Amy Stephen

Hacker Grandma


Employment Risk

Today, Dave Winer blogged about a difficult time in his employer history where he was apparently sued by a developer code-named Roy Wildstein fired for non-performance. I would comment on Dave’s post but he closed the comments, encouraging those who wanted to respond to do so via a post of our own.

Hello Dave Winer. I see your Roy Wildstein and I raise you one Julie Ann Horvath.

Dave, this conclusion you drew is completely irresponsible. There is really no defense for this comment:

But every time a company hires someone who is not a young male, they run the risk that the new hire isn’t there to work, rather is there to scam you.

In the past, I have defended some of your outlandish comments, but today, I just can’t do that. It’s a pretty horrifying statement you have made.

As a woman, you might understand how I could be offended that your experience with one non performing developer, 20 years your senior in terms of experience, has lead you to conclude any of us who weren’t just like you were at the time – a young white male – somehow increase the risk to our employing company that we plan to scam them.

I have over 30 years in the industry. I worked hard. Most of the time, I worked well over 60 hours a week. I have had excellent performance records, a history of promotions and increasing salary and responsibilities. Never did I find the need to sue my employer nor was I ever fired.

Let me suggest an alternative risk factor: spoon feeding a youthful vision via daily doses of specifications to a developer with 20 years more experience and returning in eight hours expecting code.

Sounds like he played you. Too bad you didn’t understand his apparent lack of respect for your futuristic vision and his willingness to screw you over. It’s unfortunate such an experience has left you distrustful of anyone who isn’t a young white male instead of looking inside to question your leadership approach.

Given your propensity for giant jumps in logic and the fact that you have provided no method of first verifying my assumptions, you’ll forgive me if I wrongly assume you are really speaking about Julie Ann Horvath’s recent experiences at Github that are just now hitting your Twitter stream.

To be clear:

  • Julie didn’t go public with her concerns. She responded to public allegations made about her after she resigned.
  • Through her public statements, we’ve learned that she has been dealing with this problem for a year before she finally found it so intolerable she had to resign.
  • Never once during that time did she make any public references to what she has now described as so difficult she sometimes sat crying in the restroom at her place of work.
  • It has obviously been a painful year for her and heartbreaking, given how hard she worked to address diversity issues at work only to find herself in a hostile work environment.

Github has apologized to her, expressed respect and appreciation for her work, placed two employees on leave and prohibited one involved from entering the place of business. Julie is not scamming anyone.

It would be easy to respond in frustration to Julie’s experiences and say every time a company hires a young white male, they run the risk of harming women. But, making ridiculous statements of that nature would be spreading FUD and it would not help Julie or other men and women who find themselves in her situation. And sadly, there are many in hostile work environments looking for support.

What I will say is anyone who hires Julie should know she comes with high praise from the CEO of Github. She has the unconditional support and respect of countless of us who appreciate her creativity, strong work ethic, integrity and strength of character.

The technology community not only has a positive role model in Julie, but through her work producing Passion Projects, each month we have another example of someone who didn’t just punch in at work on time and wait for someone to tell them what to code, but came to live their passion and exceed all expectations. Any one of those women depicted in the series would be a huge benefit to any company fortunate enough to hire them.

In my 30 years in the industry, I’ve had the great fortune of working along side both women and men of integrity and creativity, young and old, short and tall, fat and thin, with diverse ethnic and capability backgrounds. Hiring is difficult and risky. There are no easy ways to mitigate risk but certainly there is nothing reliable about using skin color, gender, or age that provides a reasonable prediction about performance.

You’re wrong, Dave.

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