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Former Twitter employee: growth problems linked to lack of diversity, but Dorsey return brings hope

By midian182 · 11 replies
Nov 4, 2015
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  1. A former Twitter employee who was once the company’s highest-ranking black engineer has published a medium post recounting the difficulties he faced when pushing for more diversity on the microblogging site’s engineering team.

    Leslie Miley, who also previously worked for Google and Apple, was one of the 336 Twitter employees laid off in October at the behest of returning CEO Jack Dorsey. Miley says he had already told the company that he was leaving at the end of October, and passed on the severance package - which included a non-disparagement clause - so that he could speak openly about his experience at Twitter.

    Miley’s post mentions a time when he asked Twitter’s senior VP of engineering what steps the team was taking to increase diversity. The response he got was: “diversity is important, but we won’t lower the bar.” Although Miley did not name the person in the post, Twitter’s website reveals its senior VP of engineering to be Alex Roetter.

    Miley also wrote of another incident with Roetter - a meeting where the two were discussing ways to track the ethnicities of potential job candidates in order to better understand where candidates were dropping out of the employment pipeline.

    As we continued the discussion, he suggested I create a tool to analyze candidates last names to classify their ethnicity. His rationale was to track candidates thru the pipeline to understand where they were falling out. He made the argument that the last name Nguyen, for example, has an extremely high likelihood of being Vietnamese. As an engineer, I understand this suggestion and why it may seem logical. However, classifying ethnicity’s by name is problematic as evidenced by my name (Leslie Miley) What I also found disconcerting is this otherwise highly sophisticated thinker could posit that an issue this complex could be addressed by name analysis. (For reference, here is a tool that attempts to do that. With Jewish or African/African Americans, this classifier scored 0% on identifying these groups in Twitter engineering). While not intentional, his idea underscored the unconscious tendency to ignore the complex forces of history, colonization, slavery and identity.

    Miley believes that Twtitter’s stagnating number of users can be attributed to the lack of diversity in the company’s engineering team. According to its 2015 diversity report, Twitter’s tech employees consist of only 1 percent African-Americans, 3 percent Hispanics and 13 percent women. “This is why Twitter is stuck at 320 million users,” Miley said. “It doesn't have people making product decisions who understand the use case of the most prolific communities on Twitter.”

    There is some hope for the situation, according to Miley, in the form of Jack Dorsey. Miley said that as far as he knew, the CEO was the only C-level executive (the top tier of bosses) to have met with Blackbird, an employee resource group for Twitter’s black employees. “The return of Jack Dorsey has the potential to change the diversity trajectory for Twitter. It is my belief that Jack understands the use case of Twitter better than anyone else, understands how diversity can be additive to growth, and is committed to making that happen,” said Miley.

    In 2014, 27% of black internet users were on Twitter, compared with 25% of Hispanic users and 21% of white users, according to the Pew Research Center.

    “We’re committed to making substantive progress in making Twitter more diverse and inclusive,” a Twitter spokesperson said in response to Miley's blog. “This commitment includes the expansion of our inclusion and diversity programs, diversity recruiting, employee development, and resource group-led initiatives.”

    Permalink to story.

  2. davislane1

    davislane1 Inquisitor Posts: 4,487   +3,482

    In other words, Twitter has reached the saturation point for the service it provides.

    Twitter is a micro blogging platform that lets people create and share content in 140 characters or less. It let's you re-share and favorite published content and send DMs. That's 4 functions: the exact thing that distinguishes Twitter from Facebook and simultaneously the platform's greatest limitation.

    Now, what I'd like to know is this: How does the racial classification of an engineer impact the function of if tweet.text.length <= 140 {post tweet} for the end-user?

    (Hint: if you don't check for a value, your computer will crash)

    Edit: the link to the Medium post no longer works. It returns a 404.
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2015
    theomeyer and psycros like this.
  3. psycros

    psycros TS Evangelist Posts: 1,678   +1,070

    This article is a textbook example of everything that's wrong with the black community. Even when they produce highly successful individuals their still clinging to their racist upbringings and trying to invoke slavery as an excuse for every failure of their self-segregated culture.

