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Programmer Privilege

Soulskill posted about 3 months ago | from the overlooked-inequality dept.

Programming 353

An anonymous reader writes "Philip Guo, an Asst. Professor of Computer Science at the University of Rochester, has written a thoughtful article on his education in programming. Guo explains that he was no particular coding wizard while growing up, but when he jumped into a CS major when he went to college at MIT, he received all sorts of passive and active encouragement — simply because he 'looked the part.' He says, 'Instead of facing implicit bias or stereotype threat, I had the privilege of implicit endorsement. For instance, whenever I attended technical meetings, people would assume that I knew what I was doing (regardless of whether I did or not) and treat me accordingly. If I stared at someone in silence and nodded as they were talking, they would usually assume that I understood, not that I was clueless. Nobody ever talked down to me, and I always got the benefit of the doubt in technical settings.' Guo compares this to the struggles faced by other minority groups and women to succeed in a field that is often more skeptical of their abilities. 'I want those people to experience what I was privileged enough to have gotten in college and beyond – unimpeded opportunities to develop expertise in something that they find beautiful, practical, and fulfilling.'"

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353 comments

How long would that last... (2, Insightful)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 3 months ago | (#45969027)

If you actually didn't know what you were doing and they tasked you to accomplish something?

Not very long.

Frankly, this is another story about nothing.

Re:How long would that last... (5, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | about 3 months ago | (#45969077)

Well, that depends on the organization. In better companies, bullshit artists get washed out almost immediately. At Microsoft, they can end up running the company.

-jcr

Re:How long would that last... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969145)

Well, that depends on the organization. In better companies, bullshit artists get washed out almost immediately. At Microsoft, they can end up running the company.

-jcr

The government is staffed by bullshit artists. They thrive and get ahead. The truly productive people wash-out due to the terrible co-workers and lack of support from management. I lived it and suffered the consequences.

Re:How long would that last... (2)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 3 months ago | (#45969561)

Me too. It's heartbreaking. There's some insanely cool (and not-immoral) stuff to do in the Government, but few sane and competent programmers would stay there. I'm still sad that I had to leave just so I could actually get software developed.

Re:How long would that last... (2)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about 3 months ago | (#45969693)

[all large organisations] are staffed by bullshit artists. They thrive and get ahead. The truly productive people wash-out due to the terrible co-workers and lack of support from management. I lived it and suffered the consequences.

Government is not magic.

Re:How long would that last... (0)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 3 months ago | (#45969269)

That owed almost entirely to his relationship with Bill gates. Everyone else at the company needs to actually know something.

Re:How long would that last... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969271)

Instant karma on this cesspit: say something meaninglessly facile about Microsoft.

Say what you like about Ballmer - and I'll say he's a fat cunt who's well behind the times - he's been at Microsoft since the days long before they could afford dead wood, and he worked his way into a position where he became a CEO and, for a while, was an extremely successful CEO. Hard to do that if you're nothing but "bullshit".

Re:How long would that last... (3, Funny)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about 3 months ago | (#45969379)

Whilst at Microsoft, his job was as a salesman ... that's the very definition of bullshit.

Re:How long would that last... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969421)

touche

Re:How long would that last... (2)

theoriginalturtle (248717) | about 3 months ago | (#45969523)

Agreed, but in a lot of organizations, the hiring takes place with less-technical management, or in contract situations, with a task manager or project manager whose performance metric is billed hours. It can sometimes take weeks or even months for their real working team to figure out they just got an unadaptable-but-smooth shit-talkerdropped on them from above, and sometimes even longer to convince management to do anything about it.

I got such a person dropped on me around 1999: interviewed well, I and my team were not part of the process, and he showed up knowing almost nothing about our environment or the tech. Took me six months to get rid of him, time during which he wrote essentially no usuable code, and time which he spent half the day on his cell phone.

We later figured out he basically used those six months setting up a deal to gonback to China and set up his own business.

Re:How long would that last... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969831)

Hey retard, you don't need to sign your messages, 'jcr' appears 2x already in the standard header you fucking idiot.

Re:How long would that last... (1, Insightful)

Bite The Pillow (3087109) | about 3 months ago | (#45969103)

Body language can convey intelligence or ignorance, and explains this experience far better.
It's actually quite interesting, if that is the explanation, because he is clueless about the real reason and attributes it to a stereotype. Projecting, in psychological terms.

Re:How long would that last... (2)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 3 months ago | (#45969241)

Body language can convey intelligence or ignorance, and explains this experience far better.
It's actually quite interesting, if that is the explanation, because he is clueless about the real reason and attributes it to a stereotype. Projecting, in psychological terms.

