Compassionate Coding and Diversity with April Wensel

April WenselApril Wensel is an international speaker and the founder of Compassionate Coding, a social enterprise that provides coaching and training to empower individuals and teams to cultivate sustainable, human-­centered, emotionally intelligent software development practices. She has spent the past decade in software engineering and technical leadership roles at various Silicon Valley startups spanning education, health, bioinformatics, gaming, and smart homes. She also mentors widely and volunteers with organizations like Black Girls Code and Hackbright Academy to advance the cause of diversity and inclusion in the software industry. When not coding, she enjoys writing, running marathons, and cooking vegan food.
Contact Links:
Newsletter: eepurl.com/b7Vhb9
Personal Twitter: twitter.com/aprilwensel
Show Notes:
– Black Girls Code – http://www.blackgirlscode.com/
– Hackbright Academy mentoring program – https://hackbrightacademy.com/mentor/
– Level Playing Field Institute – http://www.lpfi.org/
– Technovation – http://technovationchallenge.org/
– Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley – https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/workplace
– Elephant in the Valley – https://www.elephantinthevalley.com/
– Awakening Compassion at Work – http://awakeningcompassionatwork.com/
– The Optimistic Workplace – http://optimisticworkplace.com/
– Article about Zymergen ditching whiteboard interviews – https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/04/tech-start-up-women-brogrammers

Christian Mccarrick:
[0:06] Good afternoon April welcome to the show.

April Wensel:
[0:09] Hi Kristen thank you I’m happy to be here.

Christian Mccarrick:
[0:11] No it’s my pleasure always a bunch of have people in the show that really start of care about really trying to improve a software engineering leadership and culture to offer engineering companies and I kind of found you online,
read some of the work that you’ve done in your blogs and really thought that you know you’d be a great guest in the show and our listeners would really appreciate that.

April Wensel:
[0:31] Well thank you I hope so.

Christian Mccarrick:
[0:32] Great so first off I like to come to ask all the guys on the show to give a little bit of background what their history was in and out an entire list but some of the highlights and then kind of wind up with what you’re doing today.

April Wensel:
[0:43] Sure so I came to computer science in a pretty traditional way I started programming in high school I study computer science colleges my major.
And then I went on to work in Silicon Valley at a variety of companies mostly startups and.
That was in an individual contributor capacity as well as leadership positions formal and informal leadership positions throughout my career.
And I also spend a lot of time mentoring with different organizations that are.
Aimed at getting people from under-represented groups into text so that’s another big part of what I do,
and so now I ran compassionate coding which is a company that gives workshops and presentations on growing emotional intelligence and related skills on software engineering team specifically.

Christian Mccarrick:
[1:36] Okay great no tell me a little bit about going from that traditional.
Softer engineering career path right individual contributor manager suddenly you decide to kind of venture off on your own and you know congratulations and that that’s super cool.
And you have the happen like what was the onus for making that happen.

April Wensel:
[1:57] Well like many entrepreneurs I was mostly motivated by frustration so after 10 years in this industry I got kind of fed up with a lot of the problems that I kept staying on.
Teams on just the frustration I guess with mostly at communication problems on teams and just how little attention was given to these communication problems because,
the technical side of thing quote technical side of things as valued almost exclusively and the human issues that we really slowing teams down where neglected and.
Well I could make some changes in the company’s that I was at especially when I was in a position of leadership I was kind of confined to.
Making changes that one company at a time and I really saw this as more of a global problem and so branching off starting a passionate coding with my way of really changing this on a larger scale and reaching more people.

Christian Mccarrick:
[2:50] Okay and when you say you were going to fed up with some of the frustration so is there should have said of the top common things that you kept seeing over and over I mean you mentioned communication as one of you know anything specific about communication or any other top items.

April Wensel:
[3:05] Yeah so you know a lot of it I think stems from Big Egos and Tech so you know people,
yeah it like a lot of the people who especially are in leadership positions now in Ted go through traditional background and so you know they they got their degree they feel smarter than everyone you know I mean that’s kind of how it goes and.
This some you know.
I would hear comments from Engineers about kind of being dismissive of sales or marketing or other you know departments because engineering’s what’s important and then of course,
that’s not going to lead to a successful business if you don’t also value the people who you know we’re helping you make the money make the product help the users.
And you know hearing things like people calling to users idiots right I mean I’m sure anyone has been an interesting here for awhile has heard these comments like other user idiots so we have to design it this way or you know and so.
I just I didn’t like that and I had become kind of,
I’m not saying the sort of in a judgment away because I was one of these people who would say these things sometimes and I would you know fall into that habit of.
Try to protect my ego at the expense of my co-workers or you know the user and you know it is all about showing how smart I was and how good it coding I was and you know these Rockstar ninja kind of things like.
Which I think is so destructive and so I didn’t like who I’d become in order to become successful in this industry.
So starting compassionate coding was both kind of a declaration for myself like no I’m going to be better and also we can all be better.

Christian Mccarrick:
[4:38] Sure and you bring up a good point right because it’s not certain how to culture evolve that if you don’t go along with those types of behavior then you kind of look at left behind.

April Wensel:
[4:46] Yeah that’s so true I mean sometimes when I do workshops some of the members of the team will come up to me on breaks and say but if we don’t act like you know really aggressive and nobody’s going to respect us and that’s kind of,
you know an unfortunate thing and shows that it really has to be a full-scale culture change which is what I’m aiming for so.

