Stop Hiring As If We’re In The Industrial Age

Podcast Description

Kim is taking some much needed time off, so enjoy this presentation from the 2018 View Source  Conference

Additional Resources



Kim Crayton: Yeah! Woo! Alright, you stop when I tell you to stop! [Audience laughs] You don’t stop when you wanna stop. Hello. This is [Kim laughs] “Stop Hiring as if We’re in the Industrial Age.” I am Kim Crayton. [Big sigh] I am Kim Crayton. I am the founder of #CauseAScene. Raise your hand if you follow me on Twitter. Oh, not enough white people. Come on. [Audience laughs]

I have and and I have a trigger warning: my job is to make white people as uncomfortable as possible, so that you can get to work and get this community changed. You’re in the way. So this is one of the talks I just created this morning at nine o’clock this morning just for you.

I’m an educator by trade, [Kim laughs] and seriously, I have a lot of incarnations, but the biggest one is I’m an educator. So I like to start with defining terms, ’cause what I don’t like is for me to get 15 minutes into a talk, and people’re like, “Oooh, now I get it,” or 15 minutes into a talk and like, “I don’t agree.” Because I really don’t care if you don’t agree, but you just keep that to yourself. [Scattered laughter]


So, let’s talk about privilege. White people get upset about this term, so [Kim laughs] I’m just gonna break it down. Privilege is simply about access. Access. So raise your hands if you’ve seen these monkeys on National Geographic or something. Yeah. They make it seem like it is so happy to be—that’s a lie. OK? Who’s in the water? It’s a maternal family. Everybody else is freezing their butts off on the outside trying to get in. That is what access is. People who have access and people who don’t. It’s as simple as that. Don’t be takin’ so personally. It’s just a word.

And then we talk about underrepresented. Underrepresented is about numbers. Just one little white lady, poor little white lady, just all by herself. Then you have that one little Black guy head cut off up there at the top [audience laughs]. That’s underrepresented.

Marginalized is about treatment of groups. So I’m going to be specific: it’s about treatment of groups. It’s not individuals, ’cause white people like to say, “But I…” It’s not about you as an individual, it’s the systems within which we work. So although women are underrepresented in tech, cis white women are not marginalized. So you do not get your diversity numbers by hiring cis white women. That doesn’t work. And you also don’t get ’em by getting somebody on LGBTQ community, who’s a person of color, who’s on the autism spectrum, who has one leg. You don’t get it all in one person. That’s what I’m tryin’ to say.


Diversity is about variety. So I know from my talk earlier this week that you do have Crayola here. OK, so there was a box of four crayons that I could never do anything with. I’m not that creative with a black or white or red and I don’t even know what the other color is. I’m not that creative. But if you give me a 64 box of crayons, it may still be ugly, but it’s gonna be a colorful ugly picture. [Audience laughs] That is what diversity is about. It is about the variety: what we can create together that we cannot create by ourselves.

And then inclusion. This is the holy grail for me. And inclusion is about my experience. You as an organization, you as a manager, you as a peer, do not get to tell me if I’m included or not. I tell you, based on my experience with the organization, the policies, procedures and processes if I feel included. And I’m gonna be honest with you, the majority of marginalized people in your organizations do not feel included, but they’re too afraid to say anything. You’re doing a really bad job.

Inclusion is also not about equality. There is no way, and I see so many white male faces in here, that I’m ever gonna be equal to you in this space. What I need you to do for that ever to happen is for you to go get narcolepsy, go out for a few days, for a while, let me get a head start. And when you wake up, I need you crawling at your very slowest for us than ever be equals. So there is no such thing as marginalized being equal.


What we need to do, and what we have not been doing, we need to prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable and the marginalized in our community, because when we’re safe, everybody is. This is not about quotas. “OK, I’ll trade you one African American for two Jews.” That’s not how this works. Again, it’s about my experience.

We always talk [Kim laughs] about disruption in this industry, and we’re really not as disruptive as we think we are. If I see one more scooter app… you’re solving white people’s problems, not mine. [Chuckling] So while many of us view disruption as an innovative product or service—product or service first of all is not a business; it’s a product or service—this is where you guys get in trouble, ’cause you take these great ideas that there are actually products and services, and you try to scale them with no processes, policies and procedures in place.

And what you have is a big, huge product or service with nothing underneath it. Which is hard to do. So I am about challenging the status quo. I am about anything that if someone comes up to me and says, “This is how…” before they even finish that sentence, “This is how we always did it,” I’m going, “Ahh! We’re not doin’ it that way anymore.”


