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RailsConf 2019 - Enter the Danger by Vince Cabansag

Vince Cabansag
Director of Technology at Clockwork Interactive
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RailsConf 2019
May 2, 2019, Minneapolis, USA
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About speaker

Vince Cabansag
Director of Technology at Clockwork Interactive

I’m technical.I have the skills to design and code a web application in addition to skills that you would need to build the architecture for a scalable web-based platform.I’m a leader.I lead by example and am the change that I wish to see an organization. When I manage others, I set clear expectations, define SMART goals, give consistent feedback, and motivate intrinsically.I'm a teacher.I’ve helped teach over 1,600 people how to code since 2011 and have coached interns to success in all of my previous roles.I’m a builder.I’ve helped three early-stage Chicago companies scale their operations. I know how to create sustainable processes, develop people, and work with a dynamic leadership team.I’m a specialist.I've led projects that range from building a job board from soup to nuts, overhauling a Salesforce instance, to planning and executing demo days.

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About the talk

RailsConf 2019 - Enter the Danger by Vince Cabansag


By entering the danger, you become the change the world needs. Do you know how to foster a culture of psychological safety? What are you doing to be inclusive for folks who identify as trans or gender non-conforming? What about people with a disability? Or women of color?

It’s well-known that our industry has poor racial and gender representation, yet we need more action from that awareness. This talk is about leaning in, being an ally, and making an impact. It takes courage to be a champion of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

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Club review on invince abusing rail since 2011 is my first time at the conference and my first time giving this talk, so I'm a little nervous because of that but mostly because this topic around the Virgin diversity inclusion and Equity can often feel uncomfortable at times that everybody's here and that you here to have this conversation. I'm excited to share the lessons. I've learned in diversity Equity inclusion. I'm not nearly as funny as Julian sohcahtoa have any queer eye gifs. So you have to forgive me for that. I don't want you to leave here in the next 40

minutes feel like you'd be equipped with a knowledge and that you're empowered with just my personal story and that your mold into act. I am not an expert in diversity Equity inclusion. I do not do workshops or anything like that. I lead a team of Engineers at Clockwork a local agency here in the Twin Cities. I'm new to this training. I'm still learning I'm making mistakes and I'm also being vulnerable and I don't have the solution for solving the first in technology. We're not going to solve that today. But I want everyone to be able to do something after this talk

to just act just take a stacked step and that spectrum of inclusion and she just to do something and that's why I've called this talk enter the danger. Also, what's the computer knowledge we're real, real, for her to learn and I just want to have a very basic shared understanding of what actually diversity diversity inclusion and equity mean. Acid versus the range of human differences including but not limited to race ethnicity gender gender identity sexual orientation age social class physical ability or tributes religious or ethical

values systems national origin and political beliefs individuals from various backgrounds and or with various identities. Who's in is recognizing the inherent worth and dignity of all people it's in an orc inclusive organization that promotes and sustains that sense of belonging values respect the talents beliefs and backgrounds and ways of living of its people are there's a lot of metaphors for diversity and inclusion one that I like has around they called the crayon box where diversity is all the colors of the

box and inclusion is calling with all those things. You could also look at it as diversity is measured and inclusion is felt. And lot of organization that scale measure their diversity metrics. I had the chance to meet the sea Tel coin Co Best Buy and what she barely has done is to completely turn around the business to become more profitable and their diversity metric show. There's more women in positions of leadership people of color in positions of leadership and management, but something problematic about diversity metrics is that if you focus too much on those things you

are on the side of tokenizing people and make him feel tokenai. It also doesn't acknowledge that were humans that are complex and have different backgrounds different communication Styles you have different experiences and you might or might not have kids and that's the problem with at least diversity metrics and you're asking somebody to check a box male or female that is not inclusive for somebody that would identify as nonbinary. A lot of companies talk about diversity inclusion. But Equity is really the thing that ties it together. I'm not going to read through this definition

of equity because I find it for both, but I am going to share a diagram a few that helps explain what Equity means There's a common misconception that equity and equality are the same thing. They're not. Quality is giving everyone the same thing. And you can see the graphic on the far left. Everyone's given this box to see this baseball game and an equity you help and acknowledge that not everyone is born into this world with the same privilege with the same opportunities with the same access and Equity

