Saturday, November 16, 2013

GitHub as a recruitment filter

When I was at QCon San Francisco, I heard a talk about recruiting software engineers, and one of the points of the speaker, was that you should check out the GitHub profile of the candidates. This is something I found a little worrisome, not only because I don't have an (active) GitHub profile, but also because it seemed to me that this would lead you to exclude a number of good candidates.

I am all for open source, but I don't spend time on them, since I have enough work to do on work and non-programming related projects for me not wanting to add more to it. Does this make me a bad programmer? Perhaps. But probably not. Currently I am mostly doing business analytics (i.e. trying to help define the needs of the customer), but when I am on a project as a programmer, I tend to average more than a full days work each day - I could spend the overtime on open source projects, but I frankly don't see how this is a better use of my time, in the eyes of optential future employers.

There are also numerous other reasons why using GitHub profile as a recruitment filter is a bad idea, and there are two great blogposts that explains this:

Ashe Dryden: The Ethics of Unpaid Labor and the OSS Community
James Coglan: Why GitHub is not your CV

They should be read in the posted order, as Coglan's post is an expansion on Dryden's post.

We got to do better - diversity at conferences

I have just returned home from San Francisco, where I and nine of my colleagues, spent 3 days at the QCon San Francisco conference.

As often happens at these conferences, the gender diversity was not impressive - according to the speakers page, there were 7 women out of 110 speakers, and none of them were keynote speakers.

This is, to put it mildly, abyssal, and we got to do better.

On the last day of the conference, they displayed a slide of all the track hosts in the conference. When I saw it, I immediately thought to myself (and of course tweeted): I think I now understand the gender imbalance at the conference.

At conferences like QCon SF, track hosts are heavily involved in selecting the speakers, and they tend to look at their own network when doing so. Unless you've done an explicit effort towards that not happening, your network tends to look a lot like yourself, and when people like the track hosts use their network to get speakers, the speakers end up looking like themselves.

Not all track hosts are like that of course - one of the track hosts in that picture is Jez Humble, who is very much involved in fixing the gender imbalance (2 of his 5 track speakers were women), and who has written a great blogpost about this: How To Create A More Diverse Tech Conference. That blogpost should be required reading for all conference organizers, and certainly wasn't read (or at least not followed) by the QCon SF organizers.

If the organizers don't want to follow the guidelines laid out by Jez Humble, then they could consider something as simple as trying to find a couple of female track hosts. That alone should help in the gender imbalance. Or perhaps just ask the vendors if they could use female speakers, rather than male speakers, on the vendors track, if possible - I know that at least one of the vendors had a great female speaker sitting in the booth on the first day, and she could easily have spoken on either the vendor track or in one of the other tracks.

Before anyone goes on about conference organizers having to choose the greatest speakers they can get hold of, I will say that that has been addressed by Jez Humble in his blogpost, and that at QCon SF, the level of the speakers was generally sub-par compared to similar conferences I've been to the last couple of years (which includes both QCon London and QCon New York), so looking towards diversity probably would have increased the quality.