So there’s three pillars for building a 21st century business. We have to focus on leadership, we have to focus on management, and we have to focus on stakeholders.

So we’ll start with leadership. And that’s where I start, ’cause I’m gonna be honest with you, I don’t work with line managers, I don’t work with people who are in the trenches. Because you know what? This is why you’re tired. If leadership does not buy into it by resources, with money, time, and effort, and an intention and a demand that this is gonna happen, you’re wasting your time. You’re getting burnt out. And what you’re doing’ is harming these very individuals, or even your companies, because you are doing harm. If leadership is not bought into this, this is a waste of your time. But it also tells you if you work there and these things are important to you, it’s time to leave.

In the industrial age, the value was put on what you could do. We’re in the information age, and the value’s put on what you know. This is the problem. We’re still treating the world as if we’re creating widgets. We’re not creating widgets, we need to be creating knowledge. And that comes from information that we can turn into knowledge.

And I’m gonna give you an example and give you some more definitions. I have always wanted to learn how to build businesses. First of all, I’m gonna say Black women in the United States are the most degreed individuals in that country because you white people don’t believe anything we say unless we have letters behind our names. That’s just the truth.


So everybody knows, in our industry, we say Google it. Well Google, all that provides is information. It is not knowledge. So I could not find—I had a crapload of information about how to build a business—but nothing about the knowledge, that practical application about building businesses, which is two different things.

So we have a definition of what information is. It’s just facts. It’s just the stuff that we find on the Internet. The stuff that we find on Stack Overflow. And this is why I have an issue with Stack Overflow. People are using it as if it’s a knowledge portal. It is an information portal. And it’s a information portal that is very specific to a group of people who feel safe in participating on that platform.

When you have a survey for three years running that says over 90% of your respondents are white males aged 18 to 34, I have a problem with that when you promote that survey as if it’s the broader developer community, ’cause it is not. [Audience applauds] It is not the broader developer community. What it is is a community of people who treat other people like crap, who feel comfortable enough to participate, and then when you have organizations asking people like myself or other marginalized people, I need to see your Stack Overflow score, or I need to see your GitHub score, that’s a problem, because I don’t feel safe enough to even get a score. Why are we gamifying this? This does not mean I have knowledge, it means I know information. [Audience applauds]


So knowledge is about what you do with the information. So if someone tells me something, how I internalize that and make it a part of my job is now my knowledge. Right? So when I was in teaching [Kim laughs] somebody says, “OK, this needs to go together, right? You need to collate this thing.” By the time they came back, I got an assembly line, because I figured out how to make this thing go faster, ’cause I’m all about processes. [Kim snaps her fingers] That was somebody giving me information, and me figuring out how to do it the best way I can. But the problem is, if I can’t get that out of my head, and share that with the organization, there is no organizational learning.

Those manuals that we used to use in the industrial age to create these widgets; so tomorrow you get a job, somebody hands you a manual. That’s your whole job. You were good, ’cause everything you need was in that manual. So it’s that information or that knowledge that is easy to share. Easy to codify.

So, [Kim sighs] I’m just gonna say it. So you have these, we just heard about deep learning, and so you have these AI algorithms. The algorithm is explicit knowledge which can be automated, so you guys will be automated very soon, if you don’t figure this out. [Audience laughs] You laugh, but I’m gonna always have a job. But tacit knowledge is how that algorithm was created. This is what we need to be competing on in our businesses today. This is how we grow businesses that compete in a global economy.


What’s in my head, if I can articulate it to a team of people, we can, as business leaders, we can now create a strategy around that. If not… So, this is just a diagram of what that is, so you can see explicit knowledge is so small compared to how big, how vast, tacit knowledge is.

So what’s happening is these leaders must understand and capture this in order to gain competitive advantage, ’cause this is what these businesses are for. You need to compete in the global market. You don’t have—it’s Boots, right? Boots? Yeah, that’s a weird name for a doggone pharmacy. [Laughter] Boots?? [Boots is the UK equivalent of Walgreens & CVS combined] You know, it is what it is, but it’s Boots. [Kim and audience laugh]

So Boots is—people who visit the local Boots usually live in that neighborhood or are somebody passing by that, right? Well, we know our customers are global. We’re not building Boots anymore, but we keep acting like we’re building Boots anymore by having all these white developers here building Boots. How is a white developer gonna build Boots for Brazil? How’s a white developer gonna build Boots for me? You don’t even have my flesh-colored band-aids. You don’t even have the hair care products in the store that I need. So you’re missing, and it’s untapped. I mean, how many… [Kim laughs]


Everybody wants to talk about Silicon Valley, but Silicon Valley has left so much money on the table, because you’ve had Black women who come to them asking for money for about Black hair care products, and they have no idea how much we freakin’ spend on our hair. [Audience laughs] So they’re like, “Oh, no, this doesn’t make…” You do not!

