Diversity and Inclusion Manifesto - It's like the Agile Manifesto, but for humans.
Guest Tom Shaw discussing the Diversity and Inclusion Manifesto
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Dave: Hey everybody, in this series of episodes, well, it’s two episodes, I am talking to a couple of people about diversity and inclusion. So this episode is with Tom Shaw. He is a systems engineer at Riot Games. But this is about his work with the Diversity Manifesto, which is a set of guidelines rules. I mean, it’s a manifesto that games companies, so video games companies are developing to ensure that the games industry adopts and embraces diversity and inclusion.
Other industries seem to be a bit faster on doing this. And so there is this movement from Tom and the other people who were involved with it to help push the game industry in that direction. He introduces me to our next episode, which will be with Vessy Teshiva, she has created a diversity in the workplace report, and also a community around diversity and inclusion and those involved in leading the way and making sure that companies are both able to support diversity and inclusion, as well as assist those who are leading that charge to keep their own mental health and impact moving in the right direction. I hope you enjoy. So this is Tom. And the next episode will be with Vessy. So, thanks for listening.
Dave: Hello, and welcome to the podcast. I’m your host, Dave Albert. In this show, I talk about technology, building a company as a CTO and co-founder and have guests to discuss their roles in technology and entrepreneurship.
Today, we’re joined by Tom Shaw, system engineer at Riot Games, co-founder of ship-it-con, and the Diversity Manifesto. And a Docker captain. Thanks for joining us, Tom.
Tom: Thanks so much for the invite, Dave.
Dave: So I met Tom at I guess it was a Docker meetup.
Tom: It was Yeah, yeah. Great. So would you give us a brief bio on yourself?
Tom: Yeah, sure. So I’ve been living in Dublin since 2000. And I’ve worked for various companies like Sun Microsystems, Oracle, city group, and I’m currently working at Riot Games. I’ve always been involved with community work. I strongly believe like I have a, I have a number of privileges. And I should be using those to elevate people around me helping communities in Dublin and just try and give something back. It’s a great opportunity for working in the tech industry. But sometimes you have to look at the folks around you and try to help them to get a leg up in the industry and help them like to proceed.
Dave: So So that’s how you got involved with the diversity manifesto? Or do you? Is there anything else that
Tom: Yeah, I’ve been working in the games industry for several years now. And there are lots of like areas of like improvements that need to happen. A lot of games companies are trying to tackle this themselves. The idea behind the diversity manifesto is that we basically pull all our resources together and have like a framework that every game studio can use to try and improve their DNI internally.
As I said, like love games, studios are investing heavily in this, but they don’t typically talk to each other. So this is just an opportunity to get those folks in the room, get them to share their best practices, maybe share some resources as well to try to not just improve the studio themselves but to try to improve the entire industry.
Dave: So the goal is, obviously, to have more diversity and inclusion in Game Studios and tech community as a whole. What sort of tactics are you taking?
Tom: I guess, at this point, like, I kind of DNI’s being a real, it’s a real area of opportunity. But also it’s a high risk for organizations that don’t invest in DNI, I think over the next decades if you notice, if you don’t have a DNI program in place you’re going to find it very difficult to compete and to try and bring in the best talent.
So this is about, it’s the right thing to do. Like trying to get everybody around the table. Again, the first set of opinions, getting people to speak up is really important. And also, like the generation said, that’s coming through, and they’re going to be looking for their first day in organizations, it’s not just ticking the box for them. This is like a hard requirement to work inside an organization.
So for me, it’s all by just trying to like to open the doors a bit more and try to get a more diverse perspective in, particularly in the creative industry. We’re creating global products, we want the global player base. So we need a global, diverse perspective internally.
Dave: Yeah, and there’s plenty of research that shows that you know, diverse groups perform better than our marginalized groups that you know when you’ve got. I was in what was called Swan, the Symantec women’s act, no, women’s, SWAN, something, Symantec women’s something network, I can’t believe I’ve forgotten it.
But there were a lot of discussions, obviously, around having more women included in different areas. And we saw some research that having at least two women, in a group of other people perform better than having zero. And it was the same the other way around, that having all women perform, not as well as having at least two men.
So having diversity from all backgrounds just helps everyone think in different ways. Otherwise, if everybody has the same background, he’s pretty much dark to think, in the same types of ways. And I can see how that can absolutely bring some creativity.
