Captain Picard, Enterprise CEO

I enjoyed analyzing Captain Janeway’s style of leadership as compared to a startup CEO in the first part of a three-part essay on Star Trek captains and leadership. In the second part, I get to tackle my favorite captain of them all: Jean-Luc Picard. I’ll be talking about how Picard’s style of management is ideal for a mature company. CEOs for mature companies are often selected from the outside rather than being promoted from within—but how did Picard get selected to become the captain of the Federation’s most prestigious ship? And how can you learn from his deliberate choices? I’ll first look at how Picard built his expertise and was trusted enough to take over the Enterprise, and then I’ll delve deeper into the relationships he creates and curates in his team.

As the captain of the USS Enterprise, the Federation’s flagship, Picard is one of the most prestigious, highly respected, and well-known leaders in Star Fleet. Many CEOs of mature companies have multiple accomplishments to their name, giving them well-roundedness, common ground with many people, and sources of inspiration, and Picard clearly has a well-rounded and investigative personality. He uses his musicianship, his interest in Vulcan philosophy, and his love of Shakespeare to relate to aliens and create understanding, as well as giving him a life outside of and an escape from the burdens of leadership. He’s smart to do so. Leaders need to maintain an active mental life, and I certainly find that if I start dropping my outside pursuits like writing, playing music, and creating art, that I lose perspective on the choices I make inside my company as well.

Many CEOs of mature tech companies are business and finance specialists with proven records as operations officers. Picard captained the Stargazer for 22 years to gain experience and demonstrate his capacity to lead. The USS Enterprise is not a gig for a child or a first-timer, no matter what some poorly researched reboot might claim. James Kirk captained an as-yet unnamed ship before taking command of the Enterprise. The next captain of a ship named Enterprise was Captain Rachel Garrett, CO of the USS Enterprise-C, the only time that a first-time captain has ever commanded the Enterprise—and a time when the Enterprise was not the flagship of the Federation or in open war. The point here is that demonstrated expertise as a skilled operator matters a great deal when taking over a prominent leadership role in a mature enterprise (yeah, I just did that pun).

Let’s get down to the specifics of how Picard manages his people. Although he has a skilled and competent XO, Commander William T Riker, Picard isn’t worried that Riker will attempt to either eclipse him or to substitute his own judgment for that of Picard’s. The fact that Picard is fearless about having competent, brilliant, ambitious subordinates makes him a spectacular manager and captain. Without concern for his own position or whether Riker would or could push him out, Picard constantly and perpetually supports Riker’s decision process regarding his career. This is much more important than most people realize, and for good reason: the fruits of Picard’s trust in Riker lead to Riker learning to trust in ambitious, competent subordinates. Who could forget the clash of wills between Lieutenant Commander Elizabeth Shelby, the excellent officer detailed to the Enterprise to assist with defensive strategy planning during the Borg invasion? Riker initially disliked Shelby’s tactless ambition and found reasons to criticize her. When Riker was promoted to captain during Picard’s abduction by the Borg, he immediately promoted Shelby to First Officer. He realized why Picard had trusted him in the face of his own ambition, and learned to trust his own decisions about who to promote and support. Picard sets an excellent example of how to treat people, and it’s reflected in the fact that his subordinates take that skill with them into new positions and new responsibilities.

Picard has deliberately curated his own reputation as a trustworthy and competent leader, and uses it to back up his decisions and create conditions of trust between himself and his team. Picard may be modest, but he never actually insisted that they name the Picard Maneuver something else. Picard understood that the creation of himself as a legend as well as a human was a vital part of building the emotional component of support for his leadership. I don’t know what the equivalent of social media will be in the 24th century, but Picard is clearly well known outside Star Fleet and throughout the Federation as a diplomat and negotiator. He doesn’t just accomplish the impossible, he clearly lets others talk about his achievements. This strategy only works because he has the skills to back up even the most outrageous expectations laid upon him.

