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Programming Education

Programmer Privilege 353

Posted by Soulskill
from the overlooked-inequality dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Philip Guo, an Asst. Professor of Computer Science at the University of Rochester, has written a thoughtful article on his education in programming. Guo explains that he was no particular coding wizard while growing up, but when he jumped into a CS major when he went to college at MIT, he received all sorts of passive and active encouragement — simply because he 'looked the part.' He says, 'Instead of facing implicit bias or stereotype threat, I had the privilege of implicit endorsement. For instance, whenever I attended technical meetings, people would assume that I knew what I was doing (regardless of whether I did or not) and treat me accordingly. If I stared at someone in silence and nodded as they were talking, they would usually assume that I understood, not that I was clueless. Nobody ever talked down to me, and I always got the benefit of the doubt in technical settings.' Guo compares this to the struggles faced by other minority groups and women to succeed in a field that is often more skeptical of their abilities. 'I want those people to experience what I was privileged enough to have gotten in college and beyond – unimpeded opportunities to develop expertise in something that they find beautiful, practical, and fulfilling.'"
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Programmer Privilege

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  • If you actually didn't know what you were doing and they tasked you to accomplish something?

    Not very long.

    Frankly, this is another story about nothing.

    • by jcr (53032) <jcr@mac. c o m> on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @04:32PM (#45969077) Journal

      Well, that depends on the organization. In better companies, bullshit artists get washed out almost immediately. At Microsoft, they can end up running the company.

      -jcr

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @04:39PM (#45969145)

        Well, that depends on the organization. In better companies, bullshit artists get washed out almost immediately. At Microsoft, they can end up running the company.

        -jcr

        The government is staffed by bullshit artists. They thrive and get ahead. The truly productive people wash-out due to the terrible co-workers and lack of support from management. I lived it and suffered the consequences.

        • Me too. It's heartbreaking. There's some insanely cool (and not-immoral) stuff to do in the Government, but few sane and competent programmers would stay there. I'm still sad that I had to leave just so I could actually get software developed.

        • [all large organisations] are staffed by bullshit artists. They thrive and get ahead. The truly productive people wash-out due to the terrible co-workers and lack of support from management. I lived it and suffered the consequences.

          Government is not magic.

        • by Eskarel (565631) on Thursday January 16, 2014 @02:14AM (#45973443)

          Bullshit artists are the result of having people in charge who don't actually understand what their employees are doing. It's not unique to government, nor is it unique to programming. It's worse when you have larger organisations which have more separation between you and the decision makers and much better in small organisations where your actual job is part of the core business of the company. Basically it boils down to the fact that the bullshit artist has really good communication skills and you either don't possess or don't utilise those skills.

          I know it's fun to hate on government, but large scale private enterprise is in nearly all respects actually worse than government. They are just as crippled by process, just as risk averse, just as hidebound, and just as likely to award mediocrity. The only real difference is that private enterprise will be profit motivated so they will make all of the above mistakes for even worse reasons than the government.

      • Agreed, but in a lot of organizations, the hiring takes place with less-technical management, or in contract situations, with a task manager or project manager whose performance metric is billed hours. It can sometimes take weeks or even months for their real working team to figure out they just got an unadaptable-but-smooth shit-talkerdropped on them from above, and sometimes even longer to convince management to do anything about it.

        I got such a person dropped on me around 1999: interviewed well, I and my

        • by Eskarel (565631)

          Maybe if instead of spending 6 months trying to get rid of him you'd spent a month or so getting him up to speed on your particular environment and tech(the odds of actually employing someone who knows your companies flavors of either is pretty close to zero) you might have gotten a better result.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Body language can convey intelligence or ignorance, and explains this experience far better.
      It's actually quite interesting, if that is the explanation, because he is clueless about the real reason and attributes it to a stereotype. Projecting, in psychological terms.

      • Body language can convey intelligence or ignorance, and explains this experience far better.
        It's actually quite interesting, if that is the explanation, because he is clueless about the real reason and attributes it to a stereotype. Projecting, in psychological terms.

