:35] Somebody can say, “Oh that dog looks happy,” or, “Oh, that dog looks like it’s on drugs,” that kind of thing. Information is absolutely nothing. We are inundated with information. It’s knowledge that we need and knowledge is what tacit knowledge is.
[46:53] What a lot of organizations are doing is they’re still using the old industrial industry thing of, “You’ve got to make tacit knowledge.” That’s why people have so many manuals…I mean explicit knowledge. Tacit knowledge is so hard to grasp, but it’s the thing that makes you different. It’s the thing that helps your business to just be so differentiated that it does not matter what they do.
[47:16] Again, mentoring, job shadowing, writing documentation, any way…Videos. Have someone tell their story. That’s another thing. That’s one reason we need more people who are in underrepresented and marginalized communities, because we need to hear their perspectives.
[47:33] If, let’s say somebody’s working on a part of code and they have an intuitive way to figure that out, if they can record it and talk about their process that can be shared among the group. Think about nontraditional ways. They’re labor intensive and they cost money and that’s a big problem, because we don’t’ want to spend our resources, and we have to.
Eric: [48:01] Yeah, you talked, I think one of your first examples was about going on YouTube to figure out how to set up a website.
Kim: [48:08] My favorite website is a YouTube website.
Kim: [48:10] I actually just changed the colors around.
Eric: [48:13] There’s something about watching someone do it and explain what they’re doing as opposed to trying to read the manual where you might understand all the technical little bits of everything going on in the manual but you still don’t know, I don’t know, some tacit knowledge about, “Don’t click that, you’ve got to do this thing first.”
Kim: [48:37] Also, it’s about learning styles. I learn better by…Even when I’m writing my doctoral studies, I need to read something that I’ve written. I will put it on text to speech so I can hear it while I read it, because I will pick up, “There needs to be a comma there,” or that kind of thing.
[48:55] Some people can read a manual and it…Some people just love books. But I can’t learn like that from a book. You also have to keep those things in mind and that’s so complex.
Eric: [49:06] Do you think that’s innate or is it learned?
Kim: [49:10] What specifically?
Eric: [49:12] Not being able to learn from a book.
Kim: [49:14] I think people have preferences.
Eric: [49:15] Being able to learn from a book.
Kim: [49:19] People have preferences. Also, it can be forced upon you. Think about certain things like in schools…Oh, in schools. We are doing our babies a disservice. This is always my PSA. OK, I don’t like your kids at all…
Kim: [49:38] and I don’t like you as parents of your kids. This is why. You’ve told your kids how special they are and they’re not. No one thinks they’re special outside your family. What you’re doing to them is creating a situation where they can’t cope with real life. They have a hard time.
[49:57] I’m never impressed with AP classes, they’re taking AP or Honors, because what they know how to do is pass a test. If I put those same four questions in a different order, most of them can’t figure it out or if I give them an open‑ended, they can’t figure it out.
[50:12] Also, you don’t want to rescue them too quickly. They need to fall, hurt themselves, make some mistakes before you come in and rescue them. That is how they develop those skills we’re talking about. They’re not developing these skills because they aren’t…
[50:28] In school now, most of us are either my age, a little bit younger, a little bit older, so you knew you had to go to the library. The Dewey Decimal System. Do you know how much critical thinking it took?
[50:43] I had five dollars I had to go and look at 40 books off the shelf, reference books I couldn’t take home, other books were two dollars a hit. I had to make critical thinking, “What pages?” A copy is 25 cents. There was some thinking going on there. Our students…
Eric: [51:04] Their grade is on the line.
Kim: [51:07] That’s another issue. I never cared about my grades like that because we talked about this last night. In school it’s efficient for them to rank students because it’s easier for the system when you rank and that’s why all the testing.
[51:21] We don’t rank each other in real life, so it’s an artificial environment. Anything you can do to shake your student up so they can see what a real environment is and not that artificial, “We, we were ranked and we were tested and we’re…”
[51:37] No one cares where you went to college if you’re not a doctor or something. Come on. No one cares. Go have fun. Graduate. Get out of there.
Eric: [51:49] Would you say that you should do the same in an interview? How would you look for these…?
Kim: [51:54] I don’t like our…
[51:57] A whiteboard is not a real work environment. Unless they’re trying to figure out a problem, no one’s going up to whiteboards and freaking out. It causes a lot of test anxiety. This is also, get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
[52:14] One of the reasons that a lot of white men pass things, particularly young, is because they have the time to study for things. When you’re talking about people from underrepresented and marginalized communities, they usually have families, they have full‑time jobs.
[52:26] They don’t have time to study for a Google whiteboard beta test. They don’t have time, so they’ll never do well with that. It’s like the SAT and ACT. They lean toward privilege. You already come in at a [inaudible] . I’m just saying, be aware of these things. Come on, let somebody do an interview like they would in a real job.
[52:50] Now if you have them coding, you definitely should be paying them for their time. They should be doing nothing for free. Again, make it as real as possible. That’s the problem, because you could be rock stars and these ninjas that could pass these test, but then they go on there and they just screw up your whole community. Everybody’s like, “Where did this fool come from? They don’t play well with others.”
