Solving tech's diversity problem may be a key to saving San Francisco
Bueno pointed to a real estate startup, 42Floors, as an example of a company adopting Levchin's philosophy. It looks for potential hires who are a "cultural fit," i.e., making sure the candidate and employer think alike.
One 42Floors interviewer explained this on the company blog: "I asked her how she was doing in the interview process and she said, 'I'm actually still trying to get an interview. Well, I grabbed coffee with the founder, and I had dinner with the team last night, and then we went to a bar together.' I chuckled. She was clearly confused with the whole matter. I told her, 'Look, you just made it to the third round.'"
So the interview process for tech may involve coffee dates or "beer with the guys," and the onus is on the interviewee to figure all of this out. Similar blog posts from 42Floors go on to call out interviewees who wear suits, or act too stodgy for their liking.
Is "pattern recognition" just sexism and racism?
Bueno refers to these hiring trends collectively as the "mirror-tocracy," where startup founders hire people they like, people who remind them of themselves.
We spoke to Bueno extensively over burgers, but he put it best in his blog.
"You are expected to conform to the rules of The Culture before you are allowed to demonstrate your actual worth," he wrote. "What wearing a suit really indicates is — I am not making this up — non-conformity, one of the gravest of sins. For extra excitement, the rules are unwritten and ever-changing, and you will never be told how you screwed up."
Founders back up their faulty hiring practices with faulty logic. "It's so hard to get in, if you get in you must be good," Bueno said. "But those two statements don't support each other."
Some students of color training to code have already caught a glimpse of how the mirror-tocracy functions.
OPENING THE DOOR
Eight years ago, Kimberly Bryant moved to San Francisco to work in biotech. She moved to the city because she believed it to be more racially and economically diverse. She worked adjacent to Bayview Hunters Point, and has since revised her view of the city as a welcoming multicultural environment.
Instead, she found a city with an African American population dwindling below six percent in a city of over 800,000, and a gutted middle class. Latinos are moving out in greater numbers too. Over the last decade, 1,400 Latinos left the Mission District, according to a recent report on displacement by Causa Justa / Just Cause. In the same time, 2,900 white residents flooded in.
The displacement data reveals a significant parallel: The diverse ethnic groups Silicon Valley lacks in its employed ranks are the very same ethnic groups being priced out of San Francisco.
Seeking to mitigate the ethnic and gender disparity in tech, Bryant formed Black Girls Code, a student mentor and workshop program. It first opened up shop in the Bayview, but has sinced moved on.
"I really saw and experienced the true diversity of the community in Oakland," Bryant told the Guardian, of the nonprofit's new home. "It's just an amazingly incredibly diverse community in terms of race and economy. What San Francisco used to be," she added, "but is no longer."
Black Girls Code teaches K-12 students rudimentary coding skills, providing instruction in Ruby and Python. Although companies like Google and others have opened their doors with welcoming arms, she said, convincing her students that the tech world is ready for them has been challenging.