This means he can use his power and prestige for the benefit of his crew. He never visibly uses it to bolster his comfort level beyond the minimum needed to maintain his image as the captain. On several occasions he’s deliberately chosen not to use his authority internally to benefit someone he cares about. When Lieutenant Commander Nella Darren took over Stellar Cartography aboard the Enterprise in 2369, Picard and she rapidly grew close. He could easily have used his power to advance Darren’s career or give her a cushy transfer. He chose instead to end his relationship with her due to the very valid fears of his crew that he would prefer one of his direct subordinates over others. He set an excellent, if personally painful, example for how to conduct your personal affairs as a leader, and his team respected him deeply for it.

Jean-Luc Picard exhibits sober judgment, trust in his team, support for their ambition, and he rarely interrupts his staff when they’re speaking. He’s a spectacular role model for the CEO of a mature company in the way he manages his personal life, his professional relationships, and the direction of his career. He’s an example I try to live up to every day.

Kathryn Janeway, Startup CEO

Reposted from an edited version at WeWork Magazine.

A couple of weeks ago, WeWork Magazine interviewed me for a Spotlight article about me. One of my answers about which Star Trek captain I thought my management style most closely reflected betrayed how seriously I take Star Trek. So, they’ve asked me to expand on my thoughts about how Star Trek captains can be compared to tech CEOs. In this three-part essay, I’ll be looking at Kathryn Janeway, Jean-Luc Picard, and Benjamin Sisko as examples of CEOs at different stages of their careers: at a startup, in a mature company, and during transitional periods.

I was eight years old on the evening of September 26th, 1987. My dad whispered “Shh. Don’t tell your mom I’m starting you on science fiction,” and tiptoed with me down to the basement of our old farmhouse where the little 13” TV sat in his proto-mancave. He flipped the switch, put a little more aluminum foil on the antenna, and I saw the blue letters on the screen as the Alexander Courage & Jerry Goldsmith music played for the first time ever at the beginning of Encounter At Farpoint. Dad choked up a little, remembering when he was nine years old and watched The Man Trap with his father. We bond with these stories. We tell and retell them. We vary the details, but the core myth remains the same: a diverse crew explores the boundaries of space and other civilizations while learning more about what it means to be human.

The most important part about Star Trek captains isn’t which one you admire most, or which one you feel most closely reflects your management style. The most important Star Trek captain is the one who inspires you to be a better leader, and though I think I have the most in common personality-wise with Picard, the truth is that Kathryn Janeway is the closest ideal to what a startup CEO should be. She has no shame or pride, no false sense of ego, and a single, unwavering, certainly monomaniacal goal: to get her crew home. In the course of seven years on the way back from the Delta Quadrant, she uses everything she has and more to succeed.

Janeway is put in impossible situations with untenable choices, and yet she creates humor, freedom, and a shared sense of purpose. She’s by far the wittiest and funniest of the captains, and very free with a joke or a tension-relieving pun. I like her sense of humor a lot, but there’s one thing she does which I try very hard to emulate. She understands that her promise to her crew to get them home is the only thing she’ll ever be judged on, and she sacrifices her personal comfort, her friendships, and her privilege time and time again to make it happen. Barring morally despicable options, there’s nothing she won’t do to achieve her goals. Over seven years, she adopts the roles of a mechanic, a prostitute, a governess, a merchant, a general, a killer, a janitor, an exterminator, a referee, a teacher, a programmer, a scientist, a pool shark, and many, many more. When the time comes for her to play a low-status person to aid in her goal of getting her crew home, she doesn’t hesitate.

Janeway strikes a careful balance among the tight and dramatic relationships that form in the crew when there’s a limited amount of choice for who to socialize with. The greatest CEOs I know worry about their people, not their status. Janeway invests in her people and builds them up instead of tearing them down to maintain an artificial hierarchy, and in return, they achieve more than they could imagine in a crew that will support them.