        I think it's really a combination; physical stereotype will only take you so far, but if you complement it with body language, people tend to give you the benefit of the doubt even if the results say they shouldn't. Confidence artists have used this combination for generations.

        On his part, I'm sure his physical looks helped him to train his body language to suit the situation. This is something I see a lot -- if someone's supposed to be a "dumb blonde" they'll often acquire the body language over time to

        • by jythie (914043)
          Which often becomes a bit of a cycle which results in people (starting as children) fill the roll that people assume they will fill.
      • by johnlcallaway (165670) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @05:03PM (#45969381)

        This has happened to me when I've talked in a 'stream of consciousness' about something I didn't know, but was guessing, and had people ask me questions later about the subject matter. When we sort things out that I'm not the expert they think, I've been told that I sounded very confident about what I was saying, which is why they thought I knew what I was talking about. I've since learned to interject comments like "I'm not sure" or "it might be something like this" to make sure people don't take things I say as facts when I'm only guessing.

        I'm just an old, overweight white guy so it can't be an Asian thing for me.

        I don't know where I heard it, but it seems to apply far too often: An expert is just someone who you think knows more than you do about something.

    • by TWiTfan (2887093)

      I don't know, I've known some pretty amazing bullshit artists in my time. You would be amazed at how many times you can get away with "Interesting. What do YOU think?" in a pinch.

    • by Kookus (653170) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @04:53PM (#45969285) Journal

      Exactly! *nods head*

      • "'Tis better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."

        What the hell does that mean? Better say something or they'll think you're stupid.

    • by preaction (1526109) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @04:53PM (#45969287)

      Sometimes it's getting tasked to do something that teaches you how to do it. If you appear incompetent to the eyes of the taskmaster, you won't get the chance to even try.

      In an old retail job, a boss of mine told me he got where he was by saying "Yes, I know how to do that" to everything that was ever asked of him, and basically learning how to do it on the spot (driving a forklift, for example).

      If you can do a passable job while learning, you can do it better next time.

      • by turp182 (1020263)

        This is valid but only applies to menial or more simple jobs.

        Try that with software design (and development). I've seem people successfully talk themselves into a high level position they were not qualified for It has always (2 times, different companies) resulted in millions of $$$ of losses for the company in question due to a terrible delivered product, either cancelled outright or dramatically reduced in scale (after spending over $50 million over a decade, Fortune 300 level).

        I've interviewed hundreds

    • by Aaden42 (198257)

      Based on observation, on through retirement in a lot of cases. . .

    • by Crudely_Indecent (739699) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @05:31PM (#45969647) Journal

      Not very long.

      Um...22 years next Tuesday.

      Part of the beauty of a software development career is that you're constantly asked to do things that you don't necessarily know how to do. When has a customer ever contacted a developer and asked "Can you do this very common thing that everybody can do in their sleep?" - Never! The question is always "We have this incredibly technical thing we want done, and nobody here knows how to do it - can you figure it out?" (paraphrasing, of course)

      It's always new and refreshing. I find the challenges invigorating - and often I find myself up until all hours because I've come to an understanding of something new and I want to see it to completion (or a good stopping point).

      Every task, every day, every job is a triumph.

      I even find it enjoyable to explain to my customers that I don't know how to do something. Part of the explanation includes my excitement to learn how to accomplish it. If I've explained it right, they're as excited for me to do the work as I am. They have a desire to see the job done - and so do I, but for entirely different reasons.

      One of the greatest joys is learning how many developers before me declined to try, or tried and failed. For my last contract, my customer explained that I was the 5th developer they contacted - and the only one to submit a proposal.

      The software went live Monday, and I couldn't be happier. My customer is in a pretty good mood too.

    • If you look and act like Guo, and you don't know what you're doing, you lose.

      What he's saying is that if you don't look and act like him, you often don't even get the chance to try. You lose before anyone gets to see what you know.

