Diversity and Inclusion Series:3 Things the Tech Industry Can Learn from the Oscars

This is the first post of a three-part series on the lessons that the tech community can learn from the Oscars when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

After this year’s Oscars, we discovered something:  The tech community can learn a lot from the movie industry when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

In just a year since the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has made positive steps towards resolving its diversity problem. One great night for diversity does not completely solve the issue, but it is a step in the right direction.

The tech industry, which has struggled to make significant gains on its diversity numbers, can learn a thing or two from the movie industry.

Here is the first of three lessons on diversity and inclusion that the tech industry can take from the movie industry:

Oscars Lesson #1: The first step is admittance.

The tech community should admit that it does not open its doors to diverse talent rather than blaming its problem on a lack of talent.

Post the #OscarSoWhite debacle, the Academy vowed to embark on a five-year initiative to “double the number of women and diverse members of the Academy by 2020.”

The Academy soon learned that five years was too long and embarked on an aggressive review and overhaul of its governance structure. This review led to the purging of 70 members and the welcoming of 683 new members to the Academy. By taking a hard look at its structure, the Academy effectively recognized that its diversity issue did not stem from a lack of quality films featuring talented people of color and women but rather a lack of opportunity for representation of existing films.

In the past couple of years, only incremental improvements have occurred in tech’s diversity numbers. The reasons for this vary, but one common theme constantly arises: the broken pipeline problem. In 2016, Facebook’s Global Director of Diversity Maxine Williams blamed the company’s low diversity numbers on this issue. She explained that the current public education system does not provide students with the necessary skills. Put simply: There is just not enough talent. At the time, many people disagreed with and were offended by her comments.This explanation is highly suspect when considering other factors such as companies’ interview methods and their internal referral processes.

Even if there is inadequate technical education, what about other non-technical areas like business, marketing, and sales roles? There is a misconception in Silicon Valley that all jobs in tech require technical expertise. However, this is not true. For instance, take online recommendation site Yelp, about 70 percent of its jobs are non-engineering roles (pre-dominantly sales).

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the percentage of bachelor’s degrees earned by black, Hispanic, and female students is on the rise. Further, NCES found that black women are the most educated group in the U.S. with 9.7 percent enrolled in college – more than Asian women, white women, and white men. Ultimately, underrepresented minorities and women are earning other degrees. This increased education empowers students with the necessary skills needed to succeed in the tech industry’s non-technical positions.

The tech community should admit that it is not a lack of talent keeping the industry from being more diverse and inclusive. Rather, it comes down to creating a system that acknowledges perfectly viable, underrepresented candidates and provides them with the opportunity to succeed.

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3 Ways To Keep Your 2017 Career Resolution

Whether you are in the market for a new job or not, 2017 is your year to make good on your career resolution. According to Business Insider, the U.S. economy is on the up and up. By the end of last year, the U.S. was reveling in about 74 months of consecutive job growth.

Companies are on a hiring spree as competition declines, and salaries are climbing. So, what does this mean for you?

The current jobs market means that your New Year’s career resolutions doesn’t have to die a slow death over the next few weeks. Take advantage of the times and elevate your career in just three, simple ways.

Resolution #1: Figure Out Your Next Move

We know what you are thinking, ‘Gee, that was helpful.’ But, bear with us. Perhaps you’ve been toiling away at your job for years, daydreaming about your next move or maybe you’re comfortable and haven’t given it much thought. In either scenario, LinkedIn is still your friend.

Use LinkedIn to achieve career resolution in 2017

Beyond simply connecting with your colleagues and other professional contacts, are you leveraging all of its features?

Cyberstalk for All the Rights Reasons …

In the beginning stages of your job search (especially if your path is uncertain), LinkedIn is a great resource to lightly cyber stalk (in a non-creepy way) people who have the careers you want. Even if your profile isn’t set to private, don’t be shy; go ahead and click on that executive’s profile you admire. Do you have mutual connections? If not, don’t be afraid to take it one step further and reach out to them. Cold contact (emails, messages, calls, etc.) still works. It’s all a numbers game so don’t get discouraged.

Find Common Ground…

If randomly approaching a stranger online isn’t your thing, then LinkedIn’s Alumni Connection feature is probably up your alley. At any point in your career, your alumni game should always be strong (after all isn’t that why we paid for expensive pieces of paper to prove we belonged to a certain academic community?). Alumni love hearing from their people so drop them a quick line, tell them your story, and make the ask. Stay clear of outright asking for a job. Simply asking for advice is the best way to go.

Leave Breadcrumbs …

Breadcrumbs is online dating lingo for stringing someone along with no intentions of committing (e.g., liking someone’s Facebook page, retweeting them, sending seemingly innocuous texts like “Hey, how are you?”). What does this have to do with your professional life? Well, LinkedIn’s Job Search function often lists who posted the job. Scope out their profiles and use the tactics mentioned above. They’ll likely see that you’ve checked them out and may return the favor. But don’t just leave it there. Wait a couple of days, then send a short follow-up email introducing yourself, referencing the post, and linking them to your profile. Remember recruiters accept applications and referrals, but they also ‘source’ roles. In other words, your outreach is doing part of their job for them. Help them, help you.