I love that Janeway has two heroes that I can think of in Voyager; one is Amelia Earhart, and the other is her own ancestor, engineer and architect Shannon O’Donnell Janeway. Perhaps this is where I feel closest to Janeway; she too has mentors and heroes that inspire her that she’s imbued with personality and hope, that she uses to get her through tough decisions, and that she believes in. She’s never met them (well, she meets Amelia Earhart, but this is science-fiction, people), but she knows what they’ll say when she needs their advice. She uses their accomplishments to hold up a mirror to her motivations. There’s not much of a difference between the inspiration of an ancestor you’ve never met except through stories, and a fictional hero who dares us to achieve more. When we need heroes that are more than human, we create our own legends to give us strength, and Star Trek is a rich source of hope and mentorship to me.

Captain Janeway, you’re my hero.

Benedict Cumberbatch Lied To Me And Broke My Heart

Ever wondered how Frankenstein’s Creature learned to speak? He listened to an impoverished professor reading aloud and explaining one of the greatest books of the Enlightenment.

Those of you who recently saw the brilliant Frankenstein/Creature role swap done by Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller by the National Theater will remember that De Lacey used Paradise Lost to teach the Creature to read.

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Actually, in Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein, the Creature learned from a book called The Ruins, or Meditation on the Revolutions of Empires, by Constantin François de Chassebœuf, comte de Volney.

I love audiobooks, and I realized that no one has ever done an audiobook of The Ruins! This rich and magical book, a source for art we love and even our own political freedoms, is in danger of being forgotten.

So over the last several months, I have been recording the audiobook of Volney’s greatest work for the first time ever in human history!

I hope you want to learn about the rise and fall of empires the same way that Frankenstein’s Creature did. I need your support to finish the recording, redo some of the first chapters, and get a sound engineer and editor to turn this from digital recordings into an audiobook! Back my project and spread the word, and together we will bring a lost treasure of the Enlightenment to audiobook and to the world!

HELP ME TELL BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH THAT FRANKENSTEIN IS JUST FINE THE WAY IT IS. AND SO IS HE.

Share this project at http://bit.ly/volney!

Manage your time like a boss

I saw an executive coach this last year for a few sessions on time management…or so I thought. I asked him for help managing my stress and time, and he said “Is that really what you’re here for? To manage your stress? That sounds like a depressing personal goal to me.” He was right. I didn’t want to manage my stress, I wanted to be happier and feel like I had all the time in the world. I have a lot of commitments and I get a lot done, and I’m happy with myself and the world, and it’s because I follow three rules that you can use and tailor to yourself.

Revisit your real priorities.

There’s at least one or two things you wish you were doing. In my case, I wasn’t making time for the creative pursuits that let me feel like I’m contributing to culture. I needed to add back in my audiobook recordings, writing, acting, and textile arts. I needed to make time to cook and eat actual meals. I was cramming food into my face while tweeting, and it was unhealthy and counterproductive. Find even one hour a month to sit down quietly and ask yourself this: If I die in 90 days, will I leave something of worth behind me?

Time block and journal.

You should be using tools to run your life that drive positive behavior, not ex post facto documentation of your screwups. In my case, I use calendaring, OmniFocus, and a daily log of how I actually spent my time. You’ll find that when your emails drop to the lowest priority, that you spend only a few minutes on them per day. It’s been quite eye-opening for me to see how I actually spend my day. Most importantly, block out time for yourself to eat, sleep, and exercise. Don’t lie to yourself about having enough time to take care of your body and mind. When you’ve actually blocked out the time for yoga or spinning or rock climbing or whatever you do (and that includes transit and cleanup time!), a half hour each for three meals and a break, and then look at your day, it will become ice clear that you’ve been ignoring yourself and your health. If you have a job that regulates how you work and at what times, I recommend Tim Ferriss’s 4 Hour Workweek for a good lesson on how to manage up to make time for yourself. If you have commitments like PTA or volunteering, do you have those blocked out on your calendar? What about realistic transportation on the bus or in a car back and forth from every single meeting? That’s what I thought. Even if you can’t control your schedule, you can be honest with yourself about what you’ve actually committed to.

