Old coders never die, they just become middle managers.

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Illustration: Cathryn Virginia

Each year, 600 coders gather to talk shop at a conference in New York called PyGotham. The organizers know how male and white the tech industry is, so they make a special effort to recruit a diverse speaker lineup. They promote the event on mailing lists for women and people of color who code, and they run a workshop for women in tech to encourage them to submit talks. The organizers ask speakers to fill out a demographic survey so they can track the progress of the conference’s diversity.

I serve on the conference committee, and after PyGotham ended this year, I realized I had made no effort to reach one group in particular: older coders. Compared to the underrepresentation of women and minorities in tech, the scarcity of programmers in their forties and beyond has mostly escaped notice. There are no Meetups or mailing lists for them in New York, no prominent advocacy organizations devoted to them. Although I will seek older programmers to speak at PyGotham next year, I don’t yet know where to look. …

When I ordered two mattresses from IKEA this July for $375, I expected to receive the delivery in a week or so. What I got instead was two months of frustration.

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The trouble began when XPO Logistics, the company that IKEA has hired for deliveries in the New York area, called to say that they would deliver the mattresses on a Friday. …

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John Flaxman (1755–1826)

Good engineers write good code. But the best engineers cultivate and inspire their junior colleagues. If you are a senior engineer, you must learn to be a mentor. Especially if you are committed to diversity: mentorship is critical to the careers of women and minorities in tech. I have failed at mentoring, then succeeded. Learn from me and march to mentorship triumph.

A Mandatory Skill

This essay, and my talk from which I adapted it, is influenced by John Allspaw’s On Being A Senior Engineer:

Mature engineers lift the skills and expertise of those around them.

They recognize that at some point, their individual contribution and potential cannot be exercised singularly. They recognize that there is only so much that can be produced by a single person, and the world’s best engineering feats are executed by teams, not singularly brilliant and lone engineers…. …


A. Jesse Jiryu Davis

Staff Software Engineer at MongoDB in New York City, working on C, Python, Tornado, and async. Documentary photographer. Student at the Village Zendo

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