[53:20] It’s bigger than that. I would rather have a sit‑down, have a conversation with you and talk about, “Hey, this is a problem we have. How would you, what kind of things you would think about in solving that?” That would tell me something about how you process information, how you try to solve problems.
Eric: [53:38] This one’s going to need some context from Abby. It says, “Get started. Any ideas for addressing this?”
Audience Member: [53:47] Other side.
Eric: [53:48] There’s a whole…
Audience Member: [53:51] I was trying to [inaudible] .
Eric: [53:56] Sorry about that. I’ll read this in a second.
[54:01] Ryan asks, you mentioned in one of the bullet points that you should have someone evaluate you on what are your skills that’s not…
Kim: [54:11] non‑programming skills.
Eric: [54:12] Non‑programming skills.
[54:14] How would you go about that if they don’t really know you and your skills? How would you ask them to go about it?
Kim: [54:23] Oh, there are people. That’s why I was like…there are people around you who know you. Most people are just afraid to tell you. If you have a significant other, who you trust and you would not want to…
[54:38] You have to find someone who won’t spare your feelings. This is just brutally honest because what you want to do is grow from this. If there’s somebody who you have lunch with. It can be somebody in your department as long as they’re not evaluating you on your programming skills.
[54:53] It’s not about pulling some stranger off the street. Who do you, somebody that you go to work with and you commute together. Or some people know you and you’ve had conversations. They see how you have conversations about things that are not about programming and how you address, maybe, stress and stuff like that.
Eric: [55:22] What happens when something goes wrong in the office. When people do…
Kim: [55:27] You know what? I find that you gossip too much. Every time I look up, you’re stirring stuff up. You need to hear that. We need to stop. These can’t be sacred cows. Bottom line, if you aren’t doing this, you will be out of a job. Which one do you want to be? Do you want to be uncomfortable now or uncomfortable later? That, to me, is what it boils down to.
Eric: [55:51] What you’re really saying is to keep our jobs, we need to become more human. Not become more robotic because the robots are coming.
Kim: [56:01] You have to figure out you’re going to hit the right switch.
Eric: [56:02] You can out robot the robot.
Kim: [56:03] Exactly. You have to differentiate three ways from Wilson. Is that his name? Wilson? Winston? Watson. Watson, yes. You got to figure out how you’re going to edit an Echo, and [inaudible] , and Siri. She’s better. She did not understand. I didn’t think my accent was that bad.
Kim: [56:19] Lord! Siri and I, we fight all the time! It’s like, “dang it!” but Google understands me better. It depends on what I need to find out because I’m a bad speller. I’ll start with Siri and then I’ll say, “Screw Siri. She’s not going to get me. Let me go over here to Google.”
Eric: [56:36] All right, so you said that tacit knowledge is really important and it’s all about experience. Does that create a catch 22 where you can’t get hired, because you don’t have that experience? How do you get the experience without getting hired?
Kim: [56:58] Tacit knowledge is not about that kind of experience. Tacit knowledge is about…it’s not even just…I always choose not to think about the tacit knowledge of you as a programmer or of using the technology. I want you to think of yourself as the tacit knowledge of using processes that make the decision to use their top technology in that way. That’s transferable all over the place.
[57:27] Again, you’re developing those skills. It’s not about the technology. This is the technology. As Kim I’m coming to this with my tacit knowledge. This is the problem I have to solve. The bottom line is, as a programmer, you’re being hired to solve problems. If a computer can solve those problems better than you, there’s a problem.
[57:44] You want to say, “OK, I have a problem. These are my technologies. I’m choosing this technology, because I know or I think I’m going to experiment with it because I think it can do this thing.” That’s the tacit knowledge. Why are you doing it? Why aren’t you using this thing? If you use the technology, use it differently than somebody else.
[58:04] That’s the tacit knowledge that you have. That’s the thing that you can take to another job or say, “I solve these problems. I use these tools. This is the reason why I use these tools.”
Eric: [58:20] It’s the kind of skill you can develop at any job?
Kim: [58:23] Yes.
Eric: [58:23] Just being with people and OK.
Kim: [58:25] Yes.
Eric: [58:28] All right, so this is my question. The last one was the Abby question. I’m 36, so people my age, like programmers you had to be a nerd. You had to have a computer at home. Not everyone had a computer. You had to like…
Kim: [58:52] You had to have privilege. Let’s start there.
Eric: [58:54] Yes.
Kim: [58:54] You had to have privilege. I’m sorry.
Eric: [58:56] You had to afford the computer. I had my own, so that’s another level of privilege. I had the time to just sit there, work on it and learn stuff. I find that those are the people who companies often look for is this nerd. Someone who’s the traditional idea of the hacker, is just like super into programming, and just do it for free. If they would, if they could.
[59:31] Now we’re kind of running out of those people. The industry is growing faster than that segment of people. We’re trying new ways of bringing people in.
Kim: [59:42] I’m going to challenge that. [inaudible] those people are not as valuable anymore. Those skills, you being a hacker, is not as valuable to a company as the idea of me. To look at the research, the research shows that teams with all these hacker people on there are not as productive as a team of being everybody’s not an expert.