      It's not an all-or-nothing thing, but it's probably accurate that if you're a white or Asian dude of a certain age, people are willing to give you a shot that they won't necessarily give to others. That's the privilege.

  • More garbage (Score:4, Insightful)

    by danheskett (178529) <danheskett AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @04:32PM (#45969071)

    Will the never ending garbage ever cease? The truth is he might have not felt qualified, but he was admitted to the CS program at MIT, one of the few elite CS departments that really means you are at least +1SD above average IQ, and quite likely +2SD or +3SD.

    The entire article is just naked assertion:

    [M]icro-inequities often had serious cumulative, harmful effects, resulting in hostile work environments and continued minority discrimination in public and private workplaces and organizations. What makes micro-inequities particularly problematic is that they consist in micro-messages that are hard to recognize for victims, bystanders and perpetrators alike. When victims of micro-inequities do recognize the micro-messages it is exceedingly hard to explain to others why these small behaviors can be a huge problem.

    This is garbage. We are scientists. Quantify, describe, theorize and prove. If you can't explain it, and you can't define it, and you can't trace it back, perhaps it's not real.

    If someone came across my office for an interview talking about this vague non-specific garbage I would sent them over to copywriting or HR.

    • I would think being at MIT CS means +3SD minimum. Any CS department is likely to be mostly +1SD to +2SD students.

      While I agree with your premise, you are foolish in dissing the sentences you quote.

      We are not all scientists. Furthermore, we are not all hard science scientists. And there is meaning there. Why you gotta hate?

      • by pla (258480)
        We are not all scientists. Furthermore, we are not all hard science scientists. And there is meaning there. Why you gotta hate?

        The author of TFA does claim that label. And, in an way oddly apropos to his premise, we ascribe to him the style and clarity of thinking that goes along with that label.

        Funny, I wonder if that would annoy him.
    • Re:More garbage (Score:5, Insightful)

      by lgw (121541) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @04:47PM (#45969215) Journal

      "Privilege" is a term used by those who feel they didn't earn what they have, that really offends those who have earned what they have. Sure, no one earned their IQ, and in that sense any direct benefits you get from IQ are a sort of privilege, but you really can't get very far on IQ alone, any more than you can on natural good looks or physical strength.

      You have to actually go do something useful and productive with you gifts to be rewarded once you leave school (and you'll discover there's far more to a programming job than abstract problem-solving) - at which point, if you're contributing more than the next guy, it's only just that you get more in return.

      • Re:More garbage (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jythie (914043) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @05:04PM (#45969389)
        Though more commonly, it offends people who have their self image tied up in the idea that they fully earned what they have with no inherent advantages. Bring up the idea that some particular factor made things easier for them somehow invalidates everything else they have done in their minds.
        • Re:More garbage (Score:5, Insightful)

          by lgw (121541) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @05:49PM (#45969819) Journal

          Sure, in principle that's cool, but the idea of "inherent advantages" so oversimplifies people that it is itself an offensive stereotype IMO.

          Almost everyone has a mix of some above-average qualities and some below-average qualities. Realizing that success lies in doing what you're good at, instead of what you enjoy, is the first of many sacrifices needed for earned success. If you happen to love what you happen to be good at, hey, nice for you: people should feel good about that sort of thing. Long term, I think most of us come around to enjoying what we're good at, eventually, in any case.

          But saying that someone's success is unearned because of some "inherent advantages" is a very overused idea because of this. Take up a line of work where one's normal distribution of (dis)advantages gives a net benefit is normal, not privilege. And there are very few lines of work where you can get by merely on one thing that you were born with (like IQ, or very high natural testosterone levels, or whatever) without also needing a bunch of other qualities, which often are below normal.

          Sure, there people with a very rare collection of "happened to be good at"s that all line up to give them a real advantage, but then by definition that's a very small pool of people, and not a useful stereotype.

          • Realizing that success lies in doing what you're good at, instead of what you enjoy, is the first of many sacrifices needed for earned success. If you happen to love what you happen to be good at, hey, nice for you: people should feel good about that sort of thing.