Christian Mccarrick:
[5:07] Sure great no a little bit you know you just mentioned compassionate coating can you go into a little bit you know what is what exactly is compassionate going what is your with your goals.

April Wensel:
[5:16] Yeah so my goals are to reverse a lot of the negative thinking that has been ingrained in the culture so far and instead presents a positive view of what software engineering can be that has a foundation of the growth mindset.
Empathy and really caring about human beings before the technology because.

[5:40] You know that we shouldn’t be Building Technology unless we roll timidly trying to help people write and I think we’ve lost sight of that a lot of times in these companies is you know we get so focused on YouTube building efficient Technologies but if we building something,
that is not going to be helpful to people then we’re wasting our time and so I think.
I basically want to put humans at the center of all decision-making revolving around you know involved in software engineering and related jobs to self are generics the product management marketing all of that.

Christian Mccarrick:
[6:14] Sure seem of interesting views on the rise of artificial intelligence as well.

April Wensel:
[6:19] Yeah I will actually my main put my main view on that is just that if we want emotionally intelligent artificial intelligence then we’re going to have to grow emotional intelligence in the people building it.

Christian Mccarrick:
[6:31] Yeah right.

April Wensel:
[6:33] Which is Hinata step one and I definitely hasn’t happened yet.

Christian Mccarrick:
[6:37] Exactly so what would a typical engagement look like with you no compassion of programming compassion and coding so do what is the typical thing look like.

April Wensel:
[6:46] Yeah so I start by talking to the leadership at the company typically and sometimes the entro happens because somebody on the team is so you know kind of frustrated by the state of things that they’ll contact me and make an intro to someone on the leadership team there.
And will do it needs Gathering kind of to understands what the biggest problems are on the team just in general.
And inevitably if you take the biggest problems on the team you can look the meat that and find that they’re not actually technical problems but their people problems on some level right cuz even.
Even problems with code review like that’s a people problem you know it’s rarely a technology problem and so will find the people problems and then all create a training program.
Let’s customize to the specific problems that are facing this team and then I’ll go in present it typically half-day to fold a a lot of teams bring me on when they’re doing their like all hands meeting cuz it kind of fits in well with that.
And then after that.
What the end of the session we always create an action plan both for the individual but also for the team of like how we’re going to change how we’re going to use these emotional intelligence skills to be more productive to communicate better to can you produce better software.
Come up with specific goals and then after the engagement have kind of like a tale of like insulting that’s included and so there with that.
I’ll check in with the leaders here you know how things are going troubleshoot any problems and really be a resource to anyone on the team.

[8:19] Who you know is struggling with managing their emotions or what have you.

Christian Mccarrick:
[8:23] And when you going to these companies do you find that there’s a lot of commonalities in the issues that they’re facing.

April Wensel:
[8:30] Yes so I think one of the one of them is.
It all involves managing your emotions so one of the ways this plays out is Engineers are sometimes known to be temperamental meaning that,
I think it frustrated about something,
baby just kind of have a blow up right and this is this is one of the like the most obvious problems that happens on teams and why often,
they’re able to get the money to bring in somebody like me because you know it’s it’s so destructive to the team when you lose days of productivity because of conflict on the team so that outward conflict it is a big one.
With an even things like you to some of the open-source companies that I worked with they,
basically the people who were the engineers on the team are essentially doing customer support because they’re helping people integrate their open source product into their software,
so
If you have Engineers doing customer support with no training about how to like talk to human beings that’s that’s a big source of problems right so.
I think that communication with non-developers is something that I really often and helping with kind of how to listen empathetically,
how to express your own emotions how to stop when you’re having an extreme emotional response and understand where that’s coming from in order to communicate more effectively what you’re actually feeling.
What you actually want out of a situation.

Christian Mccarrick:
[9:58] Sure sure and has the recent publicity of Serta kompany’s Behaving Badly quote-unquote have you seen an uptick in interest in using companies such as yours in and people reaching out for help.

April Wensel:
[10:13] Yeah yeah if it’s um it’s been interesting cuz I’ve been deeply saddened to hear about these events,
at companies like uber and whatnot I’ve also been not I’m surprised because you know like I mentioned I started this because of the frustration I’ve seen throughout my career so it wasn’t a surprise but it was sad but I’ve also,
stay in the bright side which is that you know it really is bringing attention to an issue and sometimes we have to shine light in the darkness in order to overcome it so.
It has been it has been nice that more companies have been opened to,
to this kind of training and you know cuz my goal is really just to make make the biggest difference I can so the people feel psychologically safe at work and able to do their best you know.

Christian Mccarrick:
[10:58] Sure sure how do you are you feeling with Conway’s law.

April Wensel:
[11:02] Yes yes I have that came up actually recently in a conversation is infinity go ahead.

Christian Mccarrick:
[11:07] Yeah I’m going cuz it’s interesting because it’s not necessary the newest concept.
And obviously you didn’t respect you looking all of course the that the team in the culture and how you organize your company’s going to certainly have an in a fact in an impact on the product that you’re actually producing right.

April Wensel:
[11:23] Yeah it’s all related really is.

Christian Mccarrick:
[11:26] So what are things going to see Mike my podcast specifically related to.
Engineering leaders managers people who are thinking about becoming an injury managers so I want it said of go into Focus this on on you know. Focusing lens here and can I take the first question would be.
You know why in your opinion doesn’t matter right why do things I compassion to coding and emotional intelligence and communication you know why should these managers care about that.

