On October 29th, 2019 Leslie Chapman and Michael Winslow presented a DevOps Confession at DevOps Enterprise Summit in Las Vegas. Leslie read this powerful anonymous letter detailing one Black leader's career journey in technology.
and Michael Winslow I remember feeling very left out this one time early in my career. I was working on a dev team where I was the only Black man and there were no women. Like many times before, conversation at lunch was about the National Hockey League. Everyone else on the team were huge hockey fans. I decided that I needed to start watching hockey in order to fit in. I was in Philadelphia so I looked up when the next Flyers game was going to be on TV. I sat down and started watching the game around 6:30pm. The Flyers were playing the Pittsburgh Penguins! As much as I tried to get into the game, I just could not. Not only was this sport not interesting to me, it seemed to go on forever. And when I say forever...I mean FOREVER! As luck would have it, on the very day I decided to start watching hockey, the Flyers and the Penguins would play the longest game in NHL history. It went into 5 Overtimes! When Keith Primeaux finally scored the winning goal at 2:30am, I could only think one thing: “These white boys are crazy!"
a playoff game that could not end in a tie and this was not a "common" occurrence. But still, I could not bring myself to embrace hockey. Since then, I've gone skiing, tubing, whitewater rafting and camping as attempts to fit in with colleagues. Each time it was very noticeable that my colleagues had been doing this all their lives, and I was struggling to even make myself useful. As I got higher and higher positions in my career, it seemed like the conversations and activities of my new peers became even more alienating. Stories about $200 pours of scotch. Fois Gras. Trips to the Outer Banks. And climbing Mt Moca Pichu. While I can look back with fondness at these memories and smile because they are uniquely a part of my story. There is an aspect that I do not find funny. Those hockey fans that I started with, outpaced my growth by several years. And most of those scotch drinkers were several years my junior. I knew I had the technical chops … So what was the reason? Not having these things in common, I believe, slowed the growth of my career. And allowed my peers to leave me behind. You may think that these exclusionary conversations offend me or make me angry. That's not exactly how I would describe the feeling. Not in the moment it is happening. I want to work with happy co- worker who want to speak openly. But when talking about hockey leads to getting invited to hockey games. And those hockey games lead
to talk about it. But here I am now, a high-ranking leader of the organization. I can “flip the script”! I can fast track the young Black men like me and have them outpace their peers! Not so fast. It doesn't work like that, does it? If I say we need programs for the Black employees, I hear responses that change “Black” into “under-represented” or “diverse”. And since Diversity pretty much means anything other than white heterosexual male, it can really water down the effectiveness. I don’t want to take away from any group trying to improve the professional landscape. But when I say Black, I mean Black men and women. I do hope our industry can stop claiming false victories for diversity because they’ve made strides with women (and often non- Black women). Perhaps we can encourage goals more specific to each group? I am not sure what the answer is. I want to work together to come up with the solution. Let’s just please make sure that the conversation continues, and not feel as if the mission is accomplished. Thanks for this opportunity to share my thought! Anonymous.