Wednesday, 14 December 2016

IT Sexism : What is Modern Development (for a Woman)?

Recently, I was challenged, almost to a fault, to enthuse myself about "modern development"... The quiz master expected me to extol about the virtues of distributed code verses centralised, to effervesce about sprints, about round tabling, about all these other buzz words and cockeyed concepts.

I simple asked the quiz master, quite what they meant by "modern development" ...

So surprised were they that they broke through a little bit of their shell and just talked to me, it was a refreshing change, moving away from methods and procedure, we talked about the system itself, avoiding even the language they were working in.

It soon became apparent we both worked from the same hymn sheet, just perhaps mine is an older copy... For you see, to me a good development job, doesn't necessarily sit with the work at hand, it sits with how you are allowed to approach that work, if you are just bombarded with red-tape and requirements and  micromanagement, then the person micromanaging you may as well just do the job on their own; and I have worked as the poor soul doing the work in just such a situation.  And it soon became clear this was the problem with the team this person was controlling.

It appeared they had gone through personality, philosophy and finally technical clashes, to the point that the four developers on the team didn't do much more than talk to one another about computers and draw their cheque each month.

The manager was doing all the work, not because she wanted to, not because she was female and they pushed it onto her, but because she had set high standards and promised delivery, but was getting no input from those below her.

In a paradoxical, and pretty toxic, situation, she was enabled to hire one more head, but not able to fire the useless four... She had ideas I might be that fifth chair, not a thought I relished as the conversation expanded into the actual problems she faced.

Now I've run into dysfunctional teams, but I know in the end the work either gets done or you all get fired, sometimes both.  But to sit and provocatively do nothing in the manner these folks did was tantamount to embezzlement, when I was introduced to them, they just sniffed and looked at me; I was egging myself onto ask them technical questions, but I was whisked into a private meeting room where this sad talk unfolds from.

After twenty minutes lamenting the problems I asked "What do you use as a way to leverage the work, what is that pedal you press to put on the pressure or get results?"...

She looked at me rather blankly, almost as though I were a magician showing a dog a card trick, as her eyes blinked she started to reel of a bunch of methods... Waterfall this and sprint that, and engagement in progress... yadda yadda yadda....

I put my hand palm up and asked again "not what procedures, what do you physically do?"

She didn't do anything, she sat in her office away from them all day and did code.  She never got out her chair and challenged them, she never spoke to then, she never pushed them in person... "Why not?"

And I was flabbergast to hear an intelligent, clearly able, mid twenty something, graduate and clearly decent programmer trying to manage a team say to me... "Because I'm a woman, they don't listen".

She was serious too!  Going on to explain that when she started she worked for a chap about my age, and they listened to him, she was one of them, but took a lot of ribbing, she moved into the supervisory role, still in the same room as them without issue, then was appointed to manage this new project when the other chap left... And that's where the problem started.

I wasn't sure whether it was green eyed envy at her progressing above them, or just because she had boobs, but whatever the reason I thought it extremely uncomfortable.  I saw her wanting, desperately to have a puppet in a more senior position to the team, to invoke her will upon them, and wanted myself (clearly 10 years older than them, and twenty something years her senior in age) just as a sort of enforcer and inquisition.

And I thought, her idea was "modern development", lots of buzz words and concepts, she had lost the "just talk to people" vibe.  Sadly because she was being intimidated, perhaps even sexually harassed... That, was the sad state, I found modern development in... Sickening and not a place I wanted to involve myself.

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