            Being someone who is both good at technical stuff and loves it, ive never really understood this. A lot of the reason I am good at what I do is because I love doing it; I would not know how to decipher a wireshark dump if I hadnt been curious so many years ago as to "what does a packet look like?"

            I see a lot of people in the IT field who do not care about IT, and they are invariably bad at IT. Why should you ever strive to learn things not directly related to your job if you dont care about the field? An

        • Re:More garbage (Score:4, Insightful)

          by brit74 (831798) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @06:43PM (#45970369)
          No, it's offensive because it suggests that people are where they are *simply* because of societal bias. It's a way for people who have not achieved something to explain away their lack of success (and other people's success) by reference to societal barriers and advantages. I consider it to be another variation of "everybody who is rich got there by exploiting other people (possibly illegally)." It's a way to hate on other people while coddling the underdog's feelings.

          I recognize that we aren't all exactly identical in the way other people perceive us. I also recognize that there is a bias against (say) women and minorities in computing. I think it's fair to attempt to change that. Using loaded words like "privilege" however, is really just an exercise in giving the have-nots an excuse to hate the people who have. It's also worth pointing out that words like "privilege" are actually simplistic explanations for what's going on. You'll generally find that people (white, black, male, female) have a variety of different advantages and disadvantages in comparison to other people. As a white person, if I say I'm going to be a rapper or a pro-athlete, people will be more skeptical than if I were black and saying that. Based on the way "privilege" is being used, we could say that black people are "privileged" in that narrow area. I'm sure we're also well aware of the fact that women are "privileged" in the fact that men want them and they have easy access to sex. That's the other reason I hate the word "privilege" because it's used like it's some kind of widely-valid general statement about a group of people, when it's actually a statement about some very narrow aspect of their lives. It's more accurate to say that this or that person has an advantage in aspectd x,y,z of their lives while having disadvantages in aspects a,b,c of their lives.
          • by GauteL (29207)

            No, it's offensive because it suggests that people are where they are *simply* because of societal bias.

            No. It does not. It suggests that a certain level of societal bias has helped you along. That your 95% dedication wasn't quite enough, but 5% privilege was also necessary. This idea is vehemently opposed by people who have their whole self-image built upon the idea that everything in life is their whole doing. They also assert that every story about discrimination is wrong with no first hand knowledge of anything but success after their hard work despite lots of examples of people who have failed after a ve

      • You have to actually go do something useful and productive with you gifts to be rewarded once you leave school (and you'll discover there's far more to a programming job than abstract problem-solving)

        Yes, but having the confidence to actually go and do something useful is in itself a privilege. The reason so many (socially and economically) underprivileged kids fail at school is because others expect little of them, and they learn to expect little of themselves. When kids want to learn, what do they do? They ask a question about whatever it is they don't understand. If the teacher sighs and looks at them like they're stupid, that stifles the kids eagerness to ask questions, and kills their ability to le

        • by lgw (121541)

          Yes, but having the confidence to actually go and do something useful is in itself a privilege. The reason so many (socially and economically) underprivileged kids fail at school is because others expect little of them, and they learn to expect little of themselves.

          This just doesn't hold up in a society of "participation trophies" and valuing a child's self-esteem and confidence over everything else in school. We did that experiment. It solved none of society's ills. Time to admit it was a mistake and move all.

          Also, can we please stop calling any advantage in part of one's character privilege? That's not what the word means. Everyone has a mix of good and bad, advantageous and disadvantageous qualities. If everyone is "privileged" as a result then the word is me

    • Re:More garbage (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @04:48PM (#45969229)

      Will the never ending garbage ever cease? The truth is he might have not felt qualified, but he was admitted to the CS program at MIT, one of the few elite CS departments that really means you are at least +1SD above average IQ, and quite likely +2SD or +3SD.

