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Nevertheless, Kip dreams of more coders

kipprice profile image kip price ・4 min read

Hey! I'm Kip Price, an AFAB (assigned female at birth) non-binary engineer in New York. I started coding when I was eight years old in order to create my own video games, and I've been hooked ever since. These days, instead of building games, I work on software that allows people to live their best lives or create something really cool. I'm also passionate about using coding as a way to level the playing field across geography, gender, class, and race.

creativity & coding: a proposal to make tech more diverse

I view coding as a skillset akin to painting or playing an instrument; it's a set of tools that you can use to be creative. Because I started coding in the game development world, where I was building musical tracks, visual assets, and the code to connect them all at once, this should have been pretty self-evident. But it took a while to sink in; there's a perception that STEM-affiliated fields are formulaic and already fully explored (at least when they're introduced). It was the end of high school before I started to think that maybe a career in engineering would actually be a lot more creative than I had thought.

Schools usually place programming under a math track, which is also perceived as anti-creative. Unlike other traditionally creative endeavors like art or music, programming and math often isn't taught as a means to a self-defined end. The purpose of art class is to learn how to create your own art; the purpose of math class is to learn someone else's math. That's not nearly as compelling a story to tell when asked "what do you want to be when you grow up?". Add into this the fact that male and female brains -- while ending up functionally the same -- develop different parts at different times, and this leads to a natural path of "why would I learn to program? I'm not good at math and it's boring."

All this to say that I think a key way to improve tech's diversity landscape is make coding appealing to any kid looking to create (in my experience, this is every kid). Most of the best engineers I've been able to work with were able to start coding at an early age, so by the time they hit job-hunting age, they already had a wealth of experience under their belt. I've seen more and more schools start adding coding to their standard HS curriculum which is great; I want to see that be true from primary school. A Scratch course in third grade would've made a huge difference in whether I thought of coding as a chore or a passion.

advice, or things that have helped me

I don't think I'm all that qualified to give advice, seeing as I have been pretty lucky in mostly avoiding discrimination in my educational and professional life. I'll instead list out some things that I learned along the way that I wish I had started knowing. Take or leave them as you wish.

for womxn + minorities in tech

  • Find another engineer you want to and can grow with. They should be someone you feel completely comfortable with, and someone you respect as an engineer. In my case, this was an AMAB NB coworker I met in college, who is to this day one of my best friends and collaborators.

  • If you're able to & feel comfortable doing so, speak up (or continue speaking up) about the problems you see or the concerns you have. In order to improve as an industry, we need to have hard conversations and find steps forward within them.

  • It's normal to struggle with imposter syndrome. If it helps, I've never met an engineer who hasn't had imposter syndrome at some point (and most, myself included, still do). Don't let it get the better of you.

for allies

  • Listen. Pretty basic, I know, but of all of the communication skills that are needed for a society to function, listening is the only one that never gets taught in school or emphasized as important. Listening has the direct advantage of being able to hear and act on feedback, but it also establishes an environment that is comfortable to speak up within. A team that feels comfortable sharing jointly is one that ends up more successful.

  • Prefer asking over advising. An explanation at the right moment can produce a brilliant break-through, but at the wrong moment (or on the wrong subject or with wrong content, etc), is very frustrating and unfortunately much more common. Starting by asking questions instead of diving into an explanation can both save time and produce more effective results. It also lends itself to conversation, which I've found usually results in everyone involved learning something new.

everyone

  • Assume positive intent, and seek to understand. As humans, we are not very good at translating what is in our head into what is perceived by our actions, but we are very good at reacting emotionally to our perceptions. The positive mindset makes it a little easier to have hard conversations, which in turn open you up to growth.

  • A book that I found very influential when it comes to inclusivity in tech is Technically Wrong by Sara Wachter-Boettcher. It covers a lot of ground around the ways our industry needs to improve.

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kipprice profile

kip price

@kipprice

developer + artist (they/them)

Discussion

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This is a phenomenal article Kip! It's clear, well structured, and so informative, I've definitely learned a lot :)

 
 

Love the suggestion to ask instead of advise! Great post.