April Wensel:
[11:56] Sure yeah I guess basically.
Gerald Weinberg read this book the psychology of computer programming back in 1971 and he wrote about how.
Programming is fundamentally a human activity even if it’s not always viewed that way and so.
You know these days we don’t have an individual coding in a basement somewhere on code that only they touch and only they care about that’s just not that’s not the state of things anymore it may have been its.
And you know it some point it definitely was you know I like when things are first starting out with a lot of these kind of,
cultural issues were being first established like back then when IBM did a study of Personality suited for programming they found was common was a disinterest in people right and so we’re kind of living with the Legacy,
of that which is unfortunate because these days what’s really useful on teams is being able to communicate your ideas because you know from,
introducing a new tool to the team to negotiating with designers or product management / new features and the specifics of like you know how to implement things,
the different approaches that you couldn’t taken implementing it and understanding instead the needs behind you know what you’re trying to implement all of that is about communication so everything that’s making money for the company creating product that you know will serve users,
jalapeno boiled down to effective communication on the team and effective communication with customers and without side you know of vendors potentially and things like that so.

[13:30] Really this is affecting the bottom line is how effective how effectively your team works together and you know they’ve been studying that show,
when was side in the optimistic workplace a great book by Sean Murphy that people in positive work environments outperformed those negatives climates by 10 – 30%.
I need to find carefully what they mean by positive and negative but we can kind of use our imaginations there but you know in another book Awakening compassionate work.
By Monica worline and Jane done they talk about how compassionate business units outperform,
those that we know less about carrying angle so there’s there are starting to be studies out there in the field of organizational psychology there supporting that caring about people,
is not just good because you know it’s an altruistic type thing but rather that it impacts the bottom line in a very real way.

Christian Mccarrick:
[14:21] Sure and it keeps people from leaving I think it helps.

April Wensel:
[14:24] Yes definitely that’s definitely a big part of it and dumb as somebody who has job hop quite a bit myself I will say that there’s a lot of things companies can do to retain people and all of them involve actually caring about the people.

Christian Mccarrick:
[14:39] Yeah yeah you would figure for new managers out there what what would you recommend the first things that they would they should do to focus on you know to help improve their cultures and communities and teens.

April Wensel:
[14:54] I think the first thing really comes down to a conversation inside their head even before they accept the management position or you know technical or Tech leader whatever maybe a next to check motivation about why they’re doing it.
Because if you don’t honestly care about people then I.
Question whether or not you have much to contribute in a management position so.

Christian Mccarrick:
[15:19] Great Point great point.

April Wensel:
[15:21] I mean but you know I mean it sounds obvious but a lot of people,
because they think it’s more prestigious or because they think I’m the best coder on the team so I should be the manager you know this this is,
all too common and so I think the first thing is to make sure that you’re really driven by a desire to like help the people on the team help you know.
Serve the customers better so it should be you know about empathy and compassion and not driven by your own ego so I think that’s really the first like stuff that zero is like make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons because.
That’s going to impact the success that you have I think.

Christian Mccarrick:
[15:56] Absolutely yeah I just recently did a fireside chat with Nick Caldwell the VP of engineering at Reddit and he brought up through the same thing if you don’t like people this is a job for you.
Definitely that so then those are some of the things they should work on in improving the motivation and in figure out why.
But I from a tactical standpoint what are any tools or things that you would recommend that they could help them you know long that Journey.

April Wensel:
[16:25] Yeah so I think you know.
Making that transition you are using a lot of different skills than you may be used to using from what you’re used to using on a daily basis and you’re if you’re just an individual contributor and so I think.
With anything that you’re learning something new.
I think it’s important to like keep track of your progress but be patient with yourself so freaking sample I do a personal retrospective every week.
And it’s kind of like an agile retrospective for teams but I do it for myself in my own development.
As I look back to see you know what went well this week in terms of my goals what could I do differently in the make an action plan for next week and how things are going to get better.
And the importance here.
Is that by looking at what went well I can cultivate that gratitude that’s really important because some things are going well always I mean I’m alive so there’s that.
And then you know but really working to improve look using that growth mindset that I mentioned which is just so important and he knows hopefully how.
Can you use your growth mindset growth mindset with your own progress,
you’re going to trickle down to how you treat the people on your team you know you don’t you’re not expecting to have a room full of geniuses you know if they’re even you know can be said to be such a thing but you’re looking for people who are actively learning an actively improving themselves.
Anyways the personal retrospective I think is a very useful tool to keep you on track to make sure that you’re improving and you can always incorporate feedback that you get from the people that you’re managing,
I think that’s important to is actually talking to them and listening to them most importantly.

[17:59] And I’m really eat out again like really caring about they say like it sometimes if you get too far removed from the people that you’re supposed to be managing.
You don’t really see them as human beings anymore and you know just kind of like resources you’re managing and I’ve seen especially some you know ciccio’s and MVPs get to this point where.
They’re talking about in such abstractions that they seem to forget that they’re really talking about human being so you know and so I think.
And I know you said first-time manager is the problem is that a lot of times in Tech first-time managers end up being in the AP positions or you know.

[18:34] So it is already important at that at that point for them to realize that they you know just just a reminder that you know,
yeah we’re working on technology all the time we talked to computers in a very strictly logical and rational way but we ultimately are still human beings.