Tom: Yep. Also, like a lot of organizations, they’ve invested very heavily in diversity. But whenever it comes to the inclusion piece of the puzzle that’s a bit more difficult. And using tools like Ali ship, for example, like having somebody who can help amplify the voices of people within the organization, and just help to keep minority groups inside your organization for longer, the turnover tends to be quite high.
If you bring somebody in from a minority group, and you don’t have support, and they don’t feel included, there’s a good chance they’re going to leave in a year. So there are lots of programs around inclusion that organizations can take part in, and it’s not super complex, it’s not expensive. A lot of it is just like treating people like human beings and giving them support.
Dave: Imagine that.
Tom: Yeah. It’s, it’s amazing what little sort of gratitude and compassion can do, maybe try to solve all these problems by adding more technology to our stack. But sometimes it’s just like talking to people like humans can solve some of the problems.
Dave: This is a global initiative. Right?
Dave: Are there specific areas that are more impacted by the lack of diversity here in Ireland, as opposed to the US? Or is it basically just in general?
Tom: I think it’s in general. Yeah, like, as part of the diverse manifesto, I put together a list of 300 Studios that are like global, and the VC, which states a bunch of them to see if they have diversity programs, their first inclusion programs in place, I just want to have a central resource. So if you’re looking to join the games industry, you can go to this just a Google spreadsheet, and you can see which companies are actively involved in DNI initiatives.
I think that’s really good for anybody who’s trying to come into the games industry, it’s a really nice way of just seeing, like, who are actually taking this seriously, I made him realize a few red flags if you see certain studios that have no program at all. You might think twice about applying for a position there.
Dave: Is there a reason that you’re focusing specifically on the games studios over well, any company, really?
Tom: Yeah, it’s just I guess it’s just because the past seven years like as an Activision for just over five years and rat games are over a year, I just see that there’s the biggest sort of, you have a big impact on the games industry, a lot of other companies in tech are trying to address this situation. But it seems like maybe your game industry is a bit behind, maybe by a few years.
I think like once some of the big players get heavily invested in DNI and show like, this is good for business, our players are delighted because we’re creating these really diverse experience for players. Once that happens, and the rest of the studios will fall in line. And they’ll say that this is good for business, it’s good for the employees, it’s good for gamers, it’s a win-win all around.
Dave: I see, so there has been the perception that gaming is more male-dominated. So the industry is more male-dominated, which reinforces in a vicious cycle that men make, in general, make games for men, and so or boys, and so there are more males, as customers. So you’re crazy not to open up that entire demographic of people who, not just the men and women, but all minority areas. So you’re missing out on loads of customers?
Tom: Yeah, potentially, like over the past 10 years, the demographics really shifted, like gamers are becoming older. And I like, I think some of the core gaming groups are like people in their mid-30s and early 40s. And then there’s also other demographics that previously weren’t playing games that are now playing games.
And there’s some, some examples like Apex legends was released. And that got really, really well received because they took a more diverse approach more diverse characters, and they reach the more diverse player based, every game studio is looking to release in the next decades, needs to be doing well to be taking a similar approach, basically.
Dave: Okay, so I’m a little unclear on the specifics of the manifesto. I understand that it’s like the Agile Manifesto for diversity and inclusion. But has it been like, do you have a statement? Are you working on that? Are you trying to get involvement from others to create that, or what’s the deal?
Tom: It’s very early days yet. Basically, the first six months has been just reaching out to studios, seeing he’ll actually talk to us, like, a lot of studios that are don’t have DNI programs in place, or we’re just not willing to talk about it publicly yet. And maybe they’re at the early stages. So we’re really just trying to get folks to engage with us.
And once we have, studios willing to talk, then we tried to like, get them to talk to each other a bit more and share some of the programs that they have, share some of the content. A lot of organizations that do create content internally for DNI initiatives, they tend to keep it like internal. I’d like to see more companies open-sourcing their DNI material, the same way the open-source projects and GitHub do the same for DNI. And then the whole industry gets the benefit from it.
Dave: Well, that’s exactly what I was thinking. So you know, I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but there’s a GitHub page for or not page, but a GitHub repository for I think it might just be sysadmin or Linux dev ops, questions, interview questions. And so I was thinking that that would be absolutely a great place where people could put full requests for a good manifesto.
So when, obviously, you don’t want to create too much of it, and influence it without the input of the other stakeholders, because then you may exclude some of them, you may actually not have enough inclusion from the different groups. So I could see why you wouldn’t want to put it out too soon. Yeah, but any ideas when you may start to gather some of that content and information together too?