A woman who has a weave, do you know that they can spend $500 just on hair? Just on the hair! Not to get their hair done, just the bag of hair! And you just walked away from that? That makes absolutely no sense to me. Well, it does because you’re white, and you don’t know anything about us, and you never had to learn anything about us. White people are the most segregated people in this world. You’ve segregated yourselves on purpose. It’s comfortable for you. And when you see us walkin’ down the street, you get very uncomfortable. I really need you to get well uncomfortable. Because I’m sick of being uncomfortable.

I’m sick of steppin’ out of the way when you’re walkin’ down the street with your friends and you won’t get the hell out of my way. You’re walkin’ down the sidewalk because you’ve been told that this belongs to you, so you don’t move. I just want you to remember this face, because if it’s coming towards you, and you not movin’, we comin’ in contact. Because I’m knockin’ you over. That’s my goal, because I deserve to take up space.


So programming is a skill that’s explicit. Which means that as soon as you guys figure out how to do this, you’re gonna code yourselves out of a job. What you need, your experience is what you need, which is that tacit knowledge. That’s something you can’t program out.

‘Cause all that algorithm can do is what you tell it to do. And I’m gonna drop this in there: there is no such thing as unbiased data, which means there is no such thing as an unbiased algorithm. Period.



Kim: …there is no such thing as an unbiased algorithm. Period. [Audience applauds] Every human is biased. And since humans are creating these products, these programs, we are all biased. What you want to do is mitigate and recognize your bias.

And this is what I love about research, because there’s such a thing as validity and reliability. We don’t have much of that in tech at all. We just go because we feel like that’s the thing we need to be doin’. No one checks the validity or the reliability. It’s just like, “Oh, that worked. OK, let’s keep goin’.” So conversations [Kim laughs]—this what I love—conversations about Angular versus React, or whatever new thing is out there, is showing how limited you are, ’cause all you’re thinkin’ about is a technology or tool.

We need you to start thinkin’ about how to solve the problem. They’re too many dev shops that, “Oh, I only do this thing.” So you contort this problem that your customer or client has to fit to solve the problem of the only technology tool you know how to do. That’s doing a disservice. You need to solve the problem first, and then figure out the tool that best fits solving the problem. Stop looking for simple solutions to complex problems.


So now we’re gonna talk about management. When we talk about building businesses for the 21st century, which includes inclusion and diversity, ’cause if you do these things, we don’t need a D&I department. These things are part of our culture, part of our DNA of our organizations. You will never change tech—this is a big one—until we redefine what we define as technical. It damages the health of our communities when programming is considered technical, and everything else is considered non-technical or soft skills. I don’t have soft skills. I have some skills that many of you will never have. You are a commodity.

And if I’m hurtin’ your feelings, good. Because this ticks me off. Because this is where people want to negotiate prices. No, you don’t negotiate my price. I set my price. And because of this—and I hope this doesn’t violate the code of conduct, I’m sorry—I have a price and then have a bullshit price on top of that. It’s a bullshit tax. Because there’s always gonna be some bullshit that I gotta deal with that you don’t have to deal when you dealin’ with your computer. Because human beings come with bullshit. So we need to stop talking about technical and non-technical skills.

Let’s define some terms. What you know is a technology. You’re technical in a technology. We’re all technical. We need to make sure we’re using terms correctly. So Google’s figured out a surprising thing when they looked at their employees. Right here it says, “Project Oxygen shocked everybody by concluding that among the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise came in dead last.” So why are they still doin’ the interviews the way they do? [Kim laughs] I just don’t… you did the survey. You did the research. But you’re still doin’ it butt-backwards.


The top seven skills [Kim laughs] were—and they use “soft skills”, bless their heart—being a good coach, communicating / listening well, processing insight from others, having empathy, supporting one’s colleagues, good critical thinking and problem solving, and bein’ able to connect the dots.

We need to stop thinking in silos. Your organizations are systems. Just because you have a good team over here, I’m not impressed if that does not translate throughout your whole organization. Because that means you have a cancer in the rest of your organization. Which at some point, as we know about cancer, will spread.