Christian Mccarrick:
[18:50] Absolutely I’m one of the things you mention was with feedback and you know getting feedback from the employees.
But one of the things I want to bring up as well cuz it relates to communication and and some of the items of red on some of your log posting.
Is around how to properly give feedback because I think that’s such a depending critical part of any manager or leaders or even pier in a roll so how do you recommend managers for tips for giving feedback that will be appropriate and received.

April Wensel:
[19:18] Yeah so you know I’ve heard that,
now it’s kind of cliche advice and doing the sandwich of like a positive and negative Ana positive and what’s funny is I’ve had managers do that and I always call them out on it because I can tell what they’re doing and I find a kind of annoying cuz it sounded steals kind of condescending casino but,
rather I think it’s important is like this song you know Kim Scott’s ID of radical Candor and the whole point of that is that when you give feedback to somebody.
Again check your motivation and if it’s really from a place of caring about their Improvement then you can be very honest with them,
because you’re coming from a place of caring.
So I think when you’re giving feedback again just make sure like you know you actually care about this person getting better and then that’s going to cuz I kind of informs how it’s going to come across.
So I think that that that’s one and then to not in the silly kind of sandwich idea but instead like actually.
Do Express gratitude for what’s going well not because you know you’re following some formula but rather because,
a lot of times if you can praise with somebody’s doing well they’ll just increase that,
and then the weakness becomes you no less important so it’s not always about some of our weaknesses are not things we actually need to work on there just you know things that we find other people to do right is not always something that we need to get better at.
And so I think.
When you’re getting feedback recognize that right like you don’t need to nitpick somebody about something that maybe isn’t important that they necessarily grow on right.

[20:49] So that’s that I actually ever the story I forget where it’s from but it was about a writing Workshop where they did this exercise where people would present their story that they wrote and it everyone else in the circle wood,
Express appreciations only so they wouldn’t be able to criticize that they’d Express appreciations only people would iterate their stories and the stories got better over time because people would increase the things that they were doing well and it sort of drowns out the negative you know.

Christian Mccarrick:
[21:15] Yeah absolutely I was rooting a brock I can’t remember the name of the blog post I was reading recently that pretty much talked about that it’s really you don’t know we said to focus on the negative because you focus on the positive in their he kind of did it.
A review of the team dynamic in the strengths and weaknesses on the team and as you mentioned and not everybody has to be good and everything.
But it’s about creating a team where the the goods and the weaknesses baby balance each other out.

April Wensel:
[21:40] Yeah and I think one important thing to that especially new managers a mistake they make is criticizing people’s personality you know like that shouldn’t be what you’re criticizing you point to specific actions that you’d like to see Improvement in,
but not like not attacking somebody’s character because.
Mostly partly because that’s just going to trigger their threat response and they’re just going to get defensive but also cuz that’s just not something that you should be asking somebody to change you know.
I mean some people are a little rough around the edges but they you know with their co-workers their kind and they actually you know are good communicators but they may you don’t have a little bit of a sharp-edged and some of their humor whatever but if it’s not distracted team they don’t need to tell the person that they need to,
completely change you know their personality cuz that’s not that’s not your job estimator.

Christian Mccarrick:
[22:27] What’s right instead of saying you’re at your Joe your sarcastic it’s you I think that last comment XYZ might have you know that affected people in a negative way and then it’s right you’re not attacking them.

April Wensel:
[22:38] Yeah exactly and.
And like you said it was I like how you phrase that too cuz it’s like pointing to a specific incident but then also explaining the impact cuz that’s something that’s sometimes left out because if you don’t talk about how it’s impacting people it’s harder to understand why it matters like,
even if you said this Pacific comment was sarcastic that’s not enough right you have to say and it had a negative impact you know it seemed to have an impact on so-and-so or on the team whatever.

Christian Mccarrick:
[23:04] Sure sure it’s another item that.
Is it I think right for improvements throughout the Silicon Valley and I think a lot of people managers have concerns about his hiring.
And it money or your blog post you were talking about the well lots of things about biases and what the things are hiring as well so what are your recommendations for companies and managers for trying to improve that hiring process.

April Wensel:
[23:30] Yes I think a big part of that I do write about this lot and I talked about this a lot because I think how it’s done now is.
Really bad it’s just really bad I think throughout throughout the end of Street and I was unfortunate is that it’s bad and people are continuing to model their practices after the Badness and sewed.
It’s just out their existing and and people are defending it because that’s the process that got them hired so it must be good cuz I got me hired.
Which is unfortunate but you know like for example.
I’ve liked publicly said that I’d I think the way whiteboarding interviews are done is is problematic there’s evidence that shows that,
having people solve problems under pressure on a whiteboard being watched not only as bad for people who may have you no anxiety issues but also,
denture it triggers stereotype threat,
which is this idea that people who are in minority groups in tack whether it’s women or people color or other minority groups and Tack,
will be afraid of confirming negative stereotypes about their group and so it adds undue pressure to them which will lower their performance and to be honest there was an article that came out about.
The title with I think just trying to get attention but it was about how a company got rid of their programmers as with the title said but we went the key piece was that they changed their interview process to instead of being about whiteboarding which they found,
encouraged this idea of like the ninja Rockstar solo virtuoso engineer they instead like talk to them about another pass work and how they worked on teams and it was much more.