Tom: Yeah, it’s probably the end of the year. There’s a community that started quite recently by Vessy Teshiva. She’s a DNI consultant who works for EY. She’s creating this community of DNA champions that are global. And she has a bunch of folks signed up and they meet like, every few weeks, and they share practices. I recommend getting Tessy on to your podcast for something similar for the base Diversity Manifesto try to get folks from the gaming industry meeting on a regular basis, sharing their best practices, sharing their material.
And just over time, it’s just like a Rolling Stone, it’ll start to gather but appears, and the more of the big players that we get, like talking about their challenges, the better like it’s a topic that doesn’t really get discussed enough from the games industry side. We were quite happy to go to conferences and talk about our technology, but talking about our culture, and like how do we approach belonging within our company? I’d love to see more toxic happening from some of the big players like Activision, for example.
Dave: Yeah, it’s a, you know, it’s I was talking to someone yesterday about how some of those softer skills are less forefront, but make much more of an impact than a lot of us are willing to admit. And I could definitely see how, how this fits in there. So what is like your very next steps to just to contact more people, try to get more involvement?
Tom: Yep. Keep reaching out to folks. If we can get in contact with people who are running the DNI initiatives internally, that’s great. It’s the moment we have a bunch of contacts, but it’s mostly engineers, and people who have met over the years, trying to get I got a direct connection into like somebody who’s DNI, that would be fantastic.
And that’s yeah, we’re just busy teaming with one studio at the time. But even if it doesn’t go anywhere, like we still have the central resource where people can go to, to look in the start in the games industry, they can search like globally, which studios are currently hiring, and which ones have DNI programs and place.
Dave: I have you worked with Riot’s HR?
Tom: No, this is just a side project and got the charity in my spare time.
Dave: No, no, absolutely. That’s what I meant was as in that seems like, HR seems like the place where you could start to get the ball rolling. Just as a first glance you know, they’ve got the, like, that’s bound to be something right in their wheelhouse that, even if they don’t have to necessarily be the champions of it, being involved, obviously gets that in front of more people, they have probably networks, like just like we have tech meetups, I’m sure their HR meetings where those people are already focused on it. So I wonder if that might help.
Tom: Yeah, I think definitely like a long term goal is that studio was like Activision and Riot Games, they will become like the leaders and DNI in the games industry, I think the rest of the industry will start to follow their leads. I think at the moment, we just need somebody to step up and say, like, this is how we’re going to do it, and we’re going to share it around. I don’t think anybody’s really done that. Maybe they have, I’m just not aware of it. But sometimes you just need somebody to be strong and stand up their rights, we’re going to solve this problem, and kind of bring the entire industry along with them.
Dave: So for people who aren’t in the games industry, how can they help?
Tom: I guess love is around. Like, I’m a huge fan of community. I like to see organizations investing like properly and communities, it’s great to like, pay for beer and pizza. But if you can get your folks to go to meetups, get them involved in like organizing conferences, or being involved in like volunteering for conferences, think that has much like bigger impact.
So like my call to action is like this quite there and meet new people try to use your privilege as much as possible, like many of us have privileges that we don’t even realize, become an ally, if possible. Just look for areas in tech, that is really kind of struggling or underrepresented. Sometimes if you look at your own team or your organization, have a look at who’s not there and ask the question like why are they not here and try to address it from that angle.
Like who do we need to start like trying to get into our organization to give it that extra sort of diversity? So my call to action is is quieter and meet people like it’s, it’s easy to sit here and say it I don’t know, a lot of people are maybe introverted, or they don’t have time. But even just like one hour per week, or one hour per month, that makes a difference, especially if you have privileged that one hour can change somebody’s life.
Dave: Yeah, definitely. So are you going to give a talk on this at ship-it-con?
Tom: Not this year, I have I given an alley ship talk at Docker con. Back at the end of April, I’m going to try and polish up talk a bit more. It wasn’t really, I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for it. I want to get to the point where she has like, takeaway items that people can go in and can actually use these simple little things like using phrases like we don’t do that here as so powerful. But it’s a real problem where whenever you do have this culture setup, where everybody’s to see I’m like, well look like clones of each other.
Like groupthink sets in, the norm sets in just having somebody stand up and say, right, that’s not how this has been done, or we can do better, I think is really powerful. Just little things that add sometimes it’s not the big, complex solutions as it can be like a one-liner that you just add into the start of your meetings, or maybe you want a bit more compassion during code review. Sometimes it’s a little change added up to make the biggest difference.