is that principle that gives a person what they need. So the middle graphic could see the person on the far right can see the baseball game to participate in the middle could still see it in person on the left is not standing like a creep way over the fence like in the first pair photo And when you start breaking down the barriers of patriarchy racism you're removing that fence and that's what this was. So important about this far concept on the right called liberation. And those are the three concepts that I think are very core. I think we

talked about them, but I don't often think that there's a shared understanding what those things mean. So I want to just share my personal story. Like I said, I'm not an expert in this topic, but I've taken diversity training. It's giving me some new lens. I've made mistakes and I'm still learning and I think it's valuable to teach something that you've just learned because you have some empathy around what that actually means to there was a great talk earlier around learning to teach and I very much doing that right now. So I'm a

first-generation philippine-american. I was born in Michigan. My parents came here from the Philippines and all my life. I've been subject to this concept of the model minority more Asians are perceived to be smart wealthy hard-working docile submissive that were like Wiz Kids are musical Geniuses that we have tiger moms forced to make kids work really hard and working medicine and accounting and Something that I played into like I actually was a pressing myself and I think a lot of Asian Americans and I can speak for all of them. But I know

the people that I know we definitely can form into this and we reinforce The Stereotype of Asian America. I was really good at like karate and I loved and I love sharing that with people. I'm actually quite good at video games. And if you're behind me and a TSA PreCheck line, I'm like really fast like you want to be behind me. We're kind of like Vulcans and Star Trek free like no have our own partial arts. And we like live forever like Vulcans and I also have that haircut as a kid. Alyssa it's it's

really ignores. The diversity of Asian cultures. I'm filipino-american. But I've always started to call myself is Asian-American and we are not all equal and it doesn't acknowledge the fact that Asian Americans come from different parts of the world and it perpetuates is methane Americans are Perpetual foreigners can't tell you how many people are like where you're from Michigan. I was born in Kalamazoo. Like I'm from here and if it really feels like a race is racism from Asian-American the first time I saw crazy Rich Asians at hell, I like ride

felt that same experience of my mom felt when she watched The Joy Luck Club back in I will never that movie came up and it's powerful to see yourself with powerful to see yourself be seen special in the big screen and while I'm not Chinese it was awesome to see people portrayed in a way. That's not Align with typical stereotypes. It's all my life. I've been kind of fighting this my whole family's math doctors and nurses. So naturally I chose not to go into that and I went in to a real estate. So I spent seven years working as a real estate broker in

Chicago runs compartments. I would post ads like this up on Craigslist for photos. So answer my phone and show them apartment rented. My original background in college is computer engineering buddy really didn't like the way they approach that. So I worked as a real estate broker. I learned at some point in 2007 that I can bet H2S and images into a Craigslist ad and instead of being constrained to for low resolution photos. I can put as many photos as I wanted full screen high resolution with this had a big impact on my real estate practice at the time. I got tons of

calls were made a lot of commissions and a lot of people took interest Can I start showing different agents in my office how to do it. Teaching people how to code in HTML and CSS and help my apartment broker build a application for this this emboldened me to move back into software development and give it another crack. And so I found these two entrepreneurs Northwestern Mills Hall scripted in Mike McGee. We're starting this thing called codecademy in 2011. It was the first coding school of its kind is arguably the first before even though turn boot camp was

traded. I was 33 of us who all basically quit our jobs gave these to watch the nearest thousand bucks each to help them teachers HTML CSS JavaScript and rails. We had an amazing teacher just come in the middle who did a wonderful talk on water cryptography at the beginning of the conference. He's the best teacher I've ever had. He create an environment that was transformational. That was very inclusive and I'd say that's partly because of the founders as well. They made us feel like we had a sense of belonging and my big takeaway from this experience was that you don't

students forced an environment where there was a safe environment. Where to get exposed to ignorance have ownership over what they're doing and that you're making an impact and having a sense of belonging I join the startup I work for them for 4 years and I brought that experienced about 2,000 people for 4 years teaching rails to people who've never learn how to code before. Something that we saw with our demo James demo day teams at code academy, which was later called the starter league is that they demonstrated the traits of high-performing teams. This is a project Aristotle research

