Communities have nourished the tech industry —and academia— for ages. Aside from acting as a knowledge base, communities also allow their members to build a network and find and offer job opportunities. Besides, tech communities, says Tech Ladies Vice President Caro Griffin, can help us close the gender gap in tech. According to Caro, not only women and underrepresented minorities will benefit from more diverse teams, but the whole industry.
Caro Griffin, also known as Caroline Syrup, is the vice president of operations at Tech Ladies, the largest community for women in the tech industry. A self-taught in programming, she began her career as a developer. Later on, Caro transitioned to web development and started designing and teaching online courses before moving to operations.
In numbers, the Tech Ladies community has over 100,000 women from all positions in tech, most of them in product engineering and design. Caro regards integrating online communities as an invaluable asset for professionals looking for job opportunities, especially for those starting their careers. Moreover, by meeting other people from the industry and getting involved, community members get to know new technologies and improve their skills.
Many communities grow organically and live on only thanks to the enthusiasm and efforts of community members. Still, how much of their time members can dedicate to participating in communities is not always consistent and many communities end up abandoned. Hence, some communities ask members to pay a subscription fee as a way of keeping them active and preventing them from disappearing. Paid communities, such as Tech ladies, are a more sustainable alternative that provides all the benefits of a community while also rewarding creators.
Job posting tips
Caro’s role within Tech Ladies centers on hiring services: connecting Tech Ladies talent with hiring start-ups. Her experience has taught her what companies should do to find the right candidates, and also about common misconceptions found in job descriptions and talent scouting.
Diversify where you are looking
To start off, Caro points out that your pool of candidates will be limited to the places you are searching: “if you’re only hiring from your network or from the places that you hang out, you’re going to find people who look like you and who have a similar education or socioeconomic background”. Caro argues that this way of looking for talent is harder, more expensive, and takes longer.
In turn, Caro encourages looking for talent in communities oriented towards diversity and opening to the possibility of forming a more diverse team made of people of different gender, race, and background. A diverse team, believes Caro, is more profitable and adds a new depth to the team: “I can point to specific scenarios where hiring people who are different than me, they were able to be in a meeting and point out something that I never would’ve thought of because I didn’t have that experience”.
However, searching for diverse talent demands commitment. “It is not just posting a job on a job board and calling it a day”, says Caro. Looking for talent in communities demands getting involved and making yourself known as someone who invests in them: showing up on their demo days, portfolio reviews, sponsoring their meetups, and assisting at their conferences.
While it does pay off, integration also demands long-term work. Females, underrepresented in tech teams, often find their integration challenging. Caro Griffin points out that “as a general rule, no one wants to be the only one, no one wants to be the first one”. She encourages teams to adopt at early stages the culture they want to have, and “to invest into hiring a team that looks like you want it to look now and in 10 years from now.”
In addition, Caro advises companies to go beyond their talent search to job boards and communities and go after candidates individually. For this task, companies can rely on LinkedIn, a candidate database, or a resume book. In this regard, Tech Ladies has a candidate database: “We have all of their information ready for our hiring managers so that you can proactively reach out to them and pitch them on your job.”
Optimize your job description
Writing a successful job description is “not just running it through Textio”, says Caro. For starters, you need to “make sure that every requirement on your job posting is an actual requirement”. She suggests reviewing the requirements listed in the job description and learning to distinguish between what are requirements and what are nice-to-haves. On the one hand, this will encourage more applicants you can sort through later; on the other, it will help you avoid requirements that might represent an unfair bias. Caro has seen this a lot with the requirement of predominantly male careers such as Computer Science. While Caro recognizes that companies want to weed out candidates lacking engineering fundamentals, this kind of requirement leaves out many who possess the skill set to perform the job. Avoiding this bias and writing more inclusive job descriptions starts by recognizing what skills are required and learning how to screen for them.
Likewise, asking for experience in a very specific technology, while key in some specific cases or to companies with a well-established tech stack, might not be the fittest choice. People not familiarized or with very little experience with a technology such as a programming language might be more motivated to work with it and can catch up quickly. Companies need to ask themselves, says Caro, if they prefer to take more weeks (or months) to find an experienced candidate or use that time to train prospects and put them to work on their product.
What’s more, Caro reminds us that a job description is as much about selling the job as selling your brand: “It should pitch your company, your mission, your product, get someone to believe in that, instead of just being a wishlist of everything you need in this person.” As such, information such as company values and team composition can attract talent by letting them know who they would be working with. “Even just linking to the LinkedIns of who they’re going to work with on the team and what the background of those people is, because more information is going to be better, particularly from people in tech who are used to feeling the odd person out on their team and feeling like they don’t belong”, Caro adds.
One way or the other, Caro understands that job descriptions cannot miss information on compensation and benefits: “That’s the biggest leverage point that you have and it brings the biggest return, particularly for candidates in our community that we’ve seen.”
Consider remote working
Caro advocates for remote work as a way for companies to gain flexibility and save money. In the last years, she has seen remote work going from a niche practice to an industry standard that has allowed many companies to become competitive.
When looking for talent, Caro says that companies have to unambiguously clarify to potential candidates about their own definition of remote: clarify if they are fully remote or if they require employees to go to the office once every week, or if they expect them to assist with events twice a year. Also, companies should clarify if they need remote workers to be available at certain hours or from a particular time zone. Caro points out that companies might demand candidates from the US only, yet they actually mean from the same time zone as them.
The bottom line
Tech Ladies is oriented toward women and non-binary individuals looking for opportunities in all tech positions in tech and non-tech companies. Aside from its own job board, the Tech Ladies community has a group chat, as well as educational materials, including virtual event series and webinars. You can join Tech Ladies here.