Say yes to favors and no to meetings.

I’m often asked if I have an hour for a meeting or 30 minutes for a cup of coffee. The answer is no. When someone says to me “I’d like an hour of your time to [go over this document/meet a friend/talk about my project],” what they’re saying is “I know better than you how your time should be used.” They don’t. What they actually want from me is [a signature/their friend to be introduced to someone I know/me to back them on Kickstarter]. I can give them a yes/no on that favor in seconds or in a 2-minute email, and I’m happy to do so. If they want more face-to-face time, it’s because they want to convince me of something concerning which a 2 paragraph email will be ineffectual–likely because it’s a bad idea or I’m not going to get anything out of the situation. I’ve even had people be subtle enough to think that I’d need extra time to let them down gently if I wasn’t able to do them the favor. I really don’t require the extra time; I wasn’t going to be tactful anyway. I’ll be honest with you, which is my version of respect.

Cowhand up, people; you have one life and so do I. Use it wisely.

Transitioning To Tech: Sept 15-18 Live 4-Night Seminar For Underemployed

Are you stuck in a job that doesn’t fulfill you or looking for work?

I’m teaching a 4 night seminar on how to transition into technology as a career field. I know how to help you get jobs as web testers, quality assurance testers, and more.

We’ll be meeting from 7-9PM September 15-18th at St James Cathedral at 804 9th Ave in Seattle. This workshop is free, but requires registration in advance. Limited to 30 people. If you’re inclined to donate, we’ll collect for the Solanus Casey Center, a homeless men’s shelter. We’re meeting at a church center, but we’re open to all faiths and persuasions. No one will be turned away (as long as you’re registered!)

I’ll help you:

  1. Believe that you belong in tech and show you that the skills you already have will transition well into a tech career
  2. Teach you how to teach yourself tech skills from information readily available on the internet, and how to turn those into a skilled and standout resume
  3. Explain why people skills matter more than anything and how to demonstrate that you’ll be a great teammate
  4. Get you started on your personal network of mentors and colleagues to help you grow, keep you learning, and give you motivation and support

Here’s the flyer; please spread it around.

Here’s the link to the flyer at the St James website. (Scroll down to page 12)

Managing people that don’t look like you

No one trains managers in empathy. We train new managers to use project management software, to interface with clients, and to fill out timesheets, but being a manager means giving a shit about your people. When’s the last time you, as a manager, faced training that taught you that you have profound power over the lives of the people who work for you, and that your thoughtlessness is deeply cruel when you force people to operate in an environment that harms them?

I’m using strong language because over the last fifteen-odd years, I’ve seen an unbelievable amount of thoughtless cruelty towards people who vary from your expectations. Much of what I’ve seen involves treating people with disabilities or medical conditions as inconveniences gladly shed when the workday is through–and absolutely ensuring that people with disabilities cannot attend the after-work and networking events that are so vital to a successful career. Many managers don’t realize how much harder it is getting jobs when you’re differently abled, transgender, female, older, or any of the other categories that aren’t “Single, White, Young, Straight, Male”.

Your job as a manager is very different than the one you did while on the team. As a manager, your job is to facilitate and help your team succeed.

One of the biggest issues I see new managers dealing with is the idea that the team is theirs. Their responsibility, their charge, their trust. They’ve been entrusted with people that have less voice than they do about the conditions under which they work, the conflict they experience and the situations they find themselves in. The worst managers I’ve seen aren’t the ones who deliberately push people around. The worst managers are the ones who assume a peer relationship with their team and take absolutely no responsibility for the success and comfort of the people they’ve been charged with protecting and promoting. “It’s not my fault; I didn’t know that poster would make her uncomfortable, and if it did, why didn’t she tell me?” Pushing blame onto your employees for not doing your job for you is vicious, whether unconscious or not.

