I wasn’t planning on writing another post on this blog, with the exception of my “Bye” post–and the only reason that hasn’t gone up yet is because I don’t know what to write (other than “bye”). But I want to write at least a little bit more than that for the, what, two readers I have.
Perhaps it is not so bad that “it’s so hard to say goodbye,” or else I wouldn’t be posting the following, which may be enlightening to some who are interested in the following topic. And here it is:
So, I haven’t written a lot about this while keeping this blog, but I am attempting to transition into a career as a programmer or software (or web) developer. I’ve taken a couple of online classes, but I am sick of the online route and feel that I need something that is faster and more structured, as well as more in depth. This has led me to do some research on what is out there that might fit me.
I ran across some bootcamp classes, which…bootcamp sounds great to me. Nobody I’ve talked to about it seems to like the idea of my going to bootcamp. In fact, some of them don’t like it for some of the reasons why I love it, i.e. you learn a lot in a short amount of time. And, obviously, there’s the cost of bootcamp.
Anyway…not the point. The thing about the bootcamps is every bootcamp pic is full of whites and Asians, most of them male. These bootcamps are always like, “Oh, 95% of our graduates get jobs as developers within a few months of completing bootcamp”…but…all of their grads lack melanin, which leaves me wondering whether or not I’d be able to get a job after bootcamp (if I actually went). It’s not like I’m just black or just a woman and have at least sex or at least race in my corner–I’m both. This led me to do some more research–this time about women and blacks in this field.
Every time I search on this topic, I find articles and blog posts that wonder why blacks aren’t attracted to programming or why women aren’t majoring in Computer Science anymore. And there’s a lot of discussion, but I’m not sure I’ve ever actually seen a–for lack of a better word–“correct” answer. So, I’m going to cut the bullschitt and tell you my truth.
Why didn’t I study Comp. Sci, and why do I think blacks don’t become programmers or developers?
1) Frankly? Every time I think of all of those whites and Asians in those bootcamp pics, especially the guys you could tell are super geeky, I seriously ask myself if I want to spend entire workdays–or even bootcamp–surrounded by a bunch of geeky whites and Asians with whom I have nothing in common but this one interest.
For one thing, I am not a geek. I’m a nerd. There’s a difference. I think people who are attracted to stuff like programming tend to be geeks. Geeks and nerds usually have different personalities and different interests. I think nerds have more of a mainstream quality to them, to the point where sometimes you have to get to know someone before you realize he/she is a nerd. I’m incredibly capable of fitting in with “average” people and having conversations that don’t go above everyone’s head about everyday things. When I tell jokes, they’re actually funny to “average” people. Stuff like that.
I’ve seen definitions that basically switch the meaning of “geek” and “nerd,” but this is based on my daily observations–I think nerds are basically just more intellectual (in a broad range of subjects) and more quiet than everyone else, but geeks flatout don’t make sense to other people, tend to specialize in their knowledge and look odd, to boot. Think Jessie Spano (nerd) vs Screech Powers (geek) from “Saved By the Bell.”
Now, some of the “reasoning” and guessing I’ve seen as to why women, for example, don’t head towards programming involves the perception that it’s “uncool” or “uncool” people work in programming. This is not what I’m saying, so don’t get it confused. I’m not cool, not interested in it. I don’t particularly believe women are looking for cool careers/co-workers, but I do think a lot of women want to feel comfortable at work…and there are many things I can see with programming that can lead to some discomfort. This is doubly true if you’re a black woman. I’m not a teenager anymore. I’ve socialized for a long time, have worked for a long time, around all kinds of people. It’s way too complicated for a blog post, so all I can tell you is that 1) I know enough to know that dropping a fairly normal black–or even white or Asian (but especially a black)–female into a geeky white-guy space is going to be kind of awkward for everyone involved, and 2) you’re going to have a hard time finding a black person or a woman who is truly an all-out geek or even truly a full-fledged nerd, which further exacerbates what would surely be an issue of cultural fit in the workplace. Let’s face it–if you went out geek profilin’, you’d be looking for white or Asian guys. You profile black men in a different way. There are reasons for this.
The thing about it is, as I’ve written time and time again, cultural fit makes or breaks you on the job. Nobody’s going to convince me otherwise–I believe hard/good work and skill level have ridiculously little to do with advancing on the job or being treated well/fairly–and I think this is something most people understand on some level. It can keep you from getting your foot in the door, which is what led to my questioning whether or not bootcamp post-employment would work for me quite the same way it allegedly works for white guys and Asian guys and a few token non-black women. And other times, you can get through the door but get treated differently than everyone else once you’re inside.