I think it's really a combination; physical stereotype will only take you so far, but if you complement it with body language, people tend to give you the benefit of the doubt even if the results say they shouldn't. Confidence artists have used this combination for generations.

On his part, I'm sure his physical looks helped him to train his body language to suit the situation. This is something I see a lot -- if someone's supposed to be a "dumb blonde" they'll often acquire the body language over time to fit the part -- even if they've got an IQ of 150. It's partially because we pick up body tells from the people we associate with, and people tend to associate with people (by default) who look like they do.

Re:How long would that last... (1)

jythie (914043) | about 3 months ago | (#45969365)

Which often becomes a bit of a cycle which results in people (starting as children) fill the roll that people assume they will fill.

Re:How long would that last... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969291)

>Body language can convey intelligence or ignorance

But body language is not universal. As a westerner, it before learned to interpret the Indian "Head Bobble", I felt I wasn't understood. I interpreted the body language 100% wrong, just because it's not the body language that a white guy would use.

Re:How long would that last... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969441)

What does the head bobble mean? I see it, but honestly don't know what message it's sending. Maybe I'm seeing a different motion though; I often see coworkers move their head both back and forth and up and down while they're talking, both nodding and negating at the same time.

Re:How long would that last... (5, Insightful)

johnlcallaway (165670) | about 3 months ago | (#45969381)

This has happened to me when I've talked in a 'stream of consciousness' about something I didn't know, but was guessing, and had people ask me questions later about the subject matter. When we sort things out that I'm not the expert they think, I've been told that I sounded very confident about what I was saying, which is why they thought I knew what I was talking about. I've since learned to interject comments like "I'm not sure" or "it might be something like this" to make sure people don't take things I say as facts when I'm only guessing.

I'm just an old, overweight white guy so it can't be an Asian thing for me.

I don't know where I heard it, but it seems to apply far too often: An expert is just someone who you think knows more than you do about something.

Re:How long would that last... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969641)

Sounds like you talk from inspiration and intuition. Don't confuse that with ignorance, but don't stop second-guessing yourself either.

One the other end of the scale there's those who always say they don't know and that YOU should ask the other group. Terribly annoying when that other group say the same thing..

I'd much rather like to have slightly wrong heated opinions, than just shrugs, indifference, and at the end, blaming.

Re:How long would that last... (1)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about 3 months ago | (#45969207)

I don't know, I've known some pretty amazing bullshit artists in my time. You would be amazed at how many times you can get away with "Interesting. What do YOU think?" in a pinch.

Re:How long would that last... (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about 3 months ago | (#45969721)

Replace them with Eliza.

"My head hurts" with "Why do you say your head hurts?" A possible response to "My mother hates me" would be "Who else in your family hates you?"

Re:How long would that last... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969221)

I am certain there are very few jobs that you couldn't BS your way through at least a year by just Googling things.

Re:How long would that last... (5, Funny)

Kookus (653170) | about 3 months ago | (#45969285)

Exactly! *nods head*

Re:How long would that last... (1)

Workaphobia (931620) | about 3 months ago | (#45969765)

"'Tis better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."

What the hell does that mean? Better say something or they'll think you're stupid.

Re:How long would that last... (4, Insightful)

preaction (1526109) | about 3 months ago | (#45969287)

Sometimes it's getting tasked to do something that teaches you how to do it. If you appear incompetent to the eyes of the taskmaster, you won't get the chance to even try.

In an old retail job, a boss of mine told me he got where he was by saying "Yes, I know how to do that" to everything that was ever asked of him, and basically learning how to do it on the spot (driving a forklift, for example).

If you can do a passable job while learning, you can do it better next time.

Re: How long would that last (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969315)

There are plenty of technologies that I am asked to work with every now and then that I haven't touched before. That doesn't mean I cannot simply go along with what is being said then do my research into the topic. That is what it sounds like he was doing, not just bullshitting.

Isn't this all of us? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969431)

How many times have you been hired for your "skills" only to have the direction changed and you find yourself cramming for other tech from books you Fedex'd from Amazon (in the old days we went to Borders because they had an AWESOME tech section - immediately - NO extra overnight charges. (Yeah, and they served onion belts at their coffee bar...)) ?

Signs of ignorance in this very broad and expansive profession is a sign of stupidity. One MUST know EVERYTHING in CS or else you are labled as stupid or worse - unqualified.

You know, it's been 20 years since my degree, and I was asked to code Fibonacci numbers.

I couldn't even remember WTF they are because I spent my last 20 years soving REAL problems!