[25:06] A collaboration then then like a test of like somebody’s skill Under Pressure the company was emergent and,
and that then you know all they did was change that and then they got him or divorce team you know and so I think that’s one thing that helps is like this idea of job talks.
You know I think there’s a lot of fear that motivates a lot of current interview processes like oh we’re going to hire you know really dumb people whatever and really that’s not what happens when you hire an engineer and I don’t work out.
It’s not just that you it’s not just as like that there was a problem with that engineer wear that they weren’t smart enough or you know if they slip through the cracks of your interview process like in some ways your organization failed this engineer,
because if somebody can pass you know certain Baseline understanding programming Concepts then,
the support of culture should be able to help grow that person you know what I mean and so if you value learning and mentorship then.
You know you can have less fear about accidentally hiring somebody who doesn’t meet your Arbiter requirements because they committed motivated people will learn what they need to do to succeed and so I would love to see,
interview practices that are driven more by that motivation like finding the people who are really excited about what you’re doing cuz if they’re excited they’ll figure out the things they need to learn cuz you see that you know when companies,
entreprenuers who are so passionate about ideas will teach themselves to code,
you know build a robust and build a system make it more robust you know as need it by hiring people and Consulting and what not but.

[26:36] You can see how some has passion can motivate people to learn and starts what I look for when I’m hiring people is are they passionate about what we’re doing cuz then.
You know if they have me in a baseline of like you know ability than I trust their ability to grow overtime you know in a supportive environment.

Christian Mccarrick:
[26:53] Yeah and I think that brings up a good point we talk about the passion where and there’s lots and current controversy with different companies and hiring managers about your people coming and graduating out of coding workshops and boot camps.
And you know what the things I’ve found two is especially if you don’t come through that say traditional computer science background with the pedigreed school behind you.
That you’re sometimes even more motivated right I’ve hired people on my team and and also you know Nick all we’ll talk about this too and our fireside chat.
Where some of the people that come through and you know they put themselves through this coding Academy they want to do a change of career and man they want us and they’re hungry and they come into organization like on fire right willing to do anything it takes to you know to be successful.

April Wensel:
[27:39] Definitely yeah I mean that’s that’s exactly it I mean like I’ve ever just became the pirate them and they.
But I’m so impressed by one just how quickly they’ve been able to learn,
their passion for continually learning like they want to keep going but I just recently spoke with a woman who came out of a boot camp who I used to work with and she said oh and now I’m going to take this course that’s more focused on computer science you know and so she’s been working for a couple years out of boot camp and now she’s,
what’s to get into more than any great computer science even though it’s not always directly applicable to what she’s working on day today.
She wants to learn that found it you know that stuff and so yeah I mean I think they’re a great investment to be honest that kind of talent,
and I do think that’s more you know the direction of the industry’s going yes there been some closures of bootcamps but I think that speaks more to the problems in the cultures in the company is and not to.
On the problems in the bootcamps which can we improve to but I just mean.

[28:34] Company of few companies are in a position to bring on Junior developers well.
And that’s but that’s not a reason to not hire Junior dopers that’s the reason for them to improve their culture so that they can hire Junior developers cuz that’s the only way we’re going to fix this this Talent Gap so to speak.

Christian Mccarrick:
[28:50] Absolutely it is a great blog post recently by a graduate I think of a codecademy from slack that posted something recently about.
Really they’re the support that slack is a company really provides to Junior engineers and helping them you know to integrated to slack and then really progressed in their in their careers as well.

April Wensel:
[29:11] Yeah that sounds great I’ll have to check that out that sounds really really good.

Christian Mccarrick:
[29:16] And when is things you talk about is you know hiring the mini me.
Bright is hiring in your ear someone you come in you say a few things maybe you went to the same school or you like the same thing and suddenly we got a hardest guy.
And that also leads to some of this this lack of diversity and issues we have in hiring today.

April Wensel:
[29:36] Yeah and I like that you said hire this guy cuz that’s awesome I’ll send the problem they’re so,
yeah I mean I have been in interviews with other people.
Edwina would do the debrief afterwards and an interview would come up that like all these day they both play the same board game,
and then even such as we can play this together and I’m just like okay that’s not as I we we should be looking for in our in our hire you know that they play the board game you like but.
The thing that recognized here I think is that these are not,
the meritocracy is Kara Swisher called it that that has that we have in Silicon Valley not a meritocracy bit of meritocracy because it’s people who look alike is not.
So I don’t think that you that people need to get defensive about it and say oh well I would never do that because it’s worth recognizing that the psychology behind it,
is natural feel like we are naturally inclined as human beings to like people who are similar to us and so this is you know,
Janet has a book Thinking Fast and Slow we’re in where she talks about system one and system to thinking and system one is kind of our automatic responses and it’s in that system one automatic response where we’re programmed to like people were somewhere to us and to apply are stereotypes,
so you know we never seen an engineer who’s a woman or an engineer of color then,
if somebody comes interview there’s going to be something inside of us and says this just doesn’t seem like an engineer to me and you know.