This is not to say that my concern is discrimination, per se. It really is more so thinking about the kind of people by which I’d be surrounded and the awkwardness of it due to my lack of geekiness, my race and my sex vs the geekiness, race and sex of others. Discrimination is mainly an issue, for me, in terms of even being able to get hired in the first place.
2) Um…I’m almost 33 years old. So…when I was in high school deciding what I might want to major in during college–and then when I went to college–I don’t really remember much in the way of computer programming being offered. Now, that’s not to say there wasn’t anything. But…you’ve got to admit, that kind of thing has gotten more popular, more mainstream, and it’s all thanks to the tech explosion. So, you had an exposure problem back then that doesn’t exist to the same degree anymore. Now with cell phones and cell phone apps everywhere, how can studying Comp. Sci or wanting to find out how to develop programs not cross anyone’s mind? Frankly, if it weren’t for Androids and the iPhone, I don’t think I’d be looking into programming or development. It still never really would have crossed my mind.
So why is it that the number of women majoring in Comp. Sci has actually dropped now? Beats me. I’m surprised women ever were majoring in it…or anyone else, for that matter. But more so women…which leads me to my next point…
3) It strikes me that, back in the day, if you ended up in programming, there had to be a way for you to learn about that field’s existence. It wasn’t like law or medicine or teaching, i.e. something that’s very visible, sexy and/or overly-discussed. Something had to make those people say, “Hey, how do I get into this?”
I think little boys get into things that make them ask that question more than little girls do. The best example I can think of is video games. And I’m not saying little girls don’t play video games. I played them, and I still do. Still, I’ve never been a “gamer” by any stretch of the imagination (I play sports games predominantly, which most gamers do not play). And “gamers” almost always are guys. Again, it’s like being a geek–there are female geeks, but they almost never completely capture the essence of being a geek the way so many guys do. Gaming is the same way.
My point is, if you play video games all the time and you love them, it’s your passion…eventually, you’re going to wonder about how to create a video game. Therefore, more little boys are going to wonder about it at some point and proceed to investigate how you can “create” games, programs, software.
Now, I think with the tech explosion and kids way too young to be having cell phones still having them…it’s going to be more of an equalizer for women and minorities, i.e. we’ll see more and more girls and young minorities grow up surrounded by and doing things that plant the programming seed. But when I was growing up? I don’t think that was the case.
The one thing I do still see is minority households–particularly black and Latino–seem to be less likely to have technology such as computers or cell phones in the home than everyone else. My sister, for example, has never had a computer with high-speed internet access in any of her homes (um, apartments). This means she has a 19-year old daughter who has never had a computer or laptop. She has kids who are even younger than that who have never had a computer or laptop. It’s unthinkable to me and probably to a lot of people. I actually grew up with computers, for the most part, and I don’t think most people my age can say that (I’m talking elementary school, we had a computer in the living room). It’s probably one of the reasons why I have been able to break into IT without a related degree or any certifications and perform as well as people who have Comp. Sci/IT-related degrees and certs. But kids like my sister’s kids? There’s no way in the hell they’re going to become programmers or for programming as a career to seriously cross their minds. Heck, I grew up with computers, and it never crossed my mind until the last few years.
4) One thing I will say [write]–and it has been flowing through this post without directly stating it–is that one thing people have to get over if they’re seriously going to discuss the lack of women/blacks in IT, including in programming…is that women are different from men and blacks are different from whites (and then, to go even further, black women different from white women and so on). The…end. I saw a blog post within the last week where the comments just kind of…[sighs]…got out of hand with this, “Well, women don’t have the brains for this…” and the “OMG, that’s ridiculous…” kind of stuff. I mean…I’m not even talking about brain chemistry. I’m talking about being raised a certain way, probably more than anything else, and then societal expectations/steering to some degree. I don’t have all the answers with that. I just think it’s a complicated, hard-to-explain thing, but if you’re going to talk about it or write about it you can’t ignore that there are just differences there. And the differences don’t just boil down to discrimination or mental capacity. I have articulated several of them.
5) Finally, one thing that keeps a lot of people from pursuing anything tech-related is the perception that it’s too hard to learn and some people just have some innate ability to “get” these things. But I think the best-kept secret is that technology is nowhere near as complicated as people act like it is. The geeks keep you well-fooled. They had me fooled for a while. Now I know that you don’t have to be a tech geek in order to understand some of this stuff and to do it for a living. The only thing that keeps jobs in the IT industry and IT people employed is people refusing to believe that and running to the nearest perceived tech geek for every little thing instead of figuring it out. I was one of the few people who would actually sit and figure stuff out, and google whatever I couldn’t (still do), and now I work in IT with a BA in psychology and a law degree. Now, some people aren’t smart enough to figure out anything tech-related, and that’s fine. But anybody who is pretty intelligent and who has the interest can get this stuff.