Women speakers pass the tipping point at Monkigras, and why this matters for tech.

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At Monkigras last week there were more women speaking than men. It rocked my world. The ever-inspiring Dr. Lucy Rogers was the only familiar face. Dormain Drewitz, Pia Mancini, Mazz Mosley and Joni Saylor were revelations in the curated line-up. Then there was the unscheduled Linda Peng who seized the opportunity to promote codebuddies. And that’s just the half of it.

My normal status quo these days is to be all-too keenly aware of the gender of tech speakers. Probably because I am constantly being reminded I am a women-in-tech whether I want to be or not. But somehow with a dozen or so women speaking at Monkigras that simply didn’t happen; somehow I forgot to tune into the gender of the speakers at the time.

In hindsight it was a great snapshot of terrific women working in tech, women who are so confident in what they do and comfortable sharing this knowledge with the audience. For one thing Jesslyn Rose is a great speaker and gave us a great visual language for understanding burnout.

I have never done pager-duty in my life but Charity Majors still had me hanging on her every word as she laid out tech leadership as it should be, driving points home in ways no-one could forget in a hurry.

I noticed Majors’ talk also featured major ‘kerb-appeal’ for my daughter: blue & purple hair, unicorn stickers and name-dropping ‘Rainbow Dash‘.

Incidentally, the talk that would probably appeal most to my son would be Catherine Dixon and her magical ability to make you care about the size of the letter ‘O’ and see how that makes lettering come alive and seem balanced.

And while we are picking favourites, mine was definitely Mandy Whaley’s talk which transported me to the life and times of Marie Curie and was neatly tied in with open source & crowdfunding campaigns. It was not lost on me that it took the tragic death of Pierre Curie to propel Marie out of the shadows and onto the mainstage. Fortunately we’ve come a long way since then. I think.

And what I discovered while listening to the talks, not tuned into gender, was that I could focus on something else: the overarching theme was a call for sustainability in tech & other domains. For instance, I learnt that distressed jeans are not so great for the people creating them. I’m not ready to give up on jeans but I’d like to be better about where I get mine from (babysteps to Patagonia maybe?).

In tech itself we need to figure out how to bring people together to build technologies that last and how to take care of ourselves and each other so we can keep doing that. These are issues for everybody: men as much as women. We need to do this together.

And that’s what I experienced happening at Monkigras. Once tech figures out how to deal with gender imbalances, we can truly all move together onto new horizons. Building sustainable worlds and resilient societies.

Beware diversity-led marketing (& three cheers for these companies doing diversity right)

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There’s an increased level of discussion on improving diversity in tech communities. Or maybe it was always there and I just started paying attention. Either way, it’s a really good thing. But in the mix there is definitely a certain amount of diversity-led marketing e.g “We need more women-in-tech! Women, sign up for this tech course here…”.  Some are more obvious than others.

What about tech conferences? Take the case of a tech conference getting some promotion off the back of free diversity tickets. Is that just diversity-led marketing and a bad thing? After all it’s great to get underrepresented folks into conferences, right? The answer is if it is done in isolation then it is probably just self-serving marketing and pr. Underrepresented folks aren’t merely props for your agenda

Diversity is complicated. It’s easy to get it wrong and end up like the conference organizers who violated their own code-of-conduct and had a speaker cancel their talk.  Or fall into the Google case of  trying to inspire teen girls to code while simultaneously systematically limiting the careers of women in your company.  Again diversity is complicated, so we all want to focus our energies on those doing it the right way.

Open source has a worse record than most when it comes to diversity.  At this year’s Eclipsecon Europe, as with every tech conference I attend, I did my own evaluation of what’s being done well and not so well. This year, I noticed a few companies who are doing something right as evidenced by the women and underrepresented minorities that are in leadership positions.

  1. IBM – IBM had a noticeably improved presence at this year’s conference. I learnt that they actively encouraged speaker proposals. If a talk is accepted, there are good company policies in place to ensure speakers can travel and attend the conferences. As a result we had four awesome women speakers from IBM, not just any speakers, but experts in their respective fields: Eclipse JDT leads Noopur Gupta and Sarika Sinha, Eclipse SWT committer Lakshmi Shanmugam and Eclipse Microprofile committer Emily Jiang.
  2. OBEOOBEO specialize in graphical modelling and are well respected in the community. Melanie Bats is one of the rockstars in the community, doing terrific and imaginitive tech talks and also recently took over as the Eclipse Planning council lead. OBEO recently promoted Melanie to CTO, which is written about beautifully here: Zero-to-CTO.
  3. BREDEX – BREDEX specialize in testing and are well represented at EclipseCon by the indefatigable Alex Schladebeck. Alex can be found leading the highly enjoyable Kahoot quiz at EclipseCon as well as heading up the Project Quality day. Doing great things in the testing world, it was great to learn that Alex has been promoted to  ‘Head of Software Quality and Test Consulting’ at BREDEX.