[60:09] There is people who are [inaudible] out. They do well with PhDs building algorithms and that kind of thing. There are those people. Think of every business doesn’t need a person who can do an algorithm. They need [inaudible] Clojure and do something with it.
[60:25] We don’t need that high level of people. What we need are people with human‑centric skills because those are the people who drive innovation. Those are the people that allow you to be competitive. Those are the people who are always testing stuff.
[60:43] That’s the issue. It’s not that they’re not enough. Everybody does not need a high level thinker to create a technical business.
Eric: [60:53] What I’ve noticed is people that, I guess, traditionally would be called newbies. They’ve got a much richer perspective on the human side of things than the person who’s been in the industry for 10 years and been programming in their spare time since they were 13.
Kim: [61:17] We need to figure out a better bridge for those newbies to get the skills they need to become efficient, effective, and productive people on teams.
Eric: [61:31] Is there a minimum technology bar that they need to get over, and then once it’s that, it’s mostly human, meaning they know…
Kim: [61:40] No, because when we’re talking about AI and machine learning, they need to be thinking about that all the way through. Thank you for this question, because this is where I’m passionate about. If I trip over the stage, most people assume that there’s something that I tripped over.
[62:03] We assume causality. We’ll say, “Oh, so you come out, and like what did she trip over?” Not thinking I could have be drunk. I could have an inner ear infection. There could be various reasons that I tripped. We automatically assign causation, it’s called organizational anthropology, instead of digging in and doing the hard work to see where the root of these things are.
[62:29] When we do that, we build. You cannot have…Oh, please. This is the problem when you’re talking about ethics. It’s challenging having resources [inaudible] have these things upfront, but the long‑term effect is better than now going back and trying to fix things.
[62:53] This is a conversation we had last night about C, about all the problems that C has. Now it’s in everything. You can’t go back and fix all of that. Had they been thinking about these, you don’t want to wait. These are things you need to be thinking about at the beginning.
Eric: [63:07] Now it’s cheaper now.
Kim: [63:08] Exactly, and people are like, “Oh.” Yes, exactly. It’s a whole lot cheaper now. There is going to be labor‑ and resource‑intensive upfront, but the long‑term effect is better. As we’re talking to newbies, we need to be talking to them.
[63:25] We cannot create AI machine learning that has, and I’m not even going to say unconscious bias, because it’s just bias. To try to go back and take that out? The research is showing that that’s damn near impossible.
[63:44] Let’s deal with those things now upfront. Let’s have multi‑disciplinary teams who are challenging each other and say, “No, that part bec‑, no, that, that would have some long‑term effects.”
[63:54] That’s why we need to bring in the humanities into this and value people who have humanities degrees. They’re trained to think these long‑term things. That’s why I love history. We’re trained to think in these long‑term things, instead of you’re always trying to solve complex problems with simple solutions.
[64:12] That gets us in trouble all the time, but now it’s affecting a global population that we have no right to do that.
Eric: [64:26] Wow, OK. There’s a few more questions here. I think you answered that. What about people who have innate communication problems? Handicaps.
Kim: [64:54] Of what?
Eric: [64:54] Handicaps.
Kim: [64:55] Yeah, disabilities. I started a group called The Spectrum Codes, and you can find it on Twitter. It’s a group of people who are on an autism spectrum. I’m working with other people to help them get jobs in tech. As a special needs teacher, it pisses me off to no end that if their ability was to greet at Wal‑Mart, I have no problem with that.
[65:14] Many of my students have greater ability, but because their case managers didn’t understand anything about tech, their parents didn’t understand anything about…
[65:21] No one in their space was talking about tech. They are in situations where they could not take care of a family if they wanted to. They could not be independent even if they want to. One of my persons who are in this group, his name is Bennett. When we first met, he was stocking shelves at a grocery store.
[65:41] Now, he is working in a technical support system, and he wants to do his first presentation how people with disabilities, how they maneuver this support system. I’m thinking, “That’s mind‑blowing,” because that the conversations that so many companies need to hear. Coming from a person with a disability who has a neurodiverse disability, he could educate so many people.
[66:09] If he could start doing that as a consultant or whatever, think about how he could change his life. I do this once a month we meet. One of them, she’s advocating for people with disabilities in the workplace. She’s going to be…I can’t even say that. Never mind, because it has to…
[66:30] She’ll be doing her first presentation very soon. I advocate strongly. When we talk about inclusion and diversity, it’s not just about gender or race. It’s all the other ways that we exclude people, be it by disability, be it by sexual orientation, be it by “Everything we do is in English.”
[66:51] I’m actually working with some people in El Salvador, helping them build a business. We’re building a platform that people can ask questions in whatever language they have, and it could be translated, or having meetings where you have international staff and you’re only concerned about your time zone. That is exclusionary.
[67:13] There are all kinds of ways that we exclude people who say we want to be a part of our teams.
Eric: [67:16] How are we doing on time?
Kim: [67:17] We’re over.
Eric: [67:17] Seven over. Any last questions?
[67:25] Again, Kim, thanks.
Kim: [67:33] Thank you.