study that Google spent 2 years doing looking at 180 teams and they found for pretty common things that they were expecting a fine but not the fifth one which is psychological safety and psychological safety is a shared belief held by members of team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking. I guarantee you not everybody feels safe in their workplace and that's why this conversation of inclusion is so important people don't feel safe to have conversations and there is needs to be a change around that I I took the lessons that I learned

at start a week and I moved on to my next start up which is called matter. It's a corporate Accelerated Health Care incubator in Chicago or supported Healthcare entrepreneurs. We basically connect Healthcare entrepreneurs with strategic Partners to help them pilot and commercialize their Technologies by helping them connect with folks like Walgreens Abbott Labs IV filter startup, you know anything about health care in healthcare takes a long time to build a product and get that into Market. I mentioned I meant to see outgoing CEO of Best Buy and something that he

did was really introduce Divergent thinking into Best Buy's culture and that's very much the recipe that you see an innovation and ecosystems that have startups is that bringing strategic Partners from corporations startups entrepreneurs Community Players that type of Divergent thinking is what actually cry innovation Not technology. Technology is what enables it but to Virgin thinking design thinking is shown us at bringing those things together and bringing that rich opinion from different perspectives in two different walks of life as it allows us

to come up with new ideas. And I work with a lot of companies that want to talk about digital transformation and it's always everybody still thinks that it's about technology. It's about changing a mites. So you might be asking why you care about this event. I care about this cuz I'm intrinsically motivated. I've joined a start-up that's not a start-up at a company here in Twin Cities that still inspired into work with what else have a really strong intrinsic motivator, which is my child has Lain says that his birthday last month. He turned two

and he was born into this world at the time that I was observing a lot of polarizacion. I want him to live in a world where it's not like this and after I wrapped up at my last company. I wanted to join a company that was very much values-driven. Had to strong vision and was inclusive and I was looking at companies that only interviewed with one company was moving here from Chicago last year and I fortunately got the job with a company called clockwork. This company is amazing. It's driven by leaders

who really opt-in and really understand what it means we've developed race Equity culture that goes beyond project or initiative. We practice allyship. We take action by inspiring our community and having events for free at our space. We openly talk about mental health and self-care at our staff meetings and we have flexible work policy that is empowering for parents something that I did at Clockwork last year was this project around inclusive naming. So in August of last year there is an issue identified and rails 33662.

Replace the use of whitelist in allow list whitelist and Blacklist with allow listen to my list. Is it something that David had pointed out and I was surprised by how many people reacted to this? A lot of people were challenging the original intent of what those words meant and a lot of people are like let's do it. We have the privilege a software developers to change how we named things and in spite of all the things that people are saying the team that I work with and turn like clockwork we decided to go for it. It was an awesome project. It was not hard. We've replaced Blacklist

Blacklist with a nihilist whitelisted allow list. We also updated our load load balancer on databases to have Master primary and slave II replica. These were not hard things to do and there's a lot of things in our Repose where we just said. Hey, you know what? It's not worth the trouble of doing this but we will just make a footnote and say that will not use this language moving forward. Going through this exercise was actually more beneficial than the work that we did here because our operations Engineers kept making mistakes, but they're the rest of this Mutual understanding

and safe place that said, oh, yes. Blacklist, it's the nihilist and we just continued work at it knowing that we would make mistakes and that's very much the same as the conversation of diversity Equity inclusion. You will make mistakes. You need to own them and you need to educate yourself on it and move on and this also led me to make some personal changes in the way that I use language that I have always used in my entire life. I don't refer to my wife Annie as wife anymore. I refer to her as my partner and I learned recently that the term resource

is very much rooted in racism and slavery and I use the word people. I didn't realize how much are you say? Hey guys all the time and I use hey folks. Now, these are things are actually still catch myself staying because I have to undo years and years of having these words stick to my brain. Take away with this project was that language truly shapes our understanding of the world and it's true that name is one of the hardest part when it's hardest things in software development in addition to Cache invalidation. I recently went through this