Of course I was cast aside for being unqulified and stupid.

Whatever.

All YOU people who say you can't get qualified people are the morons.

Re:How long would that last... (4, Insightful)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | about 3 months ago | (#45969647)

Not very long.

Um...22 years next Tuesday.

Part of the beauty of a software development career is that you're constantly asked to do things that you don't necessarily know how to do. When has a customer ever contacted a developer and asked "Can you do this very common thing that everybody can do in their sleep?" - Never! The question is always "We have this incredibly technical thing we want done, and nobody here knows how to do it - can you figure it out?" (paraphrasing, of course)

It's always new and refreshing. I find the challenges invigorating - and often I find myself up until all hours because I've come to an understanding of something new and I want to see it to completion (or a good stopping point).

Every task, every day, every job is a triumph.

I even find it enjoyable to explain to my customers that I don't know how to do something. Part of the explanation includes my excitement to learn how to accomplish it. If I've explained it right, they're as excited for me to do the work as I am. They have a desire to see the job done - and so do I, but for entirely different reasons.

One of the greatest joys is learning how many developers before me declined to try, or tried and failed. For my last contract, my customer explained that I was the 5th developer they contacted - and the only one to submit a proposal.

The software went live Monday, and I couldn't be happier. My customer is in a pretty good mood too.

Re:How long would that last... (0)

SirGarlon (845873) | about 3 months ago | (#45969779)

No, this is a story about the inclusiveness of the computing profession. The sort of thing that, on Slashdot, attracts a bunch of +5 comments saying "why should anyone care about that?"

More garbage (4, Insightful)

danheskett (178529) | about 3 months ago | (#45969071)

Will the never ending garbage ever cease? The truth is he might have not felt qualified, but he was admitted to the CS program at MIT, one of the few elite CS departments that really means you are at least +1SD above average IQ, and quite likely +2SD or +3SD.

The entire article is just naked assertion:

[M]icro-inequities often had serious cumulative, harmful effects, resulting in hostile work environments and continued minority discrimination in public and private workplaces and organizations. What makes micro-inequities particularly problematic is that they consist in micro-messages that are hard to recognize for victims, bystanders and perpetrators alike. When victims of micro-inequities do recognize the micro-messages it is exceedingly hard to explain to others why these small behaviors can be a huge problem.

This is garbage. We are scientists. Quantify, describe, theorize and prove. If you can't explain it, and you can't define it, and you can't trace it back, perhaps it's not real.

If someone came across my office for an interview talking about this vague non-specific garbage I would sent them over to copywriting or HR.

Re:More garbage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969209)

Hey Dan,
This weekend why don't you head on down to your closest 'hood' and try to get in on a decent level pickup basketball game. Please let me know how that turns out and if you feel that you were welcomed as an equal possessing equivalent skills

Re:More garbage (1)

danheskett (178529) | about 3 months ago | (#45969711)

This weekend why don't you head on down to your closest 'hood' and try to get in on a decent level pickup basketball game. Please let me know how that turns out and if you feel that you were welcomed as an equal possessing equivalent skills

I would, except, guess what, I am not very good at basketball, and you would know that looking at me.

Re:More garbage (1)

schlachter (862210) | about 3 months ago | (#45969211)

I would think being at MIT CS means +3SD minimum. Any CS department is likely to be mostly +1SD to +2SD students.

While I agree with your premise, you are foolish in dissing the sentences you quote.

We are not all scientists. Furthermore, we are not all hard science scientists. And there is meaning there. Why you gotta hate?

Re:More garbage (1)

pla (258480) | about 3 months ago | (#45969405)

We are not all scientists. Furthermore, we are not all hard science scientists. And there is meaning there. Why you gotta hate?

The author of TFA does claim that label. And, in an way oddly apropos to his premise, we ascribe to him the style and clarity of thinking that goes along with that label.

Funny, I wonder if that would annoy him.

Re:More garbage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969579)

I would think being at MIT CS means +3SD minimum.

Seriously?? Have you met those guys? There are as many idiots there as anywhere. MIT CS means "plays with computers all day", not some inherent increase in IQ... you take some "average" person and force them to spend as much time in front of a computer, they'd be most of the way to being fine at MIT too.

Re:More garbage (5, Insightful)

lgw (121541) | about 3 months ago | (#45969215)

"Privilege" is a term used by those who feel they didn't earn what they have, that really offends those who have earned what they have. Sure, no one earned their IQ, and in that sense any direct benefits you get from IQ are a sort of privilege, but you really can't get very far on IQ alone, any more than you can on natural good looks or physical strength.