Managers often think to themselves “If someone has a problem with these arrangements, I’ll hear about it. They’ll just speak up.” Wrong. If you’re in a position of power over people’s lives and ability to put food on the table, you’ll never hear about a problem with the hotel accommodations, the food selection, the air conditioning, the pet allergies, the disability access, the racist posters in the ladies bathrooms, or the pressure to consume too much alcohol.

This is especially endemic when your team is travelling somewhere. When people are moved outside their comfort zone, they have needs that they expect you to be thinking about and to handle. If you have a team member who is disabled, and you plan an afterparty at a rooftop bar with no elevator, you won’t hear from that person about your stupid choice to create an “optional” event that your workers are expected to attend for job and networking reasons. Instead, that disabled person will simply say “I’m not up to it tonight” and head back to the hotel. How are they supposed to speak up? They have no power, you pay their bills, and if they complain, they’re a party killer instead of a friend and colleague. It’s your job to put yourself in the position of each person on the team, and ask yourself if they’ll be comfortable and able to succeed in the environment you’re forcing them to operate in.

Yes, you’re FORCING them to do what you want. If you’re the person that decides if an employee stays or goes, you literally have the power to turn off their electricity, to pull their kids out of school, to have their car repossessed, to cause them emotional and social pain and shame. You think that someone is going to just speak up when they’re uncomfortable? Or are they going to keep their mouth shut, start looking for another job, and badmouth the poor management you’re providing?

I’ve seen a lot of instances of thoughtlessly cruel management, especially when travelling for work. I’ve seen blind people unable to attend work parties because dogs weren’t allowed in the door. I’ve seen people with severe animal allergies expected to work in small offices with service animals. I’ve seen a single down step into a restaurant prevent two people in wheelchairs from attending a party.

Let’s look at examples involving gender, disability, and ethnicity.

**The one where the manager doesn’t understand the reason for the disabled person’s request**

Say you’re a project manager. Your dev manager decides to send you to the big yearly conference for your tech. You book the rooms for your team, set up the reservations for dinner on two nights, and book 8 seats on flights. Then, the email from your team member who has a mobility disorder arrives. “Can I talk to the airline myself? I want to do an upgrade to first class.” GODDAMNIT, you think. I’ve been trying to get this person to be MORE a part of the team WHY DO THEY HAVE TO MAKE MY LIFE HARDER BY BEING A SNOB??

I’ve seen managers respond angrily to requests to have travel arrangements changed because they’re seeing that request through the eyes of someone working on team solidarity–or they’re simply cutting costs. Unfortunately, the state of air travel can be completely vicious  and much more expensive for someone with a disability, and often the fastest way to handle discomfort and ensure that there will be someone to help you is to do an airline upgrade. It may look classless to not want to sit with your team (pun intended), but it’s often a shortcut to take care of your own needs without being a pain in the ass for your manager. When you have a person on your team who you know has a disability, it’s often easy to think that you know best for them. Being visibly physically disabled absolutely means that people treat you as if you’re mentally or socially disabled as well. Don’t think you know better than someone who’s been managing their disability for years. Let them make their own choices and find a different way to accomplish your goals.

**The one where your workplace is diverse and your happy hour is monochrome**

You’re a new manager. You want to invite all your team out to pizza and beer and make it a regular thing. In a fairly common circumstance, you have 5 white men, 1 East Asian man, and one South Asian woman working for you. After three Friday happy hours, the woman has never come, the East Asian man came to the first one and not any following ones, and the 5 white men are regulars. Why do you think this is? Have you noticed that it’s happening?