training mapping implicit biases. There's a lot of conversation around and conscious bias. Unconscious bias means you just don't know what it's there. But the terms I started to learn is that is implicit. Once you become aware of what your biases are at their no longer unconscious there their they're so you have to own it. You have to acknowledge it and how those are going to have an impact on your behavior and your decisions. So I'm like just want to say that everyone has biases. Turn around that bad. And this is something that we have to just manage and

respond to but it starts with understanding what those are so I'm going to be very vulnerable with you and show it share some of the biases that I've learned that I've had about myself. That girls are fragile and must be protected. I was very much indoctrinated by the system of patriarchy at a young age as most men are and my mom reinforces a lot. She's like you need to be really play take care of women, so they could take care of you and like having just gone to a little bit of training having conversations just to give me a new lens to

look back in time and see all these things that have transpired that I was completely unaware of I was also very much taught by my mom. I'm just throwing her under the bus here that dark skin is bad. She was born in a very poor family in the Philippines where they had to work out like people who had to work outside were considered labor. If a dark-skinned and if you didn't have to do that you had lighter skin and means that you had money and whenever I come back from tennis match to tell me how dark my skin was and she just kept say that life elevated this recently by taking

Harvard implicit assumption test and I have I have a preference on automatic preference towards white people over black people haven't gone to the scientific test, should you should try it and that's something that is important for people to be aware of I recently going to this exercise found that I have a bias at like a positive bias or negative bias towards people would not kids that people with children are responsible and more effective with their time and I think there's actually something I've heard in the workplace and I latched onto him like a

totally parents are awesome of their time that got the new time to mess around look at all these people. Kids and I have tempered that I acknowledge the fact that that is not fair to anybody that does not have kids. These are only a couple of my biases but I definitely challenge you to try to do this and be really honest with yourself and vulnerable and share with other people and how that makes them feel. Devices that I've observed in my life is that I'm an introvert and I also say that being an Asian-American feeds that kind of behavior in myself and I often feel excluded

when I get talked over in meetings. I have to kind of fight it something that I found really helpful if we manage teams or into my leadership team is that when we doing our daily stand-up we have the equivalent of a Talking Stick where you go and you don't interrupt a person feel like that seems simple and if it's quite hard and that helps people have a voice in Eagle Way. I feel frustrated when people assume I'm an experienced or incompetent because of how they perceive my age. I'm 48 don't often look like that the people will assume things of you because

of how you look and I often get where you're from all the time and I just hate it. It's not great and no one ever really thinks about hey, I didn't really understand that. But even the way that you respond to conversations as an impact on people whose concept called White fragility where if you tell somebody hey, I think that was a racist comment people will say, oh my gosh. I'm not a racist that I'm not I'm a good person. But just by having that kind of conversation. I'm putting yourself as a victim in pain, like what I didn't do that.

It has a negative impact and it makes that conversation not safe anymore. I was going to talk a little bit about more more about it, but I don't have much time but it's a great book called White fragility. more. So I want to ask a question of why should you care about diversity Equity inclusion? It's okay to have self interest or intrinsic motivator. It's okay to have a social interest in this as okay to have a business interested in what I think is important is that it should be intrinsically motivated. You should not be doing it to hit

diversity metrics should be doing that about what the outcome is for bringing all voices to the table and find the intrinsic motivation. I can ask that question or answer that question for you. So I've got seven things here and then a right Bob to embolden you to act. These are things that you could do just pick one towards being a more inclusive human being. Have a candid conversation about diversity and inclusion with all of your people at the table. This sounds simple, but it's actually going to be a

hard conversation. If you're not in the organization that feel safe to have a conversation like this. This will be challenging but it's important to have those voices and have these conversations because maybe that's not worth Organization for you. Or maybe you just need to have an a-line organization to help you have that conversation, but it will be tough and I think it's really important for companies to have a gut check to say are we really living our values do we actually have a commitment to diversity and inclusion? It's very easy to say you're an ally it's very easy to say