      The entire article is just naked assertion:

      [M]icro-inequities often had serious cumulative, harmful effects, resulting in hostile work environments and continued minority discrimination in public and private workplaces and organizations. What makes micro-inequities particularly problematic is that they consist in micro-messages that are hard to recognize for victims, bystanders and perpetrators alike. When victims of micro-inequities do recognize the micro-messages it is exceedingly hard to explain to others why these small behaviors can be a huge problem.

      This is garbage. We are scientists. Quantify, describe, theorize and prove. If you can't explain it, and you can't define it, and you can't trace it back, perhaps it's not real.

      If someone came across my office for an interview talking about this vague non-specific garbage I would sent them over to copywriting or HR.

      As the 6'3" black guy with should length dreadlocs and a beard, I would respectfully disagree. I'm sitting here in a comfortable network engineer position that I worked hard to get. I started as an intern, worked at help desk, then desktop support, then finally beat 10 other applicants after working at the same company for 6 years, with an additonal 8 years experience outside the company to be where I am today. I've applied for the position multiple times over the course of 6 years, and finally got it. I have a Computer Science degree and relevant certs, but it does not matter. I sit here and see other people *start* out of school with no certs with the position I worked hard to get and cherish. I have friends (mostly black, or women) who applied for the same position year after year and do not get it. Why? They "look" the part; eg: white or asian. It does exist, but unless you are on the other side of it, you will never know.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by danheskett (178529)

        . I've applied for the position multiple times over the course of 6 years, and finally got it. I have a Computer Science degree and relevant certs, but it does not matter. I sit here and see other people *start* out of school with no certs with the position I worked hard to get and cherish. I

        Did they paid equally to you? I have seen this scenario, and the proposed implications. People fresh out of college are cheap. People with no certs are cheap. As an existing employee who was good at the job, it woul

      • Can't relate to what you've experienced but as a tall white guy I have found that if I project an air of confidence people are more than willing to heap responsibility on me regardless of experience or credentials. I don't think the article is off the mark.

      • by foofish (10132)
        This is so true. It's easy for people to see their own hard work as justification for their position because they never see the hard work that others who never got a chance put in.
      • by slinches (1540051)

        If you think your appearance is holding you back professionally why don't you do something to help solve that problem? While it's true you can't do anything about your height or skin color, you could certainly cut your hair, shave and possibly dress more conservatively (even better, dress/look like those who have the position you want). It's up to you make sure you fit the image of who you want to be professionally.

        If you really don't know where to start, here's a good article [forbes.com] with some basic advice of ho

    • I'll disagree. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @05:00PM (#45969357)

      The truth is he might have not felt qualified, but he was admitted to the CS program at MIT, one of the few elite CS departments that really means you are at least +1SD above average IQ, and quite likely +2SD or +3SD.

      Possibly. But the point is that because he looked the part he was able to more effectively utilize his intelligence than someone who did not look the part.

      If his appearence had been different then there would be obstacles to overcome that he did not have to face.

    • Re:More garbage (Score:4, Insightful)

      by oodaloop (1229816) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @05:02PM (#45969377)

      Will the never ending garbage ever cease?

      Um, by definition, I guess that's a no.

    • by madro (221107)

      The article was adapted from a longer blog post. In the adaptation, they linked to Psychology Today (ugh) to discuss "micro-inequities" as the initial term for phenomena that were later covered under the term unconscious bias or implicit bias. Having it doesn't make you racist or sexist; it's as human as risk aversion and loss aversion, both well studied. But like risk aversion or loss aversion, implicit bias can dissuade humans from making an optimal, economically rational decision. It takes self-awareness

    • by sribe (304414)

      Will the never ending garbage ever cease? The truth is he might have not felt qualified, but he was admitted to the CS program at MIT, one of the few elite CS departments that really means you are at least +1SD above average IQ, and quite likely +2SD or +3SD.

      Yes, when I was there most of us had graduated in the top 1% of their high school classes. This year, 25% of entering freshmen had perfect scores on the math portion of the SAT. (Think about that, a 799 would drop you to the 75th percentile.)