[31:07] There’s two parts that one is recognizing at this is a human thing it’s natural that will apply our stereotypes and apply our biases but then as,
ethical human beings who care about Justice will decide to stop slow down moving to system to which is more deliberate and thoughtful and think hey why,
why does my you know got quote,
tell me that this is not an engineer what are the exact reasons why you know and breaking it down and forcing yourself to come up with exactly what the issues are because then you may find that there’s really nothing that it is just you know,
you’re a bias is driving and it’s not actual any real indicators and so I think you know.
Actively learning about stereotypes that are involved in intek and then considering that the opposite may be true right so.
Jeff Atwood tweeted something to get last week about how Engineers he said programmers off and get into programming to avoid.
Other people and something to that effect and that kind of that’s that’s it that’s his version of stereotype right it’s saying.
Like this is programmers have to be you know introverted or he claimed he was talk about introverts but that sounds like a little bit more than introvert more antisocial if you’re actively avoid.
The point is expressions like that or saying you know we’re expressing surprise when you do see like a female engineer like I get that all the time and it’s like oh you’re really an engineer because you know even though I am an engineer as well I have to say that otherwise you know.

[32:43] Always respect me but.

Christian Mccarrick:
[32:45] Unfortunately.

April Wensel:
[32:46] Yeah unfortunately but.
You know that is all stereotypes all like pattern-matching and yes patter not saying we know can be very useful in certain context but and it even is sometimes useful you know,
like we involved to have,
is pattern matching things because it helped us survive right but now we’re like thoughtful thinking human being so we can say Hey you know like I can see the damage that’s done when I generalize based on my small,
sample of observations about engineers.
And how that’s harmful and how its you know really holding back the industry because we’re losing out on talent that could really help us build like.
Brighter future that we don’t really like to have you know.

Christian Mccarrick:
[33:28] Sure but I think that likes to going to serve the next topic to talk about which really goes into the issue of diversity in Silicon Valley in technology.
Rite Aid and you mentioned to that you would you would work in some University inclusion roles at some of your previous companies is Acura.
And was that was that a role that you helped create or the dissident that was there when you decided you raise your hand say I want to help in that role at how did you get involved in it.

April Wensel:
[33:58] Yeah so usually it is like where,
and I kind of have to create the role kind of because there’s not a lot of support already and then other times there’s been at least some other people who were so kind of fed up with the situation that they started the group cuz that’s usually where a lot of these groups come from is enough people,
are bothered that they start something,
and it’s usually not like a top-down thing like Ohr recognizes their problems there’s problems they start this group it’s like no angry people kind of get together and kind of,
talk about you know how they’ve been hurting at work because of you know inappropriate comments and stuff so like I was at one company and.
Part of why I got involved in the diversity group was.
Everyone on the team I was the first female like lead in the company and the first female engineer actually out of like 40 men and 40 people the rest for men end,
something that I noticed was common was talking about like a we need to hire a good iOS guy we need higher go to Android guy.
And I just point it out you language like this and so you know part of what contributes to the problem because of you know sets up this pattern in your head of like okay we’re looking for a guy.
When way I like to tell people this worse is like if you picture a cable guy you know cuz people use that term a lot you’re not picturing a woman ever right.
It’s harmful I mean it sounds like a small thing but it actually has an impact on on hiring but not anyway so it’s pick up about these things.
And then I would get like shot down by the men like I like oh you know that’s not important no you know you’re quibbling over Baba blah whatever and so it was like okay like they they don’t.

[35:33] They don’t really have that bass line of like empathy for experiences that they don’t that they haven’t gone through right like they don’t know what it’s like to be the only woman in a room only person of color in room you know the only.
Algebra 2 Pearson of the room there’s all these kinds of like situations that bit you know so that’s why I’ve as part of like what I do with compassion to coding.
Really is teaching empathy which is apply as you know equally to helping teams you know communicate better help Engineers fight stress and burnout and also to helping with inclusion because it’s empathy that really lets us,
see how it feel what other people are feeling and feel with people who are underrepresented and Tack what they have to go through so you know and I think.
What I found is that what really helps us and I’ve read about this is like the personal stories really helps,
it’s harder for people who are into have more privilege intact to understand the experiences of others unless they hear like personal stories which is why I’ve become more vocal and sharing things that have happened to me.
But there’s also a great website elephant in the valley,
where they they gather some stories from women and Tack Andy’s are women senior women in Tech have been industry for 10-plus years and the things they’ve gone through,
they also state statistics like 87% of women I think it was have had experience demeaning comments from male colleagues like 87% so this is like.
Not a small issue it’s not just an Uber issue it’s like this is everywhere and it’s it’s a serious problem.

Christian Mccarrick:
[37:09] Nicole emanates inspecting the culture I think which is which is definitely part of the problem right eye.
As a father of three girls who are interested in stem right I start seeing this evening first hand all the way back down in elementary school and then Middle School where.
You know some of my daughters friends just start saying I’m just not I’m not a math person.
Science I don’t do I’m not good at science I wasn’t born that way or something you’re like well you start hearing then I get frustrated because it’s so starts too early and you know to try to counteract the effects of that from a cultural perspective early on because sometimes,
you’re not to have to try to fix it from both ends right to really try to just a problem.

April Wensel:
[37:49] Yeah I think it is important to approach it from both ends so because for example I did not face so much of that growing up mostly cuz I just.
The way I was raised as not to really care so much about whether people were saying so,
that’s how I was able to do it because I liked you know science and math I also like made a writing and language and I was good at both so I just did you know both and it was fine and so I said you can see her science cuz I enjoyed it whatever.
And.
Yet I still find myself in this industry where I still face these challenges I still you know constantly have to prove myself because it’s assumed that I’m incompetent until proven otherwise and so,
well it’s good to do it for you know I think we can’t use that as a cop-out to not change the current industry because other people’s daughters are already here.
Add we’re already you know like we already need to improve things so.