To realize what is happening here, look at the socioeconomic factors on your team. I won’t say that it’s always the case, but for many women around the world and in the US, a job with clearly defined working hours is a blessing that lets them support a family and still spend time with them. I’m not just talking about children; there are many cultures that have a big emphasis on care for the aged, and given my experience managing, it’s generally women that bear the burden of that care. Now, you’re less likely to promote that woman because you don’t know them as well. Let’s not pretend that happy hour is totally unrelated to career success. Instead, think about how to make team socializing happen on the job. Can you do a team lunch potluck on Fridays? Potluck always helps, since people can be guaranteed of having something they can eat. Can you do a family-friendly picnic as an offsite some Monday or Saturday? There are better options than the unspoken requirement that even if you’re not getting paid for it, your ass shows up for happy hour or you don’t get promoted. That invisible power structure is a major barrier for the success of women and minorities of all kinds, and you can help open it up.

Your East Asian man may be lactose-intolerant (very common genetic difference) and unwilling to tell your whole team that pizza makes him ill. This is serious–who would want to tell their friends and colleagues that they don’t like their food? Ever thought about rotating the location of your happy hour to include lots of different experiences and restaurants? Not only does sharing new experiences make for a better team, it offers choices for people who may not want to tell you that your plan doesn’t work for them.

There are lots of reasons your team might be different at happy hour. Don’t pretend like it’s not your problem when your not-so-subtle power over your team is what creates burdens for people that don’t look like you.

***Conclusion***

The reason you’re being thoughtlessly cruel to your team is because you see situations through your eyes, not theirs. If they make a request that seems odd, don’t immediately deny it. Ask yourself why they might be making the request to begin with. If the women on your team never show up for happy hour, ask yourself what about the environment could make a woman uncomfortable. Not going to Hooters is an obvious choice, but a more subtle one might be that the social situation changes to one that is more sexually charged when the rest of your team gets tipsy.

It’s your responsibility to take care of your people. You have power, and whether intentionally or not, you’re using it. Use it to help, not hurt.

Redirect timewaster sites with 3 Chrome extensions

I have a lot of sites that by themselves, aren’t terrible for me. I won’t spend hours on Facebook or Buzzfeed or Twitter or Gawker or Huffington Post…but I have found myself spending hours on Facebook AND Buzzfeed AND Twitter AND Gawker AND Huffpo.

I looked at some helpful productivity extensions, and I like this combination:

1. New Tab Redirect automatically redirects all new tabs to my fitness website instead of showing me my most visited sites in Chrome, which was distracting and sometimes led to Facebooking where none was intended.

2. StayFocusd gives me a time limit for how much time in a day I can spend on a collection of timewaster sites. Here’s my list of sites on which I can only spend 10 COLLECTIVE minutes per day. Yes, this means I have to compose my tweets before I go sit on Hootsuite for an hour mindlessly clicking.

Remove aol.com
Remove buzzfeed.com
Remove cracked.com
Remove dorkly.com
Remove facebook.com
Remove gawker.com
Remove hootsuite.com
Remove huffingtonpost.com
Remove instagram.com
Remove nytimes.com
Remove reddit.com
Remove themuse.com
Remove toofab.com
Remove tumblr.com
Remove twitter.com
Remove zergnet.com

3. After StayFocusd ticks over for the day, trying to go to those sites lands me on a StayFocusd ad page. So, I use Switcheroo Redirector to selectively redirect any URL to another URL. I fed in the StayFocusd ad page and now when I try to mindlessly hit Facebook after the time limit is up for the day, I land on the NOAA astronomy page looking at a current picture of the sky.

Voila!

Developer at AtlasCamp apologizes to “all getting offended” by his sexist joke

**EDITED 17:44 Pacific 6/4/14** Saha develops for Atlassian, but does not work for them.

Today, Jonathan Doklovic, an Atlassian developer at Atlassian’s AtlasCamp in Berlin, Germany presented a talk that contained this slide:

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Then, Marko Saha (Director, Agile Enterprise Solutions at Ambientia) tweeted it because he thought it was funny.