You have to actually go do something useful and productive with you gifts to be rewarded once you leave school (and you'll discover there's far more to a programming job than abstract problem-solving) - at which point, if you're contributing more than the next guy, it's only just that you get more in return.

Re:More garbage (0)

i kan reed (749298) | about 3 months ago | (#45969295)

It offends people who don't want to be challenged on their assumption that they're god's gift to the world, just like mommy said.

Re:More garbage (3, Insightful)

lgw (121541) | about 3 months ago | (#45969747)

I find the opposite. It's the pampered well-to-do who most often sound off in Universities about "privilege" and its evils. And, hey, the concept probably applies to such.

Its the false logic of "some people gain success through an unearned advantage, therefore all success is unearned" that is quite offensive to those who worked hard and sacrificed significantly to get where they are.

We can recognize that some have an unearned advantage while also recognizing that success comes to others in a very deserved way.

Re:More garbage (4, Insightful)

jythie (914043) | about 3 months ago | (#45969389)

Though more commonly, it offends people who have their self image tied up in the idea that they fully earned what they have with no inherent advantages. Bring up the idea that some particular factor made things easier for them somehow invalidates everything else they have done in their minds.

Re:More garbage (4, Insightful)

lgw (121541) | about 3 months ago | (#45969819)

Sure, in principle that's cool, but the idea of "inherent advantages" so oversimplifies people that it is itself an offensive stereotype IMO.

Almost everyone has a mix of some above-average qualities and some below-average qualities. Realizing that success lies in doing what you're good at, instead of what you enjoy, is the first of many sacrifices needed for earned success. If you happen to love what you happen to be good at, hey, nice for you: people should feel good about that sort of thing. Long term, I think most of us come around to enjoying what we're good at, eventually, in any case.

But saying that someone's success is unearned because of some "inherent advantages" is a very overused idea because of this. Take up a line of work where one's normal distribution of (dis)advantages gives a net benefit is normal, not privilege. And there are very few lines of work where you can get by merely on one thing that you were born with (like IQ, or very high natural testosterone levels, or whatever) without also needing a bunch of other qualities, which often are below normal.

Sure, there people with a very rare collection of "happened to be good at"s that all line up to give them a real advantage, but then by definition that's a very small pool of people, and not a useful stereotype.

Re:More garbage (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969229)

Will the never ending garbage ever cease? The truth is he might have not felt qualified, but he was admitted to the CS program at MIT, one of the few elite CS departments that really means you are at least +1SD above average IQ, and quite likely +2SD or +3SD.

The entire article is just naked assertion:

[M]icro-inequities often had serious cumulative, harmful effects, resulting in hostile work environments and continued minority discrimination in public and private workplaces and organizations. What makes micro-inequities particularly problematic is that they consist in micro-messages that are hard to recognize for victims, bystanders and perpetrators alike. When victims of micro-inequities do recognize the micro-messages it is exceedingly hard to explain to others why these small behaviors can be a huge problem.

This is garbage. We are scientists. Quantify, describe, theorize and prove. If you can't explain it, and you can't define it, and you can't trace it back, perhaps it's not real.

If someone came across my office for an interview talking about this vague non-specific garbage I would sent them over to copywriting or HR.

As the 6'3" black guy with should length dreadlocs and a beard, I would respectfully disagree. I'm sitting here in a comfortable network engineer position that I worked hard to get. I started as an intern, worked at help desk, then desktop support, then finally beat 10 other applicants after working at the same company for 6 years, with an additonal 8 years experience outside the company to be where I am today. I've applied for the position multiple times over the course of 6 years, and finally got it. I have a Computer Science degree and relevant certs, but it does not matter. I sit here and see other people *start* out of school with no certs with the position I worked hard to get and cherish. I have friends (mostly black, or women) who applied for the same position year after year and do not get it. Why? They "look" the part; eg: white or asian. It does exist, but unless you are on the other side of it, you will never know.

Re:More garbage (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about 3 months ago | (#45969817)

The first job I ever applied for the two other candidates were a black guy and a woman.

I'm a white man.

Who got the job?

Am I dumb enough to imagine that I was clearly the best candidate?

Re:More garbage (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969331)

You're also human. You aren't immune to bias. It's a genetic legacy we carry from when we didn't have the luxury of not fighting for survival every second of our existence.

Do you "Quantify, describe, theorize and prove" or your bias or lack of bias? No, you don't. And you probably don't for your peers. If you were somehow able to log your entire life and looked at it later through a sanitized, objective view of data you'd bee disgusted with yourself.