Christian Mccarrick:
[38:43] Absolute you know there’s an interesting going back to your previous comment you made about the.
You need to hire an Android guy or iOS guy if you’ve if anyone’s on the slacks of Rands leadership Channel.
What on slack have a really interesting slackbot where if any sort of comment says like hey guys starts with hey guys it automatic the stock back chimes in and says you know didn’t you mean this.

April Wensel:
[39:07] Yeah that’s so great yeah.

Christian Mccarrick:
[39:09] Hey all or you know it’s just kind of anything because you need not the only one I think to talk about how language itself and the framing of language Drake contribute to the subconscious of this problem that we have.

April Wensel:
[39:21] Yeah there you know I love things like that because then that’s a good point six I’ve been in like it’s good when you can automate it like that or you know make it kind of the group’s responsibility to,
eliminate you no harmful language and not put the burden on on the marginalized persons.
I’ve definitely been in I was at this Retreat for like Executives or whatever like a couple months back and they.
Every other word was like guys like what they are just cuz it was mostly mad and then just like a handful of women and I brought it up and another woman brought it up and both time if there was just you know a man who just said oh we’ll just tell me what I’m doing it and the thing is,
that’s like telling.

Christian Mccarrick:
[40:02] Your responsibility.

April Wensel:
[40:03] Yeah exactly it’s like telling you know the woman in the room to take the notes to and it’s like one of those things where it’s like.
It’s not my responsibility to like point out all of the micro regressions that you know what happened to me or other people the room like I do it because in the same way that like I spot typos I can also spot like microaggressions and.
So I sometimes do call it out but you shouldn’t put that burden on the marginalized people that’s just something to keep in mind too because I’ve also had managers who.
April like help me talk to women like if you’d like.

Christian Mccarrick:
[40:34] Professionally or socially.

April Wensel:
[40:36] Thankfully,
thankfully he meant professionally but but yeah and I but even that I was just like you know it’s not I mean I do it because now I’ve decided to take on this emotional labor and like it’s you know.
I’ve dedicated myself to this but not everybody wants to do that song some women don’t want to talk about any of this,
they just want a code and like that’s how I used to be but I decide and I respect them still but the thing is it’s such a big problem that like I can’t,
be silent about it anymore and so I’ve decided to talk about it but you can’t expect all like women or people’s color,
like beware ambassador to their you know group because that’s not their job they’re their there to do their job and you know that I think it’s important for social people privilege to recognize that because,
yeah that’s a common thing like like a know I really care about these issues please tell me what I’m doing or something wrong like you know educate yourself do the research right.

Christian Mccarrick:
[41:29] And you can talk about how in one instance at a previous company you should have brought up some of these issues and someone came to you and said you know you’re making some of the you know white men hair uncomfortable.

April Wensel:
[41:43] Yeah yeah that was when I was I was the female Tech leafy Motech late and all the rest for men and I see the feedback I got with,
actually it was April people are scared of you because you know and I don’t,
I don’t bring up these things in a forceful way just because I have found that that’s not very effective so I’m trying to bring it up in a kind of sometimes even joking kind of like you know kind of friendly casual way and even that still looks like people,
because people don’t understand that it’s not,
you’re not doing something it’s not like it doesn’t make you a bad person if you say something offensive it’s just about learning from your mistake and doing better next time you know so you don’t have to defend it you don’t have to dig your heels in and get defensive you can say oh wow yeah I can see what I be offensive,
I’m sorry I won’t do it again you know like that’s all it takes it’s just.
You know the Eagles at that comes back to the ego problem cuz Eagles will keep people from admitting their mistakes and then they just instead one approved no this is why I’m right about your experience.

Christian Mccarrick:
[42:38] Yep Amigos just getting away for everything you know whatever whatever issue you’re talking about if you get an ego involved you know you punished well almost give off until you can take care of itself.

April Wensel:
[42:48] Yes yes very true.

Christian Mccarrick:
[42:50] And I want to bring up you’ve you’re involved with serum hack braids and black girls code you know tell me what about you know what you do there and why it’s important.

April Wensel:
[42:59] Yeah so that’s kind of coming at it from the other angle which is just getting more people in the space from from diverse groups so black girls code.
Is targeted towards you know younger girls and so will do.
Volunteer with workshops there so they’ll do like robotics workshops they’ll build like a Lego robot and program it and just like a day.
And then presented and we Reeves I did Oakland one time and that one was through black girls code but it was also open to boys in the community.
And you know it’s it’s reaching all kinds of people another good organization is on the Level Playing Field Institute.
Play I’ve only tree with the hackathon where we helped kids build design and then build an Android app.
And there’s not a group at work program called technovation where a groups of girls in high school create.
Android apps using MIT App Inventor at least that’s what it was last time I did it.
And you know hackbright of course is more for adult women who were transitioning from other careers into Tech so it’s in one of the needs you know bootcamp-style coding school.
Sings with them you know I will Mentor Engineers so I’ll help them with the projects or if they have questions about careers and things like that by also do that too compassionate coding just.
Help individuals as well because I think you know it’s important to get more of these were people exposed and I also would say that anybody who.

