Finding Humanity at Tech Job Tours
Vignettes of Connections and Disconnections
I walked in at 7 pm into a throng of humans with heavy bags on their back and info sheets in their hands. What a welcome. After a brief attempt to orient myself, I weaseled my way to the corner to VSCO — a product and company I love.
In front of me, an Asian software engineer is talking with one of the VSCO representatives. After a pause, he asks, “So, what is VSCO?”
Downstairs, the second mentoring session that people were impatiently waiting for was finally kicking off.
The “mentors” were scattered in the rows of seats. The rest of us, “mentees,” would take the seats around them and begin our speed mentoring sessions.
Well, okay — there was order and civilization, still. There was no running nor trampling. But it was in their eyes — eyes fighting their way towards mentors of choice, people politely trying to squeeze between certain seats. Their eyes focused, their bodies tense.
I stood still to the side, agitated.
I wanted to just turn around, and start talking to the eager men and women queuing behind me — ask them about their days, say hello, extend a pause of warmth.
The host realizes the mentor-mentee ratio is off, and announces for us to just get talking.
Oh, but their intense eyes — I just watched quietly instead, as they stood silently, watching the conversations between the chairs take place without them.
After a shuffle, I found myself in a circle to the side. The “mentor” in the middle is a short, assertive woman who works as an UX designer at IBM. She began speaking before even telling us her name.
Instead of following the host’s prompts, our circle became a detailed and technical Q&A session. We were a group entirely of women of color — one asked about how much writing she should add to her portfolio, another asked about how to pivot from simply web design to UX. We all dipped our heads into the circle to hear better.
Then, I noticed a guy standing off to the side. I took a step back, inviting him to join the circle. He had just arrived, he mentioned, so I brought him to speed what was happening and what our circle was talking about.
Across from me, one of the women with her ear dipped low and close to the mentor looked up at me, “Can you not be so loud? I can’t hear her.”
I took another sip of wine.
At another circle, the mentor was a software engineer. He studied film and theater in college, but a few years later, he decided to renew his contract with himself and jump into software engineering. He needed to pay the bills.
Our circle was consisted of women non-engineers. He seemed laid back and collegiate, asked a little about us, and whether we had any questions for him. Some were thrown around, but I don’t remember any of them.
Then, the researcher in me asked him about culture. His team is almost 50–50 men and women, he said, even though the company is 80–20 men and women. Coming from his background in theater and the arts, he has always valued diversity.
The harder I looked at him, the more boyish he seemed. I felt a surge of compassion rise in me.
I asked him about how he keeps creative, whether theater’s still in his life.
I remember becoming very aware of my body language. My shoulders were open and relaxed. I maintained eye-contact. I wanted to radiate love and kindness into the circle and towards Josh.
Suddenly, too, a surge of competition arose. I wanted to tell these women to stop asking questions they didn’t care about. I wanted to tell them to speak louder, ask about each others’ lives. I wanted them to be more human. I wanted to shove in it their faces — look at me, I’m so comfortable and grounded, and I care enough to ask about his life.
A woman who had just moved here from New York whipped out her phone. Opening the LinkedIn app, she asked to connect with Josh.
After the circle broke, Josh and I walked up the stairs and talked more about how he keeps creativity and the arts in his life. I enjoyed the conversation for what it was and in my heart I silently thanked him for ending the night with a little humanness.