The tweet has gone viral. Atlassian’s CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes, has already responded with a blog post here:

On failing our values, our team, and our industry

There’s a problem. While the creator of the slide hasn’t responded, Marko Saha has responded by halfheartedly apologizing “to those offended”,

referring to the social media response to his sexist joke as a hassle,

claimed the slide was taken out of context,

And seems to be referring to the lack of consequences anyone faced as bullshit, because

Soooo, Atlassian? You’ve got a mess to clean up there. You might start by letting your dev know that this is inappropriate behavior BEFORE handling the PR in a situation like this. Second, Ambientia has a mess to clean up as well. The last thing Saha tweeted, an hour ago, was a list of literary insults.

Defaults changed for OpenSSH config in Kubuntu 14.04 Trusty Tahr

I rebuilt a box this morning, and when I installed openssh-server, I found a different option set as default in the config file–one that I believe is less secure.

Where previously, the default Authentications section looked like this:


# Authentication:
LoginGraceTime 120
PermitRootLogin yes
StrictModes yes

The default now looks like this:


# Authentication:
LoginGraceTime 120
PermitRootLogin without-password
StrictModes yes

And I have, of course, set the switch to “no”.

I don’t personally allow root logins of any kind on any of my personal servers, and I do like that the default has been made more secure. It’s different, however, and my eyes might have scanned right over this switch if I didn’t have a list of things I change for security reasons each time I build a box. Caveat emptor.

Companies Lie About Their Proportion of Female Engineers

Companies tend to inflate the numbers of women in their ranks holding ‘technical’ positions. No corporation wants to admit that their company has little to no female engineers; instead, they create an overarching category of people on technical teams, and then divide by gender.

The statistics a company publishes concerning the number of women hires are often very misleading. Companies often say that women in graphic design or project management are ‘technical’ in nature; they are not typically regarded as so by most engineers. They are artists or human resource and task specialists who schedule, track, and motivate the developers. However, it is convenient to use them to showcase high numbers of women in technical positions in any organization. I wrote a now defunct blog post on my experience asking Klout.com about this, which was chronicled in Huffington Post.

Here’s the original data I compiled on Klout’s proportion of women in tech at the time. It’s just an infograph (don’t mock my nonexistent graphic design skills), but it illustrates the situation quite well. Click the thumbnail to embiggen.

Klout by the numbers-Large

As a result, most people are not aware of the true nature of the difficulties women face being hired to work in development and programming teams. These are tiny, overwhelmingly masculine pockets of an often quite egalitarian overall corporate culture.

The way to determine the real number of women in technical positions is to ask how many female engineers are on board. That is not a number which can be inflated; ask to meet with one or two in order to find out how women are treated in the organization. If you are concerned with how that might appear, contact the women via social media. You should be able to reach at least one or two…if they exist.

It’s very tough to tell how many companies are inflating their numbers. I know of two large companies at a minimum in the Seattle area which count project managers and graphic designers as “technical” employees, when in reality it is a rare event indeed for a woman to be employed as a software engineer or web developer. Be cautious when companies tout their high integration stats; the truth is that unless the CEO, CTO, COO, and VP Engineering are all female, I would never believe offhand any company that tells me that “42% of our technical workforce is female.”

If you know a company that is seeking female engineers and which would be a great place to work, even if the proportion of technical women in the company is low, leave it in the comments. I can think of several places with low ratios that are great workplaces.  It’s merely the vicissitudes of hiring which have left them low on women, though they work hard on diversity.

A small disclaimer: if you are a project manager or graphic designer and you consider yourself to be technical, I believe you. I am speaking only of the corporate habit of trying to make female engineers believe that they will be on a team consisting of a gender split like unto that which the company publishes as its official gender ration for technical positions.

Parts of this post adapted from “Technical Interviews for Technical Women” © 2011 Tarah Wheeler Van Vlack