These three companies set a great example for the rest of us, not to mention make us better at our work as a community. Which brings me to the picture at the top of this blog post. I like to get setup really early before I do a tech talk, especially one in a huge room with a massive screen. So while getting setup, Jonah Graham of Kichwa Coders and Sarika Sinha of IBM got into a discussion about debugger protocols and threading issues. To discuss the finer points my laptop was commandeered and out came the code. It was one of those serendipitous moments and I didn’t want my pre-talk nerves to stop them. So I took a seat and took pictures while taking deep breaths. I think my talk went well anyway. That one conversation really informed our thinking on our work on the future of debuggers. And really it reminded me in a powerful way how things are always better the more different types of people you get involved. And little moments like these make it all worthwhile, and worth doing right, in the best way possible.

The Future of Developer Tools for IoT, ThingMonk 2017

ThingMonk is an annual London conference that brings together the people building and shaping the Internet of Things. This year I spoke at the conference on ‘The Future of Developer Tools for IoT’. This talk looks at emerging and future trends in the developer tools space. Check out the slides and feedback from the audience, as well as reference links at the end. Plus thanks to Marcel Bruch & Codetrails for input on AI tools. Be sure to share your thoughts on how you see developer tools shaping up to scale for building the Internet of Things.

Continue reading “The Future of Developer Tools for IoT, ThingMonk 2017”

What is it like to work in Open-source?

Open-source software (OSS) is computer software with its source code made available with a license in which the copyright holder provides the rights to study, change, and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose. – Wikipedia

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I am Yannick Mayeur, a French computer science student currently gaining work experience at Kichwa Coders in the UK, and this is how I feel about working with Open-source.

Why Open-source ?

Let me tell you a story. A company asks someone in their software team to build some software to do a certain task. It takes him a lot of time but he manages to do it. He is the only one working on the project so there are no comments in the code nor any documentation to help maintain the code. He later leaves the company, the software slowly becomes useless as nobody else knows how to use it.

If this company had created an Open-source project instead, this problem wouldn’t have occurred.

Help spread Open-source – or ensure a job for life by using this guerrilla guide on how to write unmaintainable code. But seriously don’t.  Continue reading “What is it like to work in Open-source?”

Diversity means Open Source for a New Generation

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Last month the Eclipse Foundation announced a new Diversity & Inclusion Champion, Thea Aldrich. I did cartwheels in my head when I heard the news. Why? Because I can’t do cartwheels in real life. But seriously, this is really a BIG DEAL.

When it comes to open source communities like Eclipse, you don’t need big data to know there is a diversity problem, you just have to show up to an EclipseCon and look around.

While this has been the case for years, recently there has been a change. Maybe it’s down to more consciousness of the issues or maybe more maturity in the community, but people have noticed and want to do something about it.  About a year ago, a grassroots effort led by Alex Schladebeck was started with the renewed goal of improving diversity in the community and at conferences. I was honoured to be part of the small but effective team. One big goal of ours was simply to raise awareness and start an open conversation about issues surrounding diversity. We did just that, through:

  • Writing: blog post, after blog post, after blog post
  • Speaking: I do a diversity talk ‘7 Habits of Highly Diverse Communities’, which has been well received and requested by other open source communities.
  • Online Discussions: we have a dedicated Mattermost channel at Eclipse for the topic, plus several web conferences.
  • In Person Discussions: we have had Diversity BOFs at EclipseCons, as well as addressed the Eclipse Board of Directors & Members’ meeting.

And we’ve been learning a lot along the way, such as when we tried and failed to secure a woman keynote speaker for one of the conferences. However,the best thing about all this has been how the rest of the community has responded. People have shown up, got involved, asked questions, challenged things (I expect nothing less of developers!) and offered support.

Throughout this, and even from the beginning, we have always wondered how we can sustain these efforts and indeed how we can expand them to do more. There is no quick fix for promoting diversity, more just a continuous and determined set of steps in the right direction. And in reality it would never work long term without someone dedicated to spearheading the changes.

So that is why, in less than a year after we implored the Foundation to make this happen, they listened, took us seriously and did it! Not just that, the Eclipse Foundation now becomes an Open Source Foundation investing in change, with a dedicated role to diversity. We can hope this becomes a must-have role for every open source foundation out there.

I’ve always said how much I love this community because of the ability to adapt to changing environments, and here is more proof. Thea has already kicked off efforts on multiple fronts:

  • Identifying ways in which all Eclipse events are inclusive events and welcoming,
  • Rolling out an ambassador program to involve the community in welcoming newcomers into the ecosystem,
  • Reaching out to established projects to see how we can support their efforts,
  • Making all Eclipse Foundation websites and resources easier to navigate for native non-English speakers,
  • Providing the community with a direct path to Foundation staff for ideas, complaints, feedback and other issues that our community or members may encounter.

We look forward to working with Thea, the Foundation and community on all these aspects to keep making improvements and bring about a real change.I will continue to do what I can, which includes running for a seat on the Board of Directors. Having this new focus and investment in diversity means we can look forward to bringing open source to a whole new generation of developers.