This guy is putting forth a theory that I think has a lot of merit. He's put in to words what I've been unable to. That statement you quoted is deeply profound and the fact that you take offense at it shows a lot about yourself more than anything else.

What he's really saying is that if he were a woman, the combined bias of his peers would discourage him instead of encourage. He says he's a bad coder, yet the bias of his community tells him he is.

I'll disagree. (4, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | about 3 months ago | (#45969357)

The truth is he might have not felt qualified, but he was admitted to the CS program at MIT, one of the few elite CS departments that really means you are at least +1SD above average IQ, and quite likely +2SD or +3SD.

Possibly. But the point is that because he looked the part he was able to more effectively utilize his intelligence than someone who did not look the part.

If his appearence had been different then there would be obstacles to overcome that he did not have to face.

Re:I'll disagree. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969805)

And finally, we have someone who gets it. It's not just about sweet-talking freeloaders. It's also about really good programmers with lots of potential who get rejected because they don't conform to programmer stereotypes.

I know full well that appearing to know what you're talking about gets you in the door, and without that you won't get anywhere, even if you have skills.

Re:More garbage (2)

madro (221107) | about 3 months ago | (#45969791)

The article was adapted from a longer blog post. In the adaptation, they linked to Psychology Today (ugh) to discuss "micro-inequities" as the initial term for phenomena that were later covered under the term unconscious bias or implicit bias. Having it doesn't make you racist or sexist; it's as human as risk aversion and loss aversion, both well studied. But like risk aversion or loss aversion, implicit bias can dissuade humans from making an optimal, economically rational decision. It takes self-awareness and practice to overcome these tendencies (and then only sometimes).

If you can't explain it, and you can't define it, and you can't trace it back, perhaps it's not real.

These have been studied for decades in psychology, social psychology, and sociology. Do you really expect a full lit review in an article in the popular press, adapted from a blog post by an academic who is speaking from personal experience about topics not in his core field?

We are scientists.

We are humans. With quirky, bug-prone wetware.

Either a programmer (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969081)

or go get me another plate of crispy spinach chicken. You're not gonna be mistaken for a porn star, that's for sure.

You act the part, and blame people for believing ? (4, Insightful)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 3 months ago | (#45969097)

Well, you act as though you understand, look at them and nod intelligently. You act the part. Then people take you at the face value. Is that your complaint? What do you expect? Everyone to quiz everyone and test their knowledge and understanding? Do you realize how insulted you would have felt if someone asked you, "hey, do you understand what I am talking about? or you are just standing there nodding like a dimwitted sheriff from Mayberry?".

Re:You act the part, and blame people for believin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969321)

Except that the amount of eye contact you use and the way you move your head differs by gender and culture. There's a related phenomenon of people being better able to asses the ability of people who are "like them".

Re:You act the part, and blame people for believin (5, Insightful)

polyphemus (473112) | about 3 months ago | (#45969335)

I think he's trying to say that not everyone gets the benefit of the doubt. Sure, he was pretty much qualified, but a lot of people don't have the chance. He's not blaming anyone for his privilege, he's not saying he is wrong to have this privilege, he's saying it's wrong that so many other people don't.

Re:You act the part, and blame people for believin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969413)

I think he's trying to say that not everyone gets the benefit of the doubt. Sure, he was pretty much qualified, but a lot of people don't have the chance. He's not blaming anyone for his privilege, he's not saying he is wrong to have this privilege, he's saying it's wrong that so many other people don't.

What privilege? Being able to fake knowing something isn't a privilege. It's just a silly parlor trick.

Re:You act the part, and blame people for believin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969435)

I try to always look pissed off -- on the verge of snapping -- and in a hurry. It makes it seem like I'm busy. In reality, I'm on my way back to my office so I can take another nap under my desk. I'm not sure what an MCSE is supposed to be doing, but apparently I manage to get it done. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go exercise some gaskets.

Guilty As Charged (5, Interesting)

assertation (1255714) | about 3 months ago | (#45969099)

I've been guilty of this too.

When I meet a programmer who is a woman, an attractive woman, a much older person or a non-Caucasian & non-Asian man my automatic thought is "really?" despite my conscious mind knowing better.

Back in the dot com era I went to work with my hair pulled back in a pony tail and it had a similar effect as the author of the article described. Having it was like wearing a power suit in a law office.

Re:Guilty As Charged (4, Funny)

mythosaz (572040) | about 3 months ago | (#45969187)

I'm not sure if it's chicken or egg here, but I've always cultivated a bit of a "mad scientist" look.