These are the skills that the World Economic Forum says that we need for 2020. And if you don’t have these, you need to start developin’ ’em. Because this is important. Because I really want you to do a self analysis, some self reflection, ’cause many of you, if you’re honest with yourself, you don’t have nary anything on here.

And we’ve seen people implode. Linus Torvalds. He’s been doing this project like a bat outta hell for a while. And now he’s realized, “Oh, wow, I need to step back, ’cause I need to take care of me. I need to figure out why I don’t have the skills,” because that becomes a problem in your project.


Just as many of you decided to become programmers, I decided I didn’t want to be. After I figured that Javascript thing, man, that was the pain. [Audience laughs] I thought I was stupid. First of all, y’all need to stop telling new people that learning to code is easy. It is not. Because what you do… [audience applause] Thank you. Because what you end up doing as an adult learner is you make me internalize my failure, because you’re not being honest about this process. All learning is hard. And learning a new language is even harder. So just tell him that: “It’s hard. But you can do it.” [Audience whoops and applauds]

So for me, my mentor said, “OK, we gonna put this doggone JavaScript down, ’cause this is too many movin’ pieces just to get something to work. We’re gonna work on “Learn Python the Hard Way.”

Oh, my lord! That’s what an object is? Can y’all not explain that easier in JavaScript? And I was able at that point to turn my Python code into JavaScript. I was rockin’ and rollin’, and then I was like, “You know what?” But I have some skills that many of these folx don’t have, so this is what I’m gon’ do. [Kim laughs] I’m not gon’ do that thing, ’cause they doing that thing. I’m gonna go over here and do this thing.


So my strength is professional development and building strategies for building companies. Because y’all don’t know what y’all doin’. Again, you have a product or a service and you think that’s a business. So important things to remember: again, a product or service is not a business. You cannot manage what you cannot measure. And successful businesses are built on a foundation of enabling leaders to plan, evolve, and recover.

And think about this recovery part, because it’s happening a lot. Lack of inclusion is a risk management issue. How many of you managers and leaders in this room actually have a risk management plan for your products and services, because they’re causing harm to other people?

Current hiring processes should enable us to screen for knowledge and skills needed for innovation, differentiation, and competitive advantage, not the fact that this person can code. That should be—’cause if I need to know about… I’m buildin’ a product that has deep learning, and this individual, where is she? Yeah, OK. She comes in, but her coding skills aren’t that great? You think I ain’t know how to teach her what she needs to know?

We don’t think that way, because we prioritize coding, which again is a commodity. Anybody can learn it. So we don’t talk about hiring for tacit knowledge. ‘Cause this is where we’re losing people, particularly people in marginalized communities. ‘Cause we don’t know—first of all, we’re treating everybody the same. We don’t understand that people don’t feel safe in your environments. It worked for you, so it works for everybody, which is not true. So you need to think about what are we hiring for?


And not just—think beyond the skills. Think about the competencies. What knowledge gaps that you have? What are our core values? And what are areas that we lack diversity? Then you need to look at these job descriptions. Oh lord, some of y’all job descriptions are just so… oh, bless it. [Audience laughs]

One client that I had, they hired me because I was doing a Zoom—we were doin’ a call, and I was doin’ Zoom—and I immediately screen-shared her my screen, and on their website—she’s in HR—somebody else developed, every instance of referring to technology was a masculine pronoun. Anybody who’s ever been harassed would not apply to that job. She was shocked. She saw that and it was like, “you’re hired right then.” I went back to show somebody the next day, she’d already had them change it.

They had that ninja rockstar crap in there too. [Audience laughs] Please, if you think that is something we care about, please take that off your LinkedIn, your Twitter handle, all of that. No one cares about you being a rockstar ninja. I don’t care. You’re actually a person that I really won’t be able to have a conversation with. And you’re why I have bullshit tax. [Audience laughs]

So you need to really think about inclusive language. What are you tryin’ to—because even in Germany, where they have by law to put male and female—it was still exclusive. So just putting the M and the F on that [Kim laughs] does not make it inclusive.


Then you have to think about your recruiting process. Where are you going? In the US, they always wanna go to Stanford and Harvard and blah blah blah blah blah blah blah [Kim mocking]. God, these people are boring! They’re only innovating because they have privilege to innovate. This is why—oh my lord, there are a lot of tech heroes that I just don’t have any more, [Kim laughs] like Elon Musk, to see him just implode. [Audience laughs]

Because of what I recognize when I really started understanding about privilege and white supremacy, he has had a system of apartheid at his back pushing him forward. And he’s had the privilege and the money to do all of these things. Eh? Not much… [Kim mocking] Yeah, I think that would be great too if I had all that.

