A new tech recruiting hurdle
I just had a really interesting exchange with my friend Alicia. I've been trying for a couple of months to convince her to apply for one of the Customer Advocate positions at Atlassian. I think she'd be ideal — she has an enthusiasm about the web and about its social implications, a solid technical understanding for someone who's never written code, and background in dealing with customers.
However, despite my repeated nagging, I could never seem to pique her interest. Heck, I couldn't even convince her to finish her résumé. But several weeks later, Alicia explained the problem in an email.
When you were trying to get me excited about the prospect of working at Atlassian, why didn't you send a link to Mike's blog? Reading about someone's personal experience and excitement about what they're doing is 200 times more interesting than a job listing or product description.
I took a look at Mike's blog and thought "hey, these guys actually sound pretty cool" and then immediately "which is exactly what Jonathan has been trying to tell me for over six months!" It kind of stunned me that I could fail to understand you so completely.
Women are all about relationships. I don't really care what it is exactly that a company makes, I care who I'll be working with, what their goals are, what the company culture is like. The experience of working in tandem with others is what is important to me, the product just needs to be something I can be proud of associating myself with. It's not the thing, it's the process.
I had imagined several possible reasons that Alicia might have been blowing off my very sincere offer of potential employment: perhaps she didn't really want to work in technology. Or perhaps she didn't want to work in a customer-facing role again. Or perhaps she just didn't want to work at all.
I couldn't comprehend the fact that she might not want to work at a company as satisfying as Atlassian. I had been talking about Atlassian and its products on my blog for months. Confluence, in particular, has such enormous potential, and is in the dead center of Alicia's social-software interest. But as it turns out, Alicia couldn't get excited in the same way I could: by a company, or even a product — she needed to get excited by people.
It's an interesting insight. And it leads broader questions: is recruiting women for tech jobs a fundamentally different operation? Does that have any relevance on the relative scarcity of women in technology? Are we missing good candidates, not because of any active gender bias, but because we fail to convince women that tech jobs can be fulfilling?