[44:32] These groups need volunteers always and it doesn’t need to be somebody who’s part of the group that they’re serving it can be you know the white man and they’re in the room he can help too and in fact he might be in a position where he has,
more flexibility of time anyway because of his privilege and what not so.
I be really great I mean I didn’t even start volunteering with these groups until you know a few years into my career when I realized that it was important to do this but I think,
I just don’t know that many other Engineers who especially from kind of the typical white male kind of group who get involved with these groups and I think I’ve known a few but I think it’s a shame because I think,
you know even though they might like look different whatever the whole point is just too.
Tintic Reese’s more inclusive spaces and so I think that’s a great thing that people could do if they really if they really want to put their you know quote money where their mouth is either donate to these groups or and or volunteer with them I think.

Christian Mccarrick:
[45:25] Great thank you for the information and I’ll try to include some of the stuff in the show notes to after this and and links to December these groups in the information for them.
Do any companies not just with diversity but the whole concept of you people first and in really companies that are.
Let’s see the importance of empathy in really working towards employees any companies out there staying out to you as as examples that you’ve seen that sort of exhibit the traits of with somebody’s good companies should aspire to be.

April Wensel:
[45:57] There are new companies that I can wholeheartedly endorse for all of their practices because I think.

[46:06] You know we’re all doing our best and even all companies are doing their best and I also think that they can all do better and so I think it’s a constant.
We’re constantly evolving you know I will say that this company on no reading base in San Francisco have you heard of them.

Christian Mccarrick:
[46:25] I have not known.

April Wensel:
[46:25] So there’s sometime educational platform I don’t know how to do what they’re doing but I know they really value-creating that inclusive space and what not and that they ever really healthy kind of culture when it comes to supporting learning and things like that,
that’s when it comes to mind but you know.
Most most companies have work to do you know because even if you even once you kind of get your company kind of going well there’s so much you can do in the community to and I think.
In a part of we didn’t get into her focus on the leadership stuff but I think part of.
People issue is you know walking outside of your fancy start of office and seeing somebody like homeless on the street you know I mean I think.
Incorporating understanding about suffering into the mindset I think it’s important you know it prevents things like from when Google was he nut busting people back and forth on their commutes and,
that led to the backlash if you know people who were in the communities to bus stops were being used for these private Google buses,
and that whole you know things were spray-painted everywhere. He died right this resentment between.
The like I think even when you have the company you know you going when you think that your company is doing really well.

[47:40] Wine I’m sure that there are ways you can improve but then to their ways to give back in the community and to help on a wider scale in the industry so I think you know none of us are perfect ever and all we can do is just keep getting better every day.

Christian Mccarrick:
[47:54] Sure yeah no that’s that’s that’s good I mean that there’s always room for improvement so kind of at the end hear any additional resources or any resources that really stand out for you that you would recommend for managers or leaders are people in general for state of self-improvement or the,
books or blogs are podcasts out of the other than other than this one.

April Wensel:
[48:13] PS yeah this is this is a good one but so I will to the books that I mention I think would be,
great reading for any manager or spiring manager and even any engineer because I think you know,
we’re all the leaders of our own self so I think you know it’s never too early to.
Start developing his leadership skills so one is the optimistic workplace I mentioned by Sean Murphy it’s not like about being kind of Pollyanna everything’s great whatever it’s about believing that good things will come from good work and that,
you know that there is hope in these organizations and so,
that’s a good one the optimistic birthplace another one is Awakening compassion at work this is a new one that came out recently for Monica worline and Jane Dutton.
It’s so great because it talks about a lot of the things that I that I cover in the workshop and it’s based on Research.
I will say to a lot of This research that I’ve seen and that I refer to in workshops,
kind of started From a path from this,
from the greater good science center at UC Berkeley and they have a website as well and they provide exercises kind of on compassion and empathy meditation mindfulness all of this stuff and it’s freely available online,
and they took him out at from an angle of like how it applies to the workplace how was your personal life,
how to beat stress and burnout that’s another thing that we can really delve into here but totally ties into all of this and so he has to those are those of the big ones that I think.

[49:48] Can you like refer to those.
And it also talked about the growth mindset a lot if if that’s a new thing for people one thing to read is the book mindset by Carol dweck as a kind of understand how the growth mindset cuz I really think that’s the key it’s like you know not looking for people who,
you think are these like Geniuses with big egos rather believe in that everybody’s capable of getting better and growing the skills that they need in order to be a successful member of your team.

Christian Mccarrick:
[50:14] Great I think those are great resources again I’ll try to put those in the show notes that what’s the best way to contact you April for the listeners out there will be the best way to to get a hold of you or your information that you posting your company.

April Wensel:
[50:27] Yes I think I’m compassionate koding.com is the is the website and I am April a compassionate koding.com anyone can feel free to email me their got a system down for managing on so anybody can feel free to email me.
Not worried about spam although let’s maybe I should knock.

Christian Mccarrick:
[50:44] Is normal Spam box on podcast yet.

April Wensel:
[50:46] Yeah not yet so yeah so definitely there and I’m on Twitter,
April wensel and my company Twitter is at Compassion code because compassionate Coatings too long for Twitter so at Compassion code is my company Twitter.

Christian Mccarrick:
[51:04] But great April I had a great chat with you this afternoon thank you much for being on the show I’m sure there’s a lot of great information that our listeners will find you know very informative and interesting thank you.

April Wensel:
[51:14] Thank you have a good one.

Christian Mccarrick:
[51:15] At you as well.

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