I look at a lot of people. Steve Jobs? All these. I’m like, yeah? My hustle and yo’ hustle ain’t getting the same results. So we really need to think about what we’re recruiting for. And then the application process. Come on, people. Can we  treat people with respect? If somebody sends an application, I mean, change the form letter? Actually reach back out to ’em? Don’t ignore them. Because we do talk in these back channels. And this is one of the reasons that many of you aren’t getting us, is because you have employees there who are absolute trash, but because these individuals don’t feel safe enough to tell you, they tell us. So you’re floatin’ around in our communities, “Mm-mm, don’t work there,” and you don’t even know.


But where are you recruiting? Where’s your application process? Are you going to where we are? We don’t trust white people. I haven’t—there’s a history in the United States of you treating Black people poorly. It is your responsibility to change that perception in my eye. And this is where people get upset, because I distrust whiteness by default. I don’t care how you feel about that. But it’s in my best interest to do that, because my life depends on it.

Interview process. Oh my god, if you do whiteboardin’? Sheesh! That’s not solving everyday problems. That’s not solvin’ the problems that you’re hirin’ people to solve. Can we make the interview process a way of getting knowledge out there? Job offers. Onboarding. What are you doin’ for onboarding? Ongoing training and development and feedback. This right here. Basically, stop treating everybody like they’re 18 to 34 year old white dudes with nothing else on they mind.

‘Cause I’m not gonna be doing an open source project for you on the side. That’s not gonna happen. I don’t have kids. But just because I don’t have kids, don’t think I have nothin’ to do with my time. [Audience applauds]

Strategies for developing these skills. Seek out opportunities to be part of multi-disciplinary teams. Seek opportunities to mentor and be mentored. Also, if you’re a bad mentor, if you don’t like people, please stay away from mentees. Because a bad mentor is worse than having no mentor at all. [Audience applauds]


Seek feedback on skills other than programming. Author the right documentation. There’s a lotta empathy when you do that. Spend some time working in the support department. [Kim laughs] I bet you get a lot of empathy with that. Conduct some Lunch & Learns with your non-programming staff. Participate in job shadowing and jobs swapping. Socialize in non-programming events that don’t involve alcohol. Yeah, I dunno what’s with this drinkin’ thing, but that’s a holdover to college and all that other mess when we thought products and services were businesses. Speak at conferences about something other than technology. And volunteer to teach programming to these underrepresented and marginalized groups.

Who are your stakeholders? Building a successful organization with fewer unintended consequences requires more than a product or service. You need to be thinkin’ about all your stakeholders. So again, in the Industrial Age, it was about shareholder value only. That’s not flyin’ anymore. Definitely not flyin’ anymore. You need to think about your stakeholders. And they start from the top. You need to think about the people who work for you. Then think about the people who partner with you. Then think about the people who buy from you. And then think about the people who invest in you.

Because if you have a team that works with you, that feels inclusive and taken care of, and there’s a safe space, everything else flows. We all got this backwards and still thinkin’ about everybody wants to IPO. Every business doesn’t need to be on the stock market. Because most of y’all don’t have businesses; again, it’s a product or service.


Goin’ from products or service focus to a business model focus takes time, intention, and strategic effort. Intention without strategy is chaos. All are necessary to improve in order to innovate, differentiate, and compete in an Information Age. Buildin’ a 21st century business requires us changing the culture to reflect the absorption of an individual. We’re no longer being—well, I’m no longer gonna assimilate; I’m just letting y’all know that. Because I bring no value to the company if I need to be a “culture fit.” Please stop usin’ that word. [Audience applauds]

The culture should change by my very being there. It makes everybody uncomfortable, but so what? It makes a better product or service, and a better business model.

So, things to remember: lack of inclusion is a risk management issue. Business success [the] in Information Age requires organizational leaders to build relationships with all stakeholders and facilitate organizational knowledge sharing.

A major barrier to success is the lack of conversations we’re havin’ about privilege and white supremacy, people. The governments of our global economies were built on white supremacy. In the United States—which all of you have benefited from—it was built on the justification of slavery. And until we have an honest conversation and face that, and you get uncomfortable with that, nothing’s gonna change. Thank you. [Audience applauds and cheers]

Stop Hiring As If We're In The Industrial Age

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