Decoded Chats – Saron Yitbarek on Belonging in Tech

Saron Yitbarek

Saron Yitbarek @saronyitbarek is the founder of the Code Newbie community, “the most supportive community of programmers and people learning to code”. She is based in New York and you can find her on the web at bloggytoons.com.

We invited her to chat with Chris Heilmann about her recent essay on Medium called “I don’t belong in Tech” in which she talks about the issues with our fast-paced startup coding culture and how it can be frustrating for someone who wants to build something with more longevity.

If you prefer to have an audio version, you can download it here (MP3, 21MB)

Here are the questions we covered:

  1. You just wrote a thought-provoking, wonderful article called “I don’t belong in tech”. Can you give a quick overview what you mean by that? I think you do!
  2. What I loved about your article is that it shows that our problems are not only about a lack of diversity in the tech market, but also one of approach. It seems speed and innovation is valued much more than building something of high quality. Would you agree?
  3. I’m getting weird flashbacks to the 80s were bankers and wall-street workers were the cool “move fast and break things” people. A market that was also very aggressive and hard to get into if you didn’t feel the stereotypes. Have we become the people we hate to watch in movies?
  4. Some people say the VC culture is to blame for this. VCs don’t invest in products, they invest in the exit of the founder. Products aren’t the most interesting thing, but how much you can hype them. Do you think there is some truth to that?
  5. Donning my tin-foil hat, I remember that in physical production we have the concept of in-built obsolescence. Products are built purposely faulty to ensure a flow of consumption. Things are built to break. Could it be that this is the same principle applied to tech?
  6. There has always been a problem of craftmanship versus quick delivery in tech. Our best practices all revolve around building long-lasting, easy to maintain products without input by the original creators. However, when you look at products in the wild none of that seems to apply. Are we fooling ourselves with “best practices” that in reality are wishful thinking?
  7. There is an interesting concept that people are wired to crave appreciation. When you’re overpaid to deliver products of a quality you know to be bad, it is not healthy for us. Feeling like a fraud is pretty common in tech. Do you think that there is a long-term possibility that this will counteract the issues you describe? Sooner or later people will be sick of being paid to deliver things they’re not proud of, right?
  8. Automisation and Artificial Intelligence is on the rise and a lot of jobs are about to be replaced by machines. This worries people a lot. The irony here is that code like you describe, quick, throwaway products can easily be written by machines. Do you think a quality focus like you naturally have is a way to prevent being replaced by a script?
  9. Given all this, you haven’t given up and I love that as we need people like you to ask for quality and thoughtful planning instead of quick turnaround. What can we do to make people like you feel less alienated?

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