    "Diversity is important, but we won’t lower the bar.” That was EXACTLY what the VP should have said, and that should have been the end of it..but of course its so much easier to play the race card than try to get black kids to graduate college, isn't it, Mr. Miley? "While not intentional, his idea underscored the unconscious tendency to ignore the complex forces of history, colonization, slavery and identity." This is PRECISELY what the race-hustling engineer fails to understand himself! If you choose to live in the past and identify with things you have NEVER EXPERIENCED and have NO COMPREHENSION OF then I have nothing but pity for the level of brainwashing you received while growing up.
    theomeyer likes this.
  4. Blkfx1

    Blkfx1 TS Evangelist Posts: 860   +203

  5. ddg4005

    ddg4005 TS Guru Posts: 376   +50

    I don't use Twitter and don't think much of it but I understand where this guy's coming from. It's not about lowering the bar-who says it wasn't lowered to allow for some non-blacks to be hired-it's about understanding that if you want to reach a broader, and darker, demographic you need to hire people that reflect the population or at the very least, can think outside the box.
  6. ddg4005

    ddg4005 TS Guru Posts: 376   +50

    Struck a nerve did he?
  7. davislane1

    davislane1 Inquisitor Posts: 4,487   +3,482

    Except it is. The number of minorities in tech closely follows the relevant population statistics. In particular, IQ, which is a prerequisite for thinking outside of the box. The only way to "increase diversity" is to do what every organization in need of meeting racial quotas has done for the past 20 or more years: lower the bar so lesser candidates can increase the appropriate slice of the relevant pie chart.
  8. ddg4005

    ddg4005 TS Guru Posts: 376   +50

    Except IQ has nothing to do this. Many in the tech industry got their jobs by connections not talent. To suddenly talk about "lowering the bar" is laughable at best. Half of the consultants at my job who are supposed to be experts on systems, et cetera wouldn't know a microchip from a potato chip and they're being paid top dollar. Smarter? High IQ? Please.
    mctommy likes this.
  9. davislane1

    davislane1 Inquisitor Posts: 4,487   +3,482

    Anecdotal information is not a refutation of statistical facts. I could make the same argument about financial industry analysts being woefully inadequate stock pickers, but that doesn't change the fact that they are generally more intelligent than 90% of burger flippers.

    This chart: http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/diversity-in-tech/ just so happens to correlate with this bell curve https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipe...parent.png/400px-Sketch-4race-transparent.png and this pie chart https://nrelecopress1.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/figure-1.jpg.

    You'll note that that companies with the most black & latino diversity have the biggest manual labor dependencies, while those that have the most data and analytics dependencies have by far the most Asians.

    You'd have us believe that this has nothing to do with general intelligence and everything to do with knowing a guy (which is applicable to most employment anyways), even when universities push diversity by adopting quadruple standards for admissions (http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-adv-asian-race-tutoring-20150222-story.html#page=1)?

    Please, dude.
    theomeyer and robb213 like this.
  10. mctommy

    mctommy TS Addict Posts: 211   +37

    You are telling me that an high IQ white guy and because of his IQ can design (or you can go into marketing or whatever other field) better for the 25% of black users than the black guy with a lower IQ because that white can think outside the box and inside the mind of a black user?

    To your other point, there is a very truthful saying about silicon valley, "once a director always a director" why? because once you become a director, it doesn't matter if your expertise is in one area, your networking and connections will always land you another gig somewhere else (that could be totally different from your expertise) as a director.
  11. ddg4005

    ddg4005 TS Guru Posts: 376   +50

    It has nothing to do with general intelligence. There, I said it. And stats don't always equal facts. To dismiss the importance of connections in the business world, where someone may be hired based on who they know rather than what they know, is to discount an important fact in who gets certain jobs and who doesn't. That's not anecdotal, it's well-known and proven.

    Maybe the new CEO of Twitter will hire more people of a darker hue if they're qualified, maybe not (I don't use Twitter either way) but Miley's point reveals the prejudice that is inherent in some people within the tech industry as well as others and if Twitter, or any company, wants to survive long-term then the people who run them will have to think outside the box because with comments like the one in the article they will become irrelevant and ultimately extinct.
  12. davislane1

    davislane1 Inquisitor Posts: 4,487   +3,482

    This is a very simple concept. Higher g correlates with higher problem-solving abilities. If you have higher g, you will be faster and more effective at solving problems than someone with lower g. Moreover, you will be able to solve more complex problems.

    Because there are fewer high IQ minorities relative to whites in America, and because there are a greater quantity of high-IQ whites and Asians than high-IQ blacks and Latinos, whites and Asians make up the bulk of high-IQ positions in the economy, which includes computer engineers at Twitter.

    The data tells you everything you need to know about a target market. You don't need a black man in engineering to market to black people. You don't need a white man in engineering to market to white people. You only need one on the poster.

    Never in dispute and still linked with intelligence. Higher-IQ people make more connections and have greater ability to exploit those connections. Simply put, the more horses you have, the better you tend to be at networking.

    Increased racial diversity in Twitter's engineering core won't improve their product because being a minority doesn't magically make your code better. As stated previously, Twitter has four functions. You can't make those functions more interesting by having more black people on staff. The stagnation in growth is due to the inherent limitations of microblogging.
    theomeyer likes this.

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