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  1. Hire for Cultural Fit: It’s Time to Add Other People, Pt 2
  2. Hire for Cultural Fit: It’s Time to Add Women, Pt 1
  3. Two Career Tools for a Job Search
  4. Five Tips to Hiring a Generalizing Specialist
  5. Survey on Job Finding
  6. More Recent Articles
  7. Search Johanna Rothman, Management Consultant » HTP
  8. Prior Mailing Archive

Hire for Cultural Fit: It’s Time to Add Other People, Pt 2

In Hire for Cultural Fit: It’s Time to Add Women, Pt 1, I wrote about the need to add women to your team, and what you could do. But just hiring women isn’t enough. You need race and age diversity, along with personality diversity to get the best products out of your teams.

Back when I was a hiring manager inside organizations in the ’80s and ’90s, I hired developers and testers. I took a hard look at my teams. I saw lots of younger white people. I thought that was strange. I socialized with people of all races and ages. Why did I only have younger white people in my teams? It was time to change that.

At the time, I used external recruiters. When I asked about diversity, I kept hearing, “We only have young white people to offer you.” I thought that was bogus. How could that be true, when I knew all these people who were not young or white? (Yes, some of them were technical, and some of them were a fit. And, yes, I had an okay employee referral program.)

But, how could I find more people? If I can’t get them to respond to my ads and get the resumes in the door, I can’t phone screen them. Surely, in the Boston area, there must be non-white, young and older people looking for jobs.

There were. In fact, there were, maybe not plenty, but enough that I could start to hire a diverse set of people. Here is what I did:

  • I told everyone I knew that I was looking to increase the diversity of my teams. I wanted people who were different in background. I needed to solve problems with different approaches than I already had.
  • I told my recruiters I wanted to hire black and Asian people. Could they please find me resumes? Yes, I was that blunt.
  • I told my interviewers that we wanted to hire people who looked different, who thought different, who fit in just enough so we could have conversations and not kill each other (I was even more brash in those days).
  • I started networking at meetings, looking for people who might fit with my teams.
  • I change our ads so they look a lot like the ads in Hiring Geeks That Fit.

Since I was a young manager, I was pretty sure many interesting candidates would be older than I was. I didn’t care.

Since I was white, I was pretty sure many interesting candidates would be different from me. I was looking for different.

Now, let me be clear. I was not discriminating against white men (or women, for that matter). I was trying to open the door to more people. I figured that if I got more resumes, I could see what my prejudices were, and see how to overcome them. (Why do you think there is a section about prejudices in Hiring Geeks That Fit?)

We all have prejudices. The question is, do we know what they are?

My hiring results? After several months of making sure I looked in different places, I did find “other” people. I was able to hire two black engineers at one place. I was able to hire many Asian, Indian, and a couple of Latino-sounding engineers at several other jobs. I was able to hire people who were a variety of ages. I now had many people with a variety of backgrounds and experiences.

My problem solving results were terrific. At one job, where the original testers told me, “This is not automatable,” we were able to automate about half the system tests in about three months. Of course, the other half took much longer. We kept at it. No, we did not automate at the GUI level.

As developers, I hired continuing engineering folks, release engineering, and regular developers. They each had their own approach, as I would have expected. I was thrilled with their problem solving abilities.

Later, as a consultant, I encountered more ageism.

One hiring manager, years ago, told me that no one over 40 could do agile. I just about died laughing. I asked him if he knew how old I was, since I was there to help him debug his agile approach and his hiring. “Uh, 36?”

At the time, I was 49. I told him I was flattered. And, I reminded him that agile was a mindset, not an age range.

One client of mine was so insular, they hadn’t developed a new product in 8 years. Everyone had come from the same small set of universities, and everyone had the same relative experience. When I suggested they needed more “new blood” in the form of different approaches and different backgrounds, they were appalled. But once they did hire some new people, their product development took off.

If you haven’t read How Diversity Makes Us Smarter, you should. You need “other” people, not people who are carbon copies of the people you have.

You need to recruit (source) in many places. You can’t look in the same old places and bemoan the fact that there are no “other” people out there, regardless of who those people are.

An insular company can work for a while. You will definitely have a particular corporate culture. But, does that culture lead you to better products? Does that culture scale?

I suspect that some of you will have problems with this post. Diversity and our prejudices make us uncomfortable. But, we can’t address them unless we talk about them.

Let’s start talking about hiring people in technology who don’t look like us. Let’s hire people who are older. Let’s hire people who are not young white men.

We don’t need the stereotype of the “brogrammer” anymore. We just don’t.

What we do need is to hire people we can work with. Not people who look like us.


Hire for Cultural Fit: It’s Time to Add Women, Pt 1

In the blogosphere and in the press, there is an increasing notice about the lack of women in technical fields and management positions. Here is some data:

Why women leave tech: what the research says by Sue Gardner. Read Visualizing Silicon Valley’s Lack of Diversity. Notice that tech is overwhelmingly white and male. It does not reflect the society in which we live.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Our field got this way because we let our unconscious prejudices decide for us. Did you see this?

In Hiring Geeks That Fit, I talk about how you learn about your prejudices and how you account for them.

