On Interning at Slack – Code Like A Girl

From On Interning at Slack – Code Like A Girl:

I’ve had a rough year so far. After coming back to college, I got hit by a car and my grandfather passed away within two weeks of each other. I was diagnosed with a mental disorder. My grades slipped from As to Ds. I had to discontinue my classes in April, and missed two months of classes. I developed PTSD around cars and loud noises, and mourned my grandfather. I partied to not feel the pain and the fear of going outside. In May, I admitted myself to a psychiatric hospital so I could be sure that I wouldn’t hurt myself.

This probably doesn’t seem like it’s relevant. But it is. It felt like everything that could have gone wrong did. Slack was at every point in the process to support me.

I was given permission to call in black. I was allowed to work from home on the days I was too afraid to go outside. I was given a week to help transition my puppy to my house before he was to begin his service dog training. My mentor and manager, a woman and a woman of color, checked in with me at least once a week to make sure I was ok and asked about the ways they could best support me. I called in sick often on the days where every noise made me fear my life. I drew support from the greater Slack community when I needed help.

I made friends with other interns, and didn’t treat me differently after talking about my disabilities. I bonded over boba and makeup with the other engineers and writers at Slack. I spammed the #dogs channel with pictures of my dogs, and created #acai-bowls for those trendy connoisseurs. I was no longer a brown female queer intern with the service dog, but just another engineer. I gave a presentation to the Slack community about ableism and why it was important. And people listened.

This is what a company that genuinely commits to inclusivity and supporting employees looks like.


Good cooks are quitting the kitchen, and that’s bad news for your favourite restaurant

Good cooks are quitting the kitchen, and that’s bad news for your favourite restaurant:

For those making $14 an hour, we’re not even talking about fresh-out-of-school, no-experience, paying-their-dues cooks, who often swing $125 for a 12-hour shift that works out to less than Ontario’s legal minimum wage of $11.25 per hour. No, we’re talking about people who’ve spent years honing their skills, demonstrating their loyalty and work ethic in an industry where “passion” is used as a marker of dedication, and the perceived lack of it as a tool for dismissing any cook who complains about conditions or compensation. One chef I spoke with referred to this as a “crime of passion.”

I have a family member in the food industry, and it staggers me whenever I learn how much he takes home in a year after working 60 hour weeks, 51 weeks a year.


Working Anything but 9 to 5

Working Anything but 9 to 5:

SAN DIEGO — In a typical last-minute scramble, Jannette Navarro, a 22-year-old Starbucks barista and single mother, scraped together a plan for surviving the month of July without setting off family or financial disaster.

In contrast to the joyless work she had done at a Dollar Tree store and a KFC franchise, the $9-an-hour Starbucks job gave Ms. Navarro, the daughter of a drug addict and an absentee father, the hope of forward motion. She had been hired because she showed up so many times, cheerful and persistent, asking for work, and she had a way of flicking away setbacks — such as a missed bus on her three-hour commute — with the phrase, “I’m over it.”

But Ms. Navarro’s fluctuating hours, combined with her limited resources, had also turned their lives into a chronic crisis over the clock. She rarely learned her schedule more than three days before the start of a workweek, plunging her into urgent logistical puzzles over who would watch the boy. Months after starting the job she moved out of her aunt’s home, in part because of mounting friction over the erratic schedule, which the aunt felt was also holding her family captive. Ms. Navarro’s degree was on indefinite pause because her shifting hours left her unable to commit to classes. She needed to work all she could, sometimes counting on dimes from the tip jar to make the bus fare home. If she dared ask for more stable hours, she feared, she would get fewer work hours over all.

An excellent, if damning, piece on the hardships associated with ‘flexible’ scheduling and low-paying jobs.


Casey Johnston!: I have this seminar I’m running for free for college students and I’m…


I have this seminar I’m running for free for college students and I’m going to show them this picture before we start. It’s a picture of someone graduating from college. You can’t tell, but you can guess that they’re probably $150,000 in debt. Written on the top of their mortarboard with masking tape it says, “Hire me.” The thing about the picture that’s pathetic, beyond the notion that you need to spam the audience at graduation with a note saying you’re looking for a job, is that you went $150,000 in debt and spent four years of your life so someone else could pick you. That’s ridiculous. It really makes me sad to see that.

While I understand what Seth Godin is suggesting, I also think that it’s largely reflective of his incredibly privileged position. When people are leaving schools with that amount of debt, with knowledge that they want to start a family and not suffer (total) financial ruin by starting something and failing, then those individuals may quite reasonably want full-time regular employment.

Godin’s most common response is that ‘such employment doesn’t really exist anymore – so adapt!’ While it’s a great response for some people who are willing to take on heightened risks in their lives it isn’t one that ought to be imposed on all individuals. Moreover, the thought that it’s “ridiculous” to want to be picked and work at a meaningful job and launch a career with a business that is compatible with your training and expertise shouldn’t make anyone sad. Instead, what should be “sad” is that such aspirations are less and less likely to be realized as companies abandon long-term commitment to employees and instead harden their ‘flexible’ hiring strategies that facilitate profits at the expense of human life.

Valve’s Handbook for New Employees

Valve’s Handbook for New Employees has made its way to the Internet. While such handbooks are normally incredibly dull – I mean, really, who hasn’t almost fallen asleep or committed suicide to escape reading one? – Valve’s is excellent.

It lays out corporate culture, modes of engaging with other employees, identifying tasks worth doing, and how the company actually functions. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and is scattered with jokes. Valve has, effectively, created a whimsical and useful document that embraces employees. Employers could learn from what Valve has done.


On Hiring Hackers

Kevin McArthur has a response to firms who are demanding highly credentialed security staff: stop it!

Much of his argument surrounds problems with the credentialing process. He focuses on the fact that the time spent achieving an undergrad, MA, and set of professional certifications leaves prospective hires woefully out-of-date and unprepared to address existing security threats.

I recognize the argument but think that it’s somewhat of a strawman: there is nothing in a credentialing process forcing individuals to solely focus on building and achieving their credentials. Indeed, many of the larger companies that I’m familiar with hire hackers as employees and then offer them opportunities to pursue credentials on their own time, on the company dime, over the course of their employment. Many take advantage of this opportunity. This serves two purposes: adds ‘book smarts’ to a repertoire of critical thinking habits and makes the company ‘stickier’ to the employee because of the educational benefits of working for the company.

Under the rubric of enabling education opportunities for staff you can get security talent that is very good and also happens to be well educated. It’s a false dichotomy to suggest that you can have either ‘book smarts’ or ‘real world smarts’: there are lots of people with both. They don’t tend to be right out of university or high school, but they are out there.

What’s more important, and what I think the real focus of the article is meant to be, is that relying on credentials instead of work accomplished is the wrong way of evaluating prospective security staff hires. On that point, we entirely agree.