Dave: It was as kind of like organizational debt similar to technical debt.
Tom: It’s a really good way of putting it, yeah, it’s very similar like this builds up over the years, like, I don’t think any organization goes from. They don’t just wake up one morning and said, yeah, this is a bad taste of work, or we have these problems or queries over a number of years, and just addressing it like one piece at a time. But then being realistic as well. Like, if you have a company that’s 20 or 30 years old, realistically, you’re not going to solve all your problems in one or two years, it’s a long term strategy.
Dave: Yeah, I mean, I can see nobody, very few organizations set out to say, we’re only hiring people that look just like me. But I can see how it’s like, okay, a handful of people start a company. And they’re probably already acquainted. And then they hire somebody else that they know, because that’s the easy way, and that you can trust somebody and then they hire somebody else they know.
And then that network keeps to grow, keeps growing. But all those people already knew each other. So they were most likely already in similar circles. So I can see why it’s not malicious, but that if, if you’re not careful, it can happen. We’re lucky at medit that I’ve got a female CEO and my co-founder, our data engineer, is she’s a female from Germany, our UX UI designers from Brazil, we have a number of people who work with us in India. So we’re already quite a diverse team. I myself am from the States, but live in Ireland is now a dual citizen.
So I’m a little bit diverse myself even being a white male. Can you tell us a little bit more about? Is there anything else about the manifesto that we didn’t touch on that you were.
Tom: I think we pretty much covered all of it like I’m always looking for help. Like, if anybody is listening to this podcast, and they work for a game studio like just get in touch, like we can grab a coffee or just give a few more details about, like, what we’re hoping to do before the end of the year. It’s really just about getting people talking, like a lot of companies are trying to solve this problem themselves behind closed doors. If we can make this a bit more open to having a more open dialogue, then I think we can really change the industry instead of like every company trying to see trying to solve the problem themselves.
Dave: Yeah. Or if you’ve got diversity and inclusion aspect in your company that maybe isn’t in the games industry that you want to share, so that there’s a starting point of something that has worked or not worked that’s always valuable segment. Or if you’re an HR in a games company, I don’t know how you stumbled across this podcast. But contact Tom, tell you how to get in front of all your peers. So can you tell us a bit about the ship-it-con?
Tome: Yeah, so this is gonna be our second ship-it-con. Again, this is all by the community, it’s nonprofits. We just wanted to give something back. Like we’re trying to make the conference itself as accessible and inclusive as possible. We’ve kept the ticket price as low as we can get 75 euros for a day’s conference. We have some world-class speakers lined up.
And like even if you’re in between work at the moment, or your students and you can’t afford 75 years or ticket that might be out of reach. We do have like financial assistance as well. So stripe has actually given us a fund where we can help people get into Dublin on the day maybe provide fares, provide free tickets. So we really want to be accessible to everyone. A lot of tech conferences are kind of out of reach for folks. The ticket price themselves can be hundreds of euros, we wanted to try and avoid that.
And sponsors are actually covering the majority of the costs. Anything leftover we are actually donating to local charities. Sold on the websites, we have four charities chosen by the team. It’s gonna be a great day, we have charity managers coming over from the States. I don’t think she’s ever spoken at a conference in Dublin. I might be wrong on that. But I’m a huge fan. I just love how outspoken she is. And she’s just like, she’s just such a great sort of, she’s very technical, but she’s a people person as well like she just doesn’t. She doesn’t beat around the bush just tells it like it is.
We also have speakers from stripe from Slack, IBM, Microsoft has got me a grip. And the first one was really well received. We got some super feedback. And yeah, take us on CLI. We’re trying to limit the amount of folks that can kind of attend, just purely find the amount of space we have. So we have about 100 tickets left at the moment. Folks want to pick one up, there will be sold out before the events like guaranteed. So yeah, we’d love to see you there.
Dave: Yeah. What’s the date? Again?
Tom: It’s gonna be September 6th. It’s in the Round Room at Mansion House. It’s an awesome place. Yeah.
Dave: All right, creator. Yeah. So I gotta get my ticket or maybe you need some media.
Tom: Yeah, possibly yeah.
Dave: I could do some interviews. And we could put that together for promotion for the next ship-it-con. Okay, so what is the focus of ship-it-con? because it’s a little different. Other than the community aspect, it’s a little different, I believe, than some of the other conferences that most people might be familiar with.