"Oh, well, if the unshaven guy says it's technically possible, then it must be true..."

Re:Guilty As Charged (4, Funny)

assertation (1255714) | about 3 months ago | (#45969219)

Wearing sneakers to work with impunity really helps too.

Re:Guilty As Charged (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969387)

What? In my 12 years working as a programmer for a fortune 100 company I don't think I've ever worn anything except for sneakers. What kind of place do you work where wearing sneakers involves "impunity"?

Re:Guilty As Charged (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969645)

What? In my 12 years working as a programmer for a fortune 100 company I don't think I've ever worn anything except for sneakers. What kind of place do you work where wearing sneakers involves "impunity"?

You must work in a much warmer climate than do I.

Re:Guilty As Charged (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969361)

As a software manager currently in a hiring blitz I have one simple rule:

"If they're brown, turn them down."

Saves a lot of bullshit.

Re:Guilty As Charged (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969449)

>When I meet a programmer who is ... a much older person ... my automatic thought is "really?" despite my conscious mind knowing better.

Your subconscious isn't very bright, then. Real Programmers have been hacking since WWII. There are people in their 50-90s who have more knowledge about programming than you could ever hope to approach.

Re:Guilty As Charged (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969775)

And his subconscious is bright for thinking the same of women and non-(cauc)?asians? Of course there are a number of people who are older who are more knowledgable than he or I. There are also a number of women and non-(cauc)?asians who are more knowledgable than he or I. The entire point of the post is that seeing programmers from these groups is subconsciously surprising because they aren't typically associated with programming, *even though there are plenty of them*.

Get rid of racial preferences... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969107)

Get rid of racial preferences in admissions and hiring and no one will question the ability of minority groups and women. We are logical (and smart) -- we can't simply turn our brains off and ignore the elephant in the room.

Re:Get rid of racial preferences... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969833)

exactly. Get rid of hiring quotas where you fill a position with $gender or $ethnic for the sake of having diversity and hire the best man or woman for the job based on their ability

This is exactly the problem. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969125)

This is exactly the problem with technical fields these days. People who do not know what they are doing, but look the part, are in technical positions and making horrible decisions. They are easily able to fool their equally non-technical managers.

I'm not a greybeard by any means, but I was coding and finding bugs in TCP stacks and making web pages when the web was young back in the 90s, and because I don't have the right "look" (unattractive, not "chiseled" face), the right stature (under-aver height), the right clothing, etc., I am constantly fighting an uphill battle to be taken seriously.

I was hired full time as a "programmer" at a Fortune 100 company. My entire job involved a suite of approximately 50 ksh scripts. This alone is absurd, but I also had a coworker doing the same. However, he routinely intentionally didn't fix bugs so that he could make a big show of getting up in the middle of the night to manually run processes, and would get praise and rewards from the manager. I just made my stuff work and got no attention.

Maybe I'm the dope for not playing the game, but I can't make myself be mediocre on purpose. But that's usually what I end up having to do a lot of the time anyway. I've made my way in this world by being a contractor, which allows me to avoid the politics and bullshit to a large degree. I'm aware that my life would be a lot easier if I had a lot less ego.

Yes, this is sour grapes. Once upon a time I was respected for knowing what I was doing.

Re:This is exactly the problem. (2)

mythosaz (572040) | about 3 months ago | (#45969237)

However, he routinely intentionally didn't fix bugs so that he could make a big show of getting up in the middle of the night to manually run processes, and would get praise and rewards from the manager. I just made my stuff work and got no attention.

Maybe I'm the dope for not playing the game, but I can't make myself be mediocre on purpose.

Perhaps.

I think the trick to this game is to have your stuff work and be the guy who gets up in the middle of the night to fix something someone else broke -- fixing it permanently in the process.

I dislike calling my coworkers to the mat. It doesn't foster a good working relationship, and I'm not in a position to rebuild this companies culture from the middle. [Very stuffy, people working quietly, logging hours until the pension comes.] I speak my mind when it's asked of me, but I do so politely, and highlight where my coworkers shine, as well as where they could use guidance. Others have advanced past me by merely kissing ass, but I know they'll Peter Principle and fizzle out long before I will.

Hero vs Ninja (1)

khasim (1285) | about 3 months ago | (#45969535)

Heroes fix problems that everyone can see.

Ninjas fix things before anyone can see a problem.

I prefer the ninja approach myself (as you seem to) but it does require either an informed manager or a lot of PR work on your part.

And since we know that informed managers are few and far between ... looks like you'll have to be your own PR agency.

I can sniff Fakers from a mile away (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969151)

He wouldn't have lasted long with me. Probably even scare him to jump to management school.

