HANDSHAKPlenty has been said about diversity in the tech workforce. Companies, schools, and nonprofits are working to boost the numbers of women and racial minorities in tech, but a couple stories highlight lesser-discussed elements of diversity.

One is age diversity. “Talent” is the currency du jour among tech companies, and that word is often accompanied with “young” when you talk with tech recruiters. Companies design their offices and perk structures with millennials in mind, but let’s not forget that it’s totally possible for a 60-year-old to be a damn good coder.

As reporter Steven Levy (age: 64) writes in a post on Medium:

“In Silicon Valley there is one underrepresented group in particular — one that by law is entitled to fair treatment in hiring and employment practices — that not only has failed to enter this conversation, but is often regarded as anathema when it comes to headcount.

“And that is people over 40. Or 45. Or 50, or 60. You know…old people.”

Age groups don’t make the diversity reports of Microsoft and Google, and neither do employees with neurological conditions. There’s increasing chatter about neurodiversity, and Concur’s parent company, SAP, is on the forefront of hiring employees on the autism spectrum. It began the program in 2013, and intends to hire about 650 people who fall on the spectrum by 2020.

As Jose Velasco, head of SAP’s Autism at Work program, says, people with autism have the technical aptitude to work for a tech firm, but they face other hurdles. “People on the spectrum don’t tend to interview well,” he says in the story. “We have to ‘flip the script’ and ensure the screening and interview processes are tailored to their needs so they’re comfortable and can really allow their incredible talents and skills to shine.”

Photo by Bill Harrison / CC BY

Photo by Bill Harrison / CC BY

Gamble on your marriage. What could possibly go wrong?

Having $10,000 to spend on a wedding would be great. Seattle startup SwanLuv will give you just that, with one major string attached: If you get divorced, you have to repay the $10k with interest (the rate is determined based on the riskiness of your marriage — stronger couples receive higher interest rates). I have five thoughts about this:

  1. This is hilarious.
  2. Sitting in on a couple’s discussion about applying for this loan (i.e. placing this bet) would be a very interesting experience. It’s like a prenup chat in Vegas.
  3. The situation in which one member of the engaged couple doesn’t want to do it because he/she feels the couple’s odds of divorce are high would be pleasantly awkward.
  4. If SwanLuv gives a couple a low interest rate, meaning it’s pretty sure they’ll get divorced, how does the couple respond?
  5. Will the company receive more money from safe-seeming couples that get divorced late with high interest rates, or disastrous mismatches that clearly will get divorced soon?

I’m excited for the social experiment that is SwanLuv.


Photo by Jeff Hobson

When a $100,000 job offer doesn’t mean an end to homelessness

You’d think James Simmons’ situation would be an envious one. The cybersecurity expert recently had interviews with firms such as T-Mobile, IBM, and Daimler Chrysler. Last week, he received an offer sheet with a $100,000 salary.

Simmons is talented, and his skills are in demand. Simmons is also homeless.

Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat explains Simmons’ nuanced situation in this very good, very frustrating column. In 2006, Simmons was arrested and charged with selling crack cocaine. His conviction was eventually stricken from the record, but it’s easier for a potential employer to find the details of his conviction in a Google search than to discover that said conviction is no longer on his record.

The story paints a picture of how difficult it is to overcome homelessness, how a being labeled as a criminal can ruin a person’s career, and how stubborn employers are when it comes to considering the context of such situations.

Elsewhere on the web

Keeping track of election candidates can be a hassle; Bing is making it easier.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced in Paris that 20 percent of new vehicles in the state’s fleet will be electric by 2017. This is good news for electric car makers, because dealerships don’t care much about selling them.

Former USC and Washington Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian is suing USC for wrongful termination. Sarkisian recently underwent treatment for alcoholism, and his suit alleges USC didn’t accommodate his disability. The Americans With Disabilities Act defines alcoholism as a disability, but a worker can be fired for working under the influence.