When You're the Lone (Female) Voice of Reason

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When You're the Lone (Female) Voice of Reason Melissa Benua Senior Backend Engineer PlayFab, Inc. STARWEST 2015 – Women Who Test

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What’s the big deal? Women are a minority in tech (duh) Less than 15% of CS bachelor degrees are awarded to women Around 20% of US SW developers are women Senior women are an even smaller minority Many teams have 0-1 total women Coincidentally many ship meetings also have 0-1 women in the room Being the ‘other’ is hard! 1

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So what’s the secret? Data, data, data! No magic bullet No one-size-fits-all answer YMMV My three-step process: Always have data Be wrong a lot Pick a team that lets you be wrong a lot 2

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Who am I? One time, I took down Bing for half an hour. Real-Time Simulations Engineer – Boeing Integrated Defense Systems Software Developer in Test – Microsoft Live Search Software Developer (combined role) – Microsoft Bing Senior Backend Engineer - PlayFab 3

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Step One: Always Have Data. 4

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Engineers love data! Data is the lifeblood of engineering Metrics are the trend-line of data Good teams use them to make product decisions; great teams use them to make ALL decisions: Hiring Promotions Work Assignments Product Planning Ship / No-Ship Calls

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Arm yourself! Always be prepared to defend your decisions Assume (and hope) you will be challenged Use repeatable processes to collect your data Bookmark your sources Lead with your information first Err on the side of more (concise) data as opposed to less 6 ‘These five tests are failing, and ReportX indicates that the feature area they cover is critical to 80% of our users. Thus, shipping would break a majority of users.’ ‘Shipping would break a majority of users.’ VS

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Trust your data! Know what you’re talking about Don’t be afraid to ask Be precise Let your information speak for itself: Don’t play the blame game; data is data, regardless of who caused what Don’t make it personal Be inclusive: ‘we’ instead of ‘you’ or ‘I’ Don’t blindly defer because someone is ‘more senior’ or ‘the expert’ 7

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Step Two: Be Wrong. A lot. 8

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Be okay being wrong! Developers are wrong ALL the time Every compilation error and every test case failure is being wrong Every good design comes from fifty bad designs On a good coding day, I’m wrong at least fifty times Be comfortable in your wrong-ness Be comfortable in your teammates’ wrong-ness Don’t confuse being wrong with being bad 9

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Find your buddy! A colleague Not a mentor Not a manager Someone whom: You trust not to hold being wrong against you You can talk with candidly Can gut-check your solutions Respects you and whom you can respect Reminds you that you are good at your job! 10

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Learn from being wrong! Review your mistakes regularly Be honest with yourself Not everyone is good at everything Find the experts and study them (their mistakes) Write everything down Don’t get stuck on big mistakes 11 Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me!

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Step Three: Pick a Data-Happy Team 12

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Characteristics of a good team! Clear goals and metrics that are attainable Positive, respectful team members Even joking negativity is still toxic Sociability is of lesser importance Other women! Especially in senior roles Supportive management chain (not just your immediate boss) 13

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How to find one? In order of preference: Recommendations from trusted colleagues ‘Social Network’ of peers Cold-calls and recruiters are my least-favorite Interviews are KEY: You are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you Do they have all the healthy characteristics? Can you meet your would-be team members as well as your boss? Do they use inclusive language? You should! 14

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When to make your exit! Switching jobs is an art! Risky to trade a ‘known thing’ for the mysterious future Signs it’s time to leave: Stalled talk about your future Being passed up for promotions Being consistently assigned ‘the dregs’ High-level re-org into a known-problem group ‘Gut feeling’ 15

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Questions? Melissa Benua mbenua@gmail.com https://www.linkedin.com/in/mbenua http://www.slideshare.net/MelissaBenua