Resolution #2: Get Organized

First things first. Set specific goals on a daily basis and give yourself a timeline on when you would like to secure an offer.  Before you know it, your inbox will be populated with interview requests, calendar invites, follow-up notes, etc. It can all get to be a bit overwhelming. To handle it all, get organized with personal organization apps (24Me, Evernote, Remember the Milk) or try out bullet journaling with old school pen and paper. Do what works best for you.

Resolution #3: Be Part of the Conversation

Building your network is a give and take situation. In exchange for the advice imparted on you by your new connects, the least you can do is share your thoughts. No need to be an industry expert to sound off on a range of topics. Take to LinkedIn’s Blog feature, Medium, and Twitter (the company’s struggling, but the platform is still clutch) to spread ideas and offer insights. Nothing to say? No worries, simply sharing resources like news or reports goes a long way in building your profile as someone who cares about industry trends and developments.

Feel free to join offline conversations. Networking can be daunting, but it does not necessarily have to be a thing that you need to “get over.” If you can’t stomach another awkward networking event where everyone else seems to be in the same boat as you, then gravitate towards things you would normally do. For instance, join a Meetup group, an industry organization, or sports league, attend events or conferences, or sign up to volunteer. Making new friends and catching up with old ones helps organically grow your network.

Bringing It All Together

The 2017 job market is hot, hot, hot. So go ahead, update your LinkedIn profile, get your (non-creepy) cyberstalk on, and share your ideas with your growing network. And for bonus points, step away from your laptop or mobile device and get engaged in your community. Your dream job is right around the corner.

Increased salaries in 2017

Microsoft and LinkedIn Get Together

Tech Giant and Professional Network Say “I Do”

Microsoft and LinkedIn just announced that they have decided to become one. According to reports, Microsoft plans to buy the professional social network for a cool US $26 billion in cash money.

So, why is this happening?LinkedIn, Microsoft

The merger is a win-win situation for both companies. Linking up with LinkedIn allows Microsoft to dive into enterprise social media services. While LinkedIn can have some peace of mind in an increasingly competitive market.  In other words, LinkedIn can now be more competitive when matched up against other companies using their social graphs to potentially compete against the professional network.

What does it mean for us – the average LinkedIn user?

Not to worry, even though LinkedIn will become part of Microsoft’s productivity and business processes segment, it will still keep its branding and product.

Is the deal finished or is it done? 

The short answer is “no.” Both companies’ boards have given the go ahead.  LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman led the deal. In a statement, he said “Today is a re-founding moment for LinkedIn. I see incredible opportunity for our members and customers and look forward to supporting this new and combined business. I fully support this transaction and the Board’s decision to pursue it, and will vote my shares in accordance with their recommendation on it.”

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner also had positive things to say about the new partnership. Weiner penned a blog post where he said that this merger is simply just the next phase in the company fulfilling its mission.  Read the full post here.

But, there is still more to do. More hoops to jump through to finish the deal. Regulators in the United States, the European Union, Canada, and Brazil still need to give LinkedIn and Microsoft their blessing.



What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

Image of Ada Lovelace aka the world's first computer programmer
Image of Ada Lovelace aka the world’s first computer programmer

If you are asking women at Stanford University, they are likely to say a computer scientist. According to recently released statistics by the reputable institution, Stanford women are increasingly choosing to major in computer science, making it the most popular major among the school’s female student body. Currently, 218 women are enrolled in the university’s computer science program, making up 30% of students in the program.

Does this mean we are on our way to correcting the gender problem that’s plaguing the Internet and tech industries?  It depends on who you ask, but it is advisable to be cautiously optimistic.  Reports indicate that the number of women in computer science between 2007 and 2014 more than doubled, increasing from 10 percent to 21 percent, respectively.      

While these are all positive developments, it is important to put these number in perspective.  

Back in the eighties, women accounted for 30 to 40 percent of the computer science field, but those numbers have drastically dwindled over the years to a mere 16 percent according to the National Science Foundation.  Even when taking a broader look at entrepreneurship in the U.S., the numbers are just as underwhelming for women – only 27% of women count themselves as entrepreneurs.

Women’s collective waning interest in this important field is attributable to a broad range of factors including young girls simply trying to be avoid the “nerd” label in grade school to lacking relatable role models in the field. According to the Anita Borg Institute (ABI), women that transition into technical careers often leave those roles for other positions and regularly cite less than favorable working conditions such as no prospects for career advancement and poor compensation.     

In recent years, organizations and tech leaders have stepped up to call attention to this problem and factors that feed into it.  For instance, current U.S. Chief Technology Officer (U.S. CTO) and former Googler Megan Smith is an evangelist for spotlighting “unconscious bias.”  Unconscious bias simply means the bias you exhibit without even knowing it. When it comes to women in the tech industry, unconscious bias goes beyond pay and seeps into areas such as entrepreneurial pitches, institutions gravitating towards male applicants as opposed to female applicants for technical roles, and personality criticisms during performance reviews.  And this week, ABI is hosting its annual three-day Grace Hopper conference bringing together thousands of women (and men) in computing to share ideas, make connections, and pay it forward to junior women in the field. Heavy hitters are expected to address the crowd including U.S. CTO Megan Smith, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki.  

While there is much work to be done in improving women’s presence in technical areas like computer science, keeping a constant drumbeat on these issues, bringing tough issues to the forefront, and highlighting women in this field may just inspire the next generation of women computer scientists and entrepreneurs.