What’s wrong with diversity?

Alessandro Ronchi
Apr 12, 2017 · 3 min read

On April 3rd, 2017 I took part in the Increasing Diversity in Tech panel hosted during Magento Imagine.

Here are some of my thoughts on the topic.

How do I drive a culture to get everyone to care about diversity

To change people’s mind about diversity I tell them a story about me.

When I was young, my family relocated quite often; every 2 or 3 years we moved to a new town: at that point, the reset button was pushed in my life.

I had to attend a new school with new teachers, make new friends and join groups that were already well established.

At the age of 15 things got even worse, because we moved from southern to northern Italy: in northern Italy, it’s a common misconception that people from the South are all rude slackers.

Thus I also suffered discrimination both at school and, later, at work.

Making friends was harder and I had to work twice as hard as everybody else to be considered at the same level. I think this sounds very familiar to women because it’s what usually happens to them.

I know women very well: since my father was often away for work, I grew up with my mother and my sister and now I live with my wife and my daughter: I can affirm that women have left a dent in my life definitively more than men.

To summarize: diversity is a problem for people that are afraid of the unknown. Every time I relocated I was that unknown for the others and I had to face diversity myself.

But life has taught me that diversity, instead, is an opportunity to grow and to be enriched by elements, ideas, qualities & cultures that are different from ours.

In other words, diversity is the key ingredient of evolution and ultimately of antifragility.

How I have been successful in diversifying Mage Titans events

It’s such a shame that women in tech are considered unicorns.

Some of my best colleagues are women. In my distributed company, five out of ten developers are ladies and some of my mentors are women who code.

For this reason, when it was time to organize the first Mage Titans in Italy, I had a dream: demonstrate to Magento community that gender has nothing to do with being smart.

And since we wanted smart people at the event, we invited as many women as possible on stage. At the end, we had 4 ladies and 8 gentlemen on stage.

Differently from the first edition, for the second edition, we opened a call for papers and encouraged newcomers to submit their ideas, on the event’s website.

But at the very beginning, no submissions came from women nor from newcomers.

At that point, thanks to the help of two brilliant ladies, Andra Lungu and Rebecca Troth, we launched a mentorship program to actively support those that were willing to submit but not self-confident enough to do it.

As a result, when the call for paper closed, we registered 20% of submissions from women and 50% of proposals came from people that never spoke before at an international Magento event.

We are obviously really proud of this result. But as I always say to people that know me, every finish line is only the starting point of a new goal: I’d like to see more women among the next Magento Masters and events lineups.

Trust me, because I learned that the hard way: change is possible; but it all starts inside of us, from gaining the self- awareness that we are not second to none.

Side notes

During the panel, the importance of having a mentor came out. People were skeptical about the fact that someone could find the time and will to be our mentor.

Then I encouraged them, saying: “a mentor for me is simply someone who inspires me and most of the time she or he doesn’t even know to be such a person. So go out and find your mentor!”

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Alessandro Ronchi

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I believe in passion, innovation & continuous improvement, on my way to becoming an antifragile and exponential entrepreneur. More on www.alessandroronchi.com