Not going to nod at this... (2)

sinij (911942) | about 3 months ago | (#45969161)

I am going to break the pattern here and not assume that Philip Guo knows what he is talking about and not at his arguments. These are feel-good assertions and anecdotes, where is the evidence?

Don't think this sort of thing is limited to CS (2)

Derekloffin (741455) | about 3 months ago | (#45969179)

I got my CS degree and by Biology degree and I can attest at times there were lectures or meetings where stuff was flying miles over my head, but that was true in both departments. The general assumption, I think, in any department is that once you get by the entry level, you're assumed to know stuff, sometimes way beyond what you probably actually know. I think it is just human nature. You go into a group of people that you figure know a topic, you don't give them all background checks to ensure they do actually know the topic, you tend to assume it. The best you can do as someone bringing the topic up is ask if people are really following you and hope they are honest.

I am a White Male who attended the MIT CS program (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969199)

My experience was the exact opposite of Guo's experience—you might say, I got treated like a minority or a female.

So, what do you say now, Guo?

The reason you didn't have these problems, Guo, is because you—like many successful people, especially at places like MIT—are a natural confidence artist. Look! You said it yourself:

If I stared at someone in silence and nodded as they were talking, they would usually assume that I understood, not that I was clueless.

Your mistake in this whole issue is assuming that other people who are like you have the same experience, and that being "like you" means—for some reason—having both a penis and lighter skin. However, this is what it really means to be like you: Lying publicly about your private throughts—being a con man who works the con so hard that he finally becomes what he's pretending to be.

Re:I am a White Male who attended the MIT CS progr (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969575)

Not sure where the con is when he's telling the truth now..

You sound grumpy and jealous. Sure you want to project that onto someone else?

Captcha: bogeymen

BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969247)

I call bullshit.

What are we going to start talking about mechanic's privilege because people think I can fix their car if I wear coverall and have grease on my hands?

Fake it till you make it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969251)

I know a lot of fake it till you make its IRL

Tradeoffs (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 3 months ago | (#45969277)

It's not difficult to look like a geek, if you really wanted to look like a geek.

The problem is that looking like a geek has enormous down-sides, such as getting beat up, and being rejected by the opposite sex.

Maybe "tiger moms" force their kids to dress like geeks so that they get treated like geeks?

Where are all the women programmers? (2)

Kreplock (1088483) | about 3 months ago | (#45969283)

Right here. There's plenty of 'em where I work. IT just ain't what it used to be 15 years ago. No need for ongoing quotas or diversity hires, just grab the best candidate, thank you.

Re:Where are all the women programmers? (1)

ThatsDrDangerToYou (3480047) | about 3 months ago | (#45969437)

Right here. There's plenty of 'em where I work. IT just ain't what it used to be 15 years ago. No need for ongoing quotas or diversity hires, just grab the best candidate, thank you.

It depends on which specialty you are talking about. In my current gig, we have 0 female software developers out of 7 (OK, down to 5 after the layoff, but still...). We have a lot of chemists, and the ratios in the chem positions are thankfully much better. In previous positions, focused on multimedia chip development (so EE's and SW devs) there were NO female engineers at all on a team of 20 or so. There was one when I first arrived, but she left within a year. Anyway, still a lot of improvement to go in the business.

For thousands of years... (3, Insightful)

ahoffer0 (1372847) | about 3 months ago | (#45969339)

This is a specific example of a more general phenomenon. Why do people where business suits? It is so they look the part. Why do kings hold an orb and scepter? ... so they look the part.

Why do I say 'I have some experience with that.' When what I really mean is 'I read a Slashdot post about that.'? It is so I sound the part.

Apology of con artists (1)

loufoque (1400831) | about 3 months ago | (#45969341)

There is nothing good about pretending you've understood something. One of my employees did that a while ago, and his work was late and inadequate.
If there is something you don't understand, it's better to just say it so that it can be explained again and progress can be made.

Ah, Social Engineering (5, Interesting)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 3 months ago | (#45969373)

Never underestimate the power of looking like you're supposed to be there, doing that.

You have no idea how many "secure" facilities I've been given full access to, just because I dressed and talked like I knew exactly what I was doing.

Enjoy it while it lasts. (1)

ddt (14627) | about 3 months ago | (#45969385)

Enjoy that while it lasts. Soon enough, only AI's will be trusted to write good code. The age of the smelly, surly, bug-prone, human coder is coming to an end.

Missing the point (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969397)

To those of you saying that this is garbage, I'd like to briefly tell you about the technical interview my (highly competent) friend went on where she was asked if "she even drank beer".