      Anyway, my real point: I, my classmates, every interaction with a TA that I observed, and every interaction with a professor (except for 1 chauvinist pig whom we got into deep shit by going to the department head about his bullshit), always assumed that the (few) women

    • that really means you are at least +1SD above average IQ, and quite likely +2SD or +3SD.

      What's that in Mean Deviations [slashdot.org]?

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @04:35PM (#45969097) Journal
    Well, you act as though you understand, look at them and nod intelligently. You act the part. Then people take you at the face value. Is that your complaint? What do you expect? Everyone to quiz everyone and test their knowledge and understanding? Do you realize how insulted you would have felt if someone asked you, "hey, do you understand what I am talking about? or you are just standing there nodding like a dimwitted sheriff from Mayberry?".
    • by polyphemus (473112) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @04:58PM (#45969335)

      I think he's trying to say that not everyone gets the benefit of the doubt. Sure, he was pretty much qualified, but a lot of people don't have the chance. He's not blaming anyone for his privilege, he's not saying he is wrong to have this privilege, he's saying it's wrong that so many other people don't.

      • It's not privilege if you convince someone you are something you are not. If the "unprivileged" comes in and expresses how he doesn't know anything, that's not a micro-agression, that's a skill. The person who appears to understand what is going on and listens and formulates a plan to getting it done has a skill. That skill is called listening. The person who comes in, gives off confusion skills, does not listen, does not formulate a plan to get something done lacks that skill.

        This isn't that hard. Yes

    • by Headrick (25371)

      Totally agree dude, know what I'm sayin'?

  • Guilty As Charged (Score:5, Interesting)

    by assertation (1255714) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @04:35PM (#45969099)

    I've been guilty of this too.

    When I meet a programmer who is a woman, an attractive woman, a much older person or a non-Caucasian & non-Asian man my automatic thought is "really?" despite my conscious mind knowing better.

    Back in the dot com era I went to work with my hair pulled back in a pony tail and it had a similar effect as the author of the article described. Having it was like wearing a power suit in a law office.

    • by mythosaz (572040) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @04:43PM (#45969187)

      I'm not sure if it's chicken or egg here, but I've always cultivated a bit of a "mad scientist" look.

      "Oh, well, if the unshaven guy says it's technically possible, then it must be true..."

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      >When I meet a programmer who is ... a much older person ... my automatic thought is "really?" despite my conscious mind knowing better.

      Your subconscious isn't very bright, then. Real Programmers have been hacking since WWII. There are people in their 50-90s who have more knowledge about programming than you could ever hope to approach.

    • by mjwalshe (1680392)
      That's why I still keep my hair long
      • You know you are truly a success in IT, a real "bad ass" when you can wear your hair short, dress like normal people and still be respected.

    • by csumpi (2258986)

      back in the dot com era

      a much older person

      Hold on a sec. You were around "back in the dot com era" and you are talking about "older" people? Segfault.

      .

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @04:38PM (#45969125)

    This is exactly the problem with technical fields these days. People who do not know what they are doing, but look the part, are in technical positions and making horrible decisions. They are easily able to fool their equally non-technical managers.

    I'm not a greybeard by any means, but I was coding and finding bugs in TCP stacks and making web pages when the web was young back in the 90s, and because I don't have the right "look" (unattractive, not "chiseled" face), the right stature (under-aver height), the right clothing, etc., I am constantly fighting an uphill battle to be taken seriously.

    I was hired full time as a "programmer" at a Fortune 100 company. My entire job involved a suite of approximately 50 ksh scripts. This alone is absurd, but I also had a coworker doing the same. However, he routinely intentionally didn't fix bugs so that he could make a big show of getting up in the middle of the night to manually run processes, and would get praise and rewards from the manager. I just made my stuff work and got no attention.

    Maybe I'm the dope for not playing the game, but I can't make myself be mediocre on purpose. But that's usually what I end up having to do a lot of the time anyway. I've made my way in this world by being a contractor, which allows me to avoid the politics and bullshit to a large degree. I'm aware that my life would be a lot easier if I had a lot less ego.