that you commit to diversity inclusion, but it's much harder to do that in practice. Get a reverse Mentor so my partner to an HR Manager at Target and she participates she taiwanese-american to participate in Reverse mentoring program. We don't do this, but I know they do it at Target and this is a great program learn from somebody from an organization to give you Direction feedback and guidance and this is awesome because you could get somebody that in a group that you don't identify with a coach you and I did say that you have to him as an ally take ownership

of your education. So don't make somebody tell you everything do your work but asking for feedback about what you could be doing better to become a more inclusive person in your own organization don't have to wait to have people at the leadership table to do it. You have the voices in your organization today. I hope to help inform what you could be doing better if you're having those conversations, I definitely recommend that you start doing that. And that's linked to this concept of being authentic transparent invulnerable leader being authentic is is really me show

me that you care that you really care about these people and being transparent is around allowing people to see everything that's happening. In an unhealthy way, but just being open with them and being vulnerable as about letting them see how things are having an impact on you very similar to how I exposed my own biases puts you in the wrong position for judgement. That's what gain of honorable leader is a flat organization at Clockwork. And this is the type of leadership that we work with have 25 Engineers that report up into my role, but it's scalable.

but it's not easy, but we could do that because we Empower people to make decisions and we equip them with good like good Frameworks and a good organizational hierarchy fight organization to make decisions they need to do I'm take a step into Ally show I mention it's very easy to call yourself in a lie, but I'm still worrying myself really what that really means. We recently switched to email photos to include pronounce like it did to make that a little bit more of a safe environment. I think it's important to make sure that you don't mandate things because you don't

want to be outing people in your organization. We have designated gender-neutral bathroom in our office. We have an incredibly dog-friendly workplace, but I'm currently chatting with our chief operating officer aware that we should dogs in Muslim culture are viewed as in pure and having them around the room that we use for our prayer room is a microaggression inclusive Behavior. So if any of you have a dog-friendly workplace, maybe reconsider that Ramadan is coming up right around the corner to reconsider happy hours is a ritual not everybody drinks alcohol and a lot of people a

lot of happy hours or later. In the day, we have to pick up a kid. So we think about when you have those rituals set norms for group talk. This is around people who have worked together and know things it's the kind of like those clucks like people talk about things and talk about people and it makes it feel exclusive when you don't know what people are talking about and this is something that we for sure at work at my company. The retention rate at clock work is incredible. I'm a chief operating officer has been there for 13 out of 16 years and people have been there for decades

and I've been there for a year and I I know very little but it's very open for them to have conversations and bring me in and work with vendors that are owned by the first owners. So we have a race Equity action kind of plan. We when we ever we do Advanced we focus on getting our food from businesses that are owned and operated by people of color and that's something that you could easily do by supporting people. Educate yourself. I've already kind of mentioned this a couple times and diversity Equity inclusion formal training or like an online course. There's a lot out there.

Feel free to contact me. If you need any suggestions diversity as an acid is one class that I took that is really fantastic and mapping implicit biases. That's a free test on Harvard. You could probably find it really pretty easily want to do that. I'm I mention the product project that we did with our team around finding and replacing terms that are not inclusive. This is a fun project for us and it started making us think about what other terms should we replace with Richard like find other terms and now I'm starting to think about things like Target and attack and capture and like

words of Warfare It's kind of going a little bit crazy. It's a fun things for us to start thinking about Number seven is make a call to action in your local community. Our company started the Minnesota Tech diversity pledge will we rally businesses in Technic technology industry here in the Twin Cities to pledge to commit resources energy and attention to people of color people with disabilities women and lgbtq. We wanted them to take some sort of action and we work with these organizations

to develop a plan to increase hiring for people that in underestimated groups educate HR teams hiring teens create internal development programs that make it more accessible to under-represented employees and share data about demographics in our office to create that transparency about accountability. This is something that you could do in your respective communities. You could check out the website if you're interested in doing that. So I hope this was helpful. Hope that you're inspired to seek out tell conversations with the spirit of inclusion. And I hope that you're

grasping on to the concept of being comfortable with being uncomfortable. Hope you'll do something and act on something that I've shared so do it. Thank you.

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