Boston, MA September 15, 2014
Redefining "The Best:" Reflections on the Limits and Biases of Hiring Practices in Tech

This year some of the most prominent companies in Silicon Valley released data on the demographic makeup of their employees, revealing how largely white and male their workforce actually is. While the numbers weren’t great, the release sparked a surge in investment in programs designed to strengthen the educational pipeline for women and minorities in tech. As these programs broaden the number of viable pathways that people can take to increase their programming literacy, the next challenge lies in understanding how these learning experiences translate into meaningful career opportunities for underrepresented groups in tech. This requires a close examination of how companies identify and evaluate talent in this space. In this talk I will share insights from interviews with founders and head recruiters of tech companies regarding their hiring and recruitment practices for engineers. I will then juxtapose those practices with the pathways I observed a group of high-performing minority college students take in order to get their first internships in Silicon Valley. This will enable us to identify the limitations of the current hiring practices used in the Valley, which have been calibrated to a very specific notion of "top talent." I will then share an emerging set of alternative practices and metrics for identifying engineering talent from a broader and deeper pool of talent.