    Yes, this is sour grapes. Once upon a time I was respected for knowing what I was doing.

    • by mythosaz (572040)

      However, he routinely intentionally didn't fix bugs so that he could make a big show of getting up in the middle of the night to manually run processes, and would get praise and rewards from the manager. I just made my stuff work and got no attention.

      Maybe I'm the dope for not playing the game, but I can't make myself be mediocre on purpose.

      Perhaps.

      I think the trick to this game is to have your stuff work and be the guy who gets up in the middle of the night to fix something someone else broke -- fixing it permanently in the process.

      I dislike calling my coworkers to the mat. It doesn't foster a good working relationship, and I'm not in a position to rebuild this companies culture from the middle. [Very stuffy, people working quietly, logging hours until the pension comes.] I speak my mind when it's asked of me, but I do so politely, and hig

    • Heroes fix problems that everyone can see.

      Ninjas fix things before anyone can see a problem.

      I prefer the ninja approach myself (as you seem to) but it does require either an informed manager or a lot of PR work on your part.

      And since we know that informed managers are few and far between ... looks like you'll have to be your own PR agency.

  • by sinij (911942) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @04:41PM (#45969161) Journal
    I am going to break the pattern here and not assume that Philip Guo knows what he is talking about and not at his arguments. These are feel-good assertions and anecdotes, where is the evidence?
  • by Derekloffin (741455) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @04:43PM (#45969179)
    I got my CS degree and by Biology degree and I can attest at times there were lectures or meetings where stuff was flying miles over my head, but that was true in both departments. The general assumption, I think, in any department is that once you get by the entry level, you're assumed to know stuff, sometimes way beyond what you probably actually know. I think it is just human nature. You go into a group of people that you figure know a topic, you don't give them all background checks to ensure they do actually know the topic, you tend to assume it. The best you can do as someone bringing the topic up is ask if people are really following you and hope they are honest.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @04:45PM (#45969199)

    My experience was the exact opposite of Guo's experience—you might say, I got treated like a minority or a female.

    So, what do you say now, Guo?

    The reason you didn't have these problems, Guo, is because you—like many successful people, especially at places like MIT—are a natural confidence artist. Look! You said it yourself:

    If I stared at someone in silence and nodded as they were talking, they would usually assume that I understood, not that I was clueless.

    Your mistake in this whole issue is assuming that other people who are like you have the same experience, and that being "like you" means—for some reason—having both a penis and lighter skin. However, this is what it really means to be like you: Lying publicly about your private throughts—being a con man who works the con so hard that he finally becomes what he's pretending to be.

    • by HtR (240250)
      I think you both have a point. As I see it, both TFA and your comment point out that people often make assumptions of others' ability based on their appearance and the image they project, using stereotypes.
      Some people, naturally or not, play into these stereotypes by projecting knowledge, confidence, etc.
      Some people's image, perhaps because of their age, skin color, sex, or some other irrelevant factor, may project an image that doesn't match the viewer's stereotype.
      I think the point is that people u
    • by Khashishi (775369)

      He's being modest. Sure, looking the part will get you pretty far, but I don't think you will get to the assistant professor level at Rochester without some above average skills.

  • by QuietLagoon (813062) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @04:48PM (#45969225)
    ... people think he knows what he is talking about.
  • Is the new staying at Holiday Inn Express.

  • Right here. There's plenty of 'em where I work. IT just ain't what it used to be 15 years ago. No need for ongoing quotas or diversity hires, just grab the best candidate, thank you.
  • by ahoffer0 (1372847) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @04:59PM (#45969339)

    This is a specific example of a more general phenomenon. Why do people where business suits? It is so they look the part. Why do kings hold an orb and scepter? ... so they look the part.

    Why do I say 'I have some experience with that.' When what I really mean is 'I read a Slashdot post about that.'? It is so I sound the part.

  • There is nothing good about pretending you've understood something. One of my employees did that a while ago, and his work was late and inadequate.
    If there is something you don't understand, it's better to just say it so that it can be explained again and progress can be made.