Tom: So the first ship-it-con was it was purely around, like, how do people deliver code in 2017. They were the current tooling being used for the current processes. And that was really, really well received. But then this year, we want to do something different. So some of the talks will be more around predictions like, what’s this gonna look like in 10 years?
Like, what will your delivery pipeline look like? What will your culture look like? How are we going to be shipping code so it’s more like forward-looking? But we’ll also be covering some of the currents like current processes that folks are using and big companies like IBM, recovering like loads of the latest technologies like Kubernetes, containers, microservices, it’s all being covered. Like we’re, we have a good broad spectrum of content lined up.
Dave: Cool. So just the last thing that I’ve got is, what’s it like being a Docker captain?
Tom: Yeah, it’s a real privilege, like I have a lot of love for the Docker community that’s just been fantastic to me. Like we’re almost, we almost have our five year anniversary of Docker meetups this August is five years. Just around time, just the people I’ve met like speakers, these folks in the community, everybody’s been so friendly. If you’re interested in containers, and Docker in general, I’d highly recommend getting involved with the Docker community.
They’re very welcoming. You’re always looking for folks to create pull requests, organize meetups. It’s just a great way to kind of meet new people. And it’s been a real eye-opener like they might sort of, I put this quietly, the sort of folks I will hang around with, like five or 10 years ago was very different. Like I kind of I was in my own little group of folks that I knew from the university, and college by joining the Docker community just kind of open my eyes like the bigger picture.
I started to meet people from all over the world, all different backgrounds, all different, like privileges and biases, and just a real sort of mixture of folks that I just wouldn’t have, have met previously. So I think just, yeah, it’s been a great sort of opportunity to meet a bunch of different folks. So yeah, people who want to get involved, like drop me a message on Twitter or, yeah, get in contact over to like the ship-it-con page. And I’m always happy to talk about this stuff. I also organize the Jenkins meetup and we’re looking for speakers for that moment. Yeah, that’s it.
Dave: What do you find the most challenging part of? Well, actually, all three of the things that you’re involved in
Tom: I guess time is the biggest challenge. Because the more community stuff you do, the more you want to do that gets really it is quite addictive. You might start off like, speaking on the meetup group, I’m going a few months you’re running a conference. Try to prioritize your time. Time is the biggest challenge.
But thankfully, I got John Dorn, who I know you’re speaking to previously, Serena Fritsch from intercom and Madela Kirk from Riot Games. They’re helping to organize ship a con this year. So it’s much easier. There’s a lot less stuff to organize because it’s the second time around. People know what to expect, sponsors have been coming deals for a change instead of the first time we have to really fight the for every sponsor. So yeah, time is the biggest challenge, but you can get the right people to work with and that just makes it so much easier.
Dave: For either the meetup or the ship-it-con. Are you still looking for volunteers of any type? or?
Tom: Yeah, we’ll be putting out a call for volunteers very soon. So we need people to help out on the day with like, getting people signed in showing them around the venue. So we’ll be doing that very soon. I will also be announcing the rest of the speakers within the next probably four weeks. We have another six speakers lined up. So some names in there.
Dave: Nice. Alright, cool. Um, well, this has been a little bit of a shorter episode than I expected. But I think we covered everything really well. Is there anything at all?
Tom: I guess just the call for action is like so many folks working in IT in Dublin at the moments like just quite there and try and get something back. It’s very easy just to get like stuck in the weeds and trying to solve your own technical problems. But sometimes if you can just lift your head up, go ahead in the community and meet people like and just you never know where it’s gonna lead like you could take it out of different career path hold together.
Dave: Great. And so how can people reach you?
Tom: Probably, Twitter. Like I’m on Twitter 18 hours a day. Or just free to the ship-it-con page is a free email alias is on there. They can contact me.
Dave: I’ll put all of that in the show notes but it’s @tomwillfixit. That’s right. It’s a great name. It’s absolutely fantastic.
Tom: I think it’s quite misleading. I don’t really fix more things for you.
Dave: You fix the lack of diversity and inclusion. You fix the lack of ship-it-cons. Fix the lack of Docker meetups. You’re fixing the infrastructure of people, which is probably more important than the technology that the rest of us are busy fixing.
Tom: That’s awesome
Dave: Fix people. Alright, well thank you so much for joining us. Like I said, I’ll put all the contact information on the show notes and thank you all for listening.
Until next time, remember any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.