Reflecting on Diversity, Inclusion and My Self-Alienation

Two and a half years ago I joined LTSE, with the goal of changing the incentives companies face to prioritize short-term profits over everything else.  In May, the SEC approved the creation of the Long Term Stock Exchange, making us one of only a handful of venues authorized to list publicly traded companies.

When this milestone happened I discovered that I still have an internalized voice that says, "if you prioritize hiring underrepresented developers, it means you are de-prioritizing success". I found that some part of me holds an insidious belief that places where I felt comfortable couldn't be "the best" companies.  By demanding representation, this voice said, I was asking a sacrifice of the company I was working for. I had gotten as far as believing that sacrifice was justified, even necessary for the sake of justice, but it was still something I was being granted.

That voice is wrong.

We've built an engineering team here that is racially diverse and gender-balanced. We say out loud that we aren't trying to hire "smart" developers: we are hiring skilled developers who believe in practicing their skills in order to improve. We don't believe in a "founder gene": our tools set out to make explicit the implicit knowledge those folks horde, so that more people with valuable ideas can successfully found companies. My experience here is so different than what I had experienced elsewhere.  I no longer fantasize about quitting the industry on a regular basis. I feel like I can recruit without worrying that I am selling harmful snake oil, and I feel empowered to support people the way they want to be supported instead of the way the industries says we should want to be supported. But some part of me distrusts this ease. Part of me still believed that feeling comfortable must mean something is wrong, and that it is unreasonable to want this comfort "at the expense" of the things that "really matter".

That part is also wrong.

I don't believe that our success here vindicates "diverse" teams any more than not succeeding at this ridiculously ambitious mission would mean "diverse" teams are a failure. This is not a magical Utopia, and I still react to things that happen here with the weight of all those other experiences I have had. But this weekend I found myself crying as some deep-seated clinching, this sense that my basic existence was an impediment to success, loosened a little.  It is not unreasonable to want a community or company that takes me into account. We can succeed with a diverse team, where being a feminist is part of the bar, where we expect "D&I" efforts to be effective, where people take parental leave and no one yells and work is expected to be sustainable. It may even turn out that all of those things make it easier, not harder, to do useful, productive, successful work, rather than just being what it takes for me to not quit.

The part that always told me things could be different?  That part was right.

We are going to be hiring a bunch over the next stage of this project. Many of the people reaching out and proactively raising their hands are people who take for granted that every company in the world has a place for them. Some of them will turn out to be great, but my goal in this next phase is to make sure that other people, candidates who wouldn't think to jump in just because the project had some success, feel invited to join as well. I want them to know this company is for them, in a way it is not actually for all these people who get to assume that every company is.