I sometimes wonder if those of you who rail against these articles are the ones who ask those types of questions...

This bites me often (1)

Pro923 (1447307) | about 3 months ago | (#45969399)

This sort of thing has actually made me miserable several times in my career. I don't necessarily 'look the part' of a programmer. It's very frustrating when dorky looking people who don't really know what they're talking about get promoted to the point where they're dictating the technical direction of what we're doing - when I could actually do it much better. It happens all the time. Lots of these people learn how to play the part and 'geek speak' instead of learning how to actually code or design functional software. The management - who generally don't understand technical subjects - are more easily impressed and convinced by such people. This is how and why we produce a lot of crap in America.

White male advantage (1)

jgotts (2785) | about 3 months ago | (#45969411)

You have an automatic advantage in many technical fields in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Western Europe and most of Eastern Europe and probably other places as a white male. In engineering fields people of East Asian descent are also afforded an advantage, because they are assumed to excel at math and by extension all technical fields.

That is why it is very important in the fields of computer science, programming, and software engineering (and where the three overlap) to assess people based upon as broad criteria as possible. White men are a tiny minority of the world's population, and even in the United States do not represent the majority of users of computer software.

I'm not advocating that we hire less talented individuals. What I'm saying is that we're not measuring talent correctly. I think most of you know that already when a recruiter asks you about specific skills in a certain computer language or maybe a specific database rather than focusing on your ability to design software, your ability to manage other programmers, and your ability to see an idea all the way through to completion. Beyond this, think about how software can benefit from different perspectives and ideas from different cultures and backgrounds. Software today comes from an awfully homogeneous pool and we all should know by now that the best software comes out of as many competing ideas as possible. And not necessarily one idea will win. Many times several (and a lot of times two) ideas are equally as good.

Re:White male advantage (2)

Pro923 (1447307) | about 3 months ago | (#45969479)

I respectfully disagree - at least, in my experience I've noticed the opposite. Asians who are difficult to understand appear to be given the benefit of the doubt simply because non-technical management are confused by them. This confusion leads to an assumption that they know what they're talking about - ie. "since I don't understand what the hell this guy is talking about, it must be some sort of technical wizardry that is way over my head".

Re:White male advantage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969745)

Beyond this, think about how software can benefit from different perspectives and ideas from different cultures and backgrounds.

Software is algorithms in executable form, pure math. Shall we draw code with colorful crayon on hand-made paper, and doing expressive dancing for certain implementation patterns?

Seriously...

Good for your privilege. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969495)

Have high schools learned not to heap shit all over students that show unusual aptitude with computers yet?

Reverse discrimination (1)

Subratik (1747672) | about 3 months ago | (#45969619)

It's also important to note that reverse discrimination can occur in the corporate world for 'techie' people who look the part. Being too technical can be a great reason for a unsupportive manager to prevent one from getting higher leadership roles :(

What the word "Privilege" Signifies (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969761)

It signifies "From this point on this piece will consist of far-left victimhood identity politics grievance-mongering bullshit." It's an all-purpose "get-out-of-rational-debate free" card.

Anyone spouting it should be ignored.

important part (5, Interesting)

globaljustin (574257) | about 3 months ago | (#45969767)

here's the important message of the whole thing:

'I want those people to experience what I was privileged enough to have gotten in college and beyond – unimpeded opportunities to develop expertise in something that they find beautiful, practical, and fulfilling.'

academia is typically a very alienating place...in college/undergrad I saw many people discouraged form EE who would have been very good at the actual work of an EE in the real world, but couldn't/would not get past the insane 'weeding out' classes.

in my experience (I changed my major before I started classes but I attended a class just to see what it was like) these were classes all Engineers must take, usually taught by a prof that looked well qualified on paper but was horrible.

The only way to pass the class was to either a) know the material already or b) study all night with other Engineering students in the class

There really wasn't an option to 'have a life'...some tried but one or the other would win out. In order to get an EE degree you simply MUST become a dork. or at least 'dork' in the colloquial sense of looking neutral/unstylish at best, poor social skills, lacking manual skills, etc etc...which would inevitably remain under developed due to a lack of formative experiences, time spent instead in dark rooms eating breadsticks looking at computer screens. Yes alot of good work has gotten done this way, but that doesn't mean you use it as a way to 'weed out' students from the industry!

It was possible, but you had to fight against the grain all the time, and few did it.

fuc84.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45969815)

effort to address Has run faster and Michael Smith nearly two years in jocks or chaps Members aal over about half of the
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