  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @05:02PM (#45969373) Homepage Journal

    Never underestimate the power of looking like you're supposed to be there, doing that.

    You have no idea how many "secure" facilities I've been given full access to, just because I dressed and talked like I knew exactly what I was doing.

  • Enjoy that while it lasts. Soon enough, only AI's will be trusted to write good code. The age of the smelly, surly, bug-prone, human coder is coming to an end.

  • You have an automatic advantage in many technical fields in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Western Europe and most of Eastern Europe and probably other places as a white male. In engineering fields people of East Asian descent are also afforded an advantage, because they are assumed to excel at math and by extension all technical fields.

    That is why it is very important in the fields of computer science, programming, and software engineering (and where the three overlap) to

    • You have an automatic advantage in many technical fields in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Western Europe and most of Eastern Europe and probably other places as a white male.

      Except when it comes to academia. Also any business looking to avoid a diversity suit, which is usually larger corporations rather than small business. There were a lot of scholarships I had to pass over. And there's a significant push to get women into STEM fields. These are good things as they get people into STEM fields, but it's certainly not fair. On the other hand, there's still a fair amount of racism/sexism in small business which make it easier for the typical white male to land a job. There are a

  • important part (Score:5, Interesting)

    by globaljustin (574257) <justinglobal@nospAm.gmail.com> on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @05:42PM (#45969767) Homepage Journal

    here's the important message of the whole thing:

    'I want those people to experience what I was privileged enough to have gotten in college and beyond – unimpeded opportunities to develop expertise in something that they find beautiful, practical, and fulfilling.'

    academia is typically a very alienating place...in college/undergrad I saw many people discouraged form EE who would have been very good at the actual work of an EE in the real world, but couldn't/would not get past the insane 'weeding out' classes.

    in my experience (I changed my major before I started classes but I attended a class just to see what it was like) these were classes all Engineers must take, usually taught by a prof that looked well qualified on paper but was horrible.

    The only way to pass the class was to either a) know the material already or b) study all night with other Engineering students in the class

    There really wasn't an option to 'have a life'...some tried but one or the other would win out. In order to get an EE degree you simply MUST become a dork. or at least 'dork' in the colloquial sense of looking neutral/unstylish at best, poor social skills, lacking manual skills, etc etc...which would inevitably remain under developed due to a lack of formative experiences, time spent instead in dark rooms eating breadsticks looking at computer screens. Yes alot of good work has gotten done this way, but that doesn't mean you use it as a way to 'weed out' students from the industry!

    It was possible, but you had to fight against the grain all the time, and few did it.

  • I want those people to experience what I was privileged enough to have gotten in college and beyond

    yes, and i want the same opportunities a hot blonde (or her male equivalent) receives in life ... but i won't get it\

    If I stared at someone in silence and nodded as they were talking, they would usually assume that I understood

    and that's a good thing?

    • by PRMan (959735)
      Yeah, most programmers aren't beautiful women and so they have no chance in Marketing.
  • ... people would assume that I knew what I was doing (regardless of whether I did or not) and treat me accordingly. If I stared at someone in silence and nodded as they were talking, they would usually assume that I understood, not that I was clueless. Nobody ever talked down to me, and I always got the benefit of the doubt in technical settings.'

    So if he did nothing but nod his head in agreement with someone else, they assumed he "knew what he was doing", and he got some "benefit of the doubt". Gosh, you mean if you agree with everything everyone says, they'll believe you are smart? By doing nothing, you get the benefit of the doubt that you know what you are doing?

    I was on the phone yesterday with a support person from a large computer company. I would tell her something about the problem I was having with their hardware and she'd respond "uh h

  • I'm for equality and all that, but this guy seems to be asking for equal tratment of impostors of all minorities? If you're not qualified, get the fuck out, no matter what you look like.

  • by kelemvor4 (1980226) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @08:49PM (#45971553)
    I think there's a meme about this. It's called "First World Problems." Sheesh!

Money doesn't talk, it swears. -- Bob Dylan

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