We know that diverse teams create better products. We know—and if you have been on a multi-gender, multi-cultural team, people-with-diverse-backgrounds you have this experience—creating products is more fun, faster, and easier. Why? Because you don’t get into group-think. You have more opportunities for ideas. You have people who, while they fit the corporate culture enough, have diverse experience creating products. You discover and create your way to a better outcome.

Can you get a great product with—excuse me—all white males under the age of 30? Of course. Can you get it with a diverse team of all kinds of people of all ages? Yes. In my experience, it’s faster and easier.

What can you do, if you want to keep or build the great culture you already have? You are sure you can’t find any women?

First, don’t be so sure. You might want to watch How Etsy Increased Diversity in Its Engineering Department: An Interview with Marc Hedlund. It’s a long video, so here are the main ideas:

  • Start hiring women when you start your company.
  • Do not lower your standards. You should hire people who have the respect of their peers. People may have had fewer years of experience. However, that experience should be quite relevant.
  • Do not decide as men how to hire women. Ask other women in engineering. You cannot know what a female engineer feels, about jobs, about other culture.
  • Don’t talk about “female” engineers. Talk about engineers. If you talk about women, talk about the percentage of women in the department.
  • Recruit personally. Don’t leave this up to HR. Have managers reach out to candidates.
  • Watch what your ads say. Some people (men and women) find some ads quite confrontational.
  • They created different auditions. Instead of having white board auditions, where people had to stand at the white board, they had a collaborative approach to auditions.
  • They had female developers interviewers on the interview team.
  • Help people negotiate for reasonable, on par, salaries.

Marc had other things to say about Hacker School, the culture of recruiting, how candidates perceive you, the Pygmalion effect and more. You should listen to the entire 43-minute video.

What should you do? Well, you could read Hiring Geeks That Fit. In the book, I explain how to do all of this, except how to help candidates negotiate for reasonable salaries. I do some of that here, on this blog.

If you don’t want my help, start with evaluating/assessing your interview process, from soup to nuts. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. How do we reinforce hiring of the same kinds of people we have now?
  2. How can we change where we hire from, our sourcing mechanisms?
  3. What do we need to change about our ads?
  4. What do we need to change about our interviews: the phone screens, the interview team, the questions, and the auditions?
  5. What do we need to do make a fair offer, based on value, to any candidate?

Ask yourself those questions. You will be on your way to increasing diversity for women. I’ll deal with ageism in my next post.


Two Career Tools for a Job Search

Is it time for you to look for a new job? Or, thinking about looking for a new job? If so, you want to know about two tools: understanding your career anchors and mining your career timeline.

I just read about Edgar Schein’s Career Anchors. The 8 anchors are:

  1. Technical/Functional
  2. General Managerial
  3. Autonomy/Independence
  4. Security/Stability
  5. Entrepreneurial Creativity
  6. Service to a Cause
  7. Pure Challenge
  8. Lifestyle

The idea is that you decide which anchors best reflect your personality. Then, you review your current job. You see how well your current job matches what you want. Now you can decide what to do.

If you are stuck in jobs that don’t fit for you, and you have not tried the career timeline activity, which includes looking at your values and culture in Manage Your Job Search, do that. You need a job (and a career) that fits your values. You might look at the career anchors, too. Maybe you’ve been in the wrong roles all along.


Five Tips to Hiring a Generalizing Specialist

We talk a lot in agile about generalizing specialists. Scott Ambler has a terrific essay on what a generalizing specialist is:

  • Has one or more technical specialties…
  • Has at least a general knowledge of software development.
  • Has at least a general knowledge of the business domain in which they work.
  • Actively seeks to gain new skills in both their existing specialties as well as in other areas, including both technical and domain areas

(From Scott Ambler’s essay,

How do you hire one of these mythical people?

First, they are not mythical. They are real. Second, you do a job analysis, just as you would for any job. Third, you would look at how they have acquired skills throughout their careers.

What does this mean for the hiring manager and/or recruiter?

  1. If you search on keywords only, you will miss these people. They may not have all the keywords you want on a resume. That’s because they are generalizing specialists. You have to write a job description to entice these people to an opportunity.
  2. If you say things such as, “You will have worked at a place like <insert name of your favorite company here>” you may well miss great people. You are assuming a particular class of people. You have to change your assumptions about work history, school history, any kind of history. Again, the job description or ad has to be about an opportunity where people can learn and grow.
  3. You have to look at how they have learned in their resume.
  4. You have to look at their technical leadership roles. Yes, they will show you technical leadership in their list of accomplishments. They will have made things better in any number of dimensions.
  5. You need to look at the non-technical skills, such as facilitation, collaboration, coaching, initiative, taking small steps to make progress, all the things I mentioned in Hiring for an Agile Team: Making Tradeoffs.

Remember, you want generalizing specialists. True specialists introduce a cost of delay into your projects. They end up with a queue of work and they introduce a delay, or they multitask.


Survey on Job Finding

A undergraduate student sent me this survey about finding a job. I said I would post it for him.

Here is the link:

If you are looking for a job, please help this Italian undergrad, studying business in Lisbon.

I am not affiliated with this program. I am doing this to help a student. Pietro, the student in question, sent me a nice email, so I thought I would help him out.


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