How would you reconfigure the TechSector machine?

Imagine if the IT industry was containerised into a smart device and you had to change the default male pale ‘herdware' settings. What values would you change to convert it to Egalitarian Settings?


It’s ironic that IT industry evangelists are constantly threatening to ‘disrupt’ other sectors and lecturing them on their lack of agility, perception and communications skills.

Isn’t that a bit arrogant and hypocritical? The tech sector doesn’t use ‘the cloud’ of its human talents very sensitively or skilfully at all. Is there anything more patronising than a technology evange-splainer?

Imagine all the human resources of talent comprise a hybrid cloud of talents. The lived experience and intellectual power of each person is unique. The more of these quintessential processing units (QPUs) you can aggregate into your humanity cloud, the more powerful and omniscient it becomes.

But we don’t. Somehow we firewall off all the ‘thought processes’ from any human with XX chromosomes. That’s half the available talent in the cloud! Ethnic minorities don’t seem to be on the Access Control list either, so the databases of lived experience and intelligence of the BAME (black and minority ethnic) population are wasted too. Which renders whole vistas of the IT industry’s applications and research pointless because it often asks the wrong questions, makes the wrong assumptions, and addresses the wrong situation.

Clearly the IT industry has default factory settings that need to be re-configured to make the best use of its talent and perhaps even enable the elusive quality of happiness.

So, we asked some experts on this topic: if the IT industry was a system, how would you change the settings?

Angelique Mohring, the CEO and founder of strategy guider GainX, would change two default settings in company culture. Space allocation would be a priority. Mansplaining would no longer be an option in the communications menu. The space allocation setting, which is currently set to “Man Spreading” would be reset to one of the alternative options. “A Millar chair,” says Mohring, “women deserve more space - physically and intellectually and verbally.”

Jennifer Kyriakakis, founder of comms monetiser Matrixx Software, suggests we need to switch off the setting that allows delusions of grandeur.

“If the technology industry was a social media platform, I would make the following configurations: Filter out ego driven posts and comments. Then I would Turn the ‘interrupt’ button off. I would Hide requests/Direct messages that are below someone’s pay grade,” says Kyriakakis, who would also rank the GSD setting the highest. (GSD stands for ‘get things done’).

Another boss who doesn’t suffer fools gladly is Emma Mulqueeny OBE, chief of staff to the CRO at open-source software company SUSE. Mulqueeny would change the system to recognise the maverick input.

“I would break the auto-selector and make it malfunction to only choose the anomalies,” says Mulqueeny. Think of those quality controllers that push out the non-perfect machines, selecting only those that conform to a certain standard. “I would break that,” says Mulqueeny, who is also puzzled by another default setting, mono culture. “As I progress my career I find it increasingly challenging that my male colleagues are more interested in their male counterparts’ history and have little to no interest in discovering mine. It is a new thing for me. And probably the first time I have come across true male/female bias in technology.”

As a senior research engineer with Tenable's Security Response Team, Claire Tills is naturally safety conscious, so she says configuring any firewall to Any/Any, goes against her instinct. “But that’s exactly how the IT industry should be,” say Tills, “it should be [set to] Open to diverse people with diverse educational and professional journeys. That makes any industry stronger,” says Tills.

How would a security expert, like Tills ,address the IT industry’s Access Control List? You can’t be too careful, can you? What if, you know, new people come in and take over!?

This is the wrong type of insecurity and it is why that the Access settings need to be changed, to take more input from soft skills, Tills says. These would encourage relationship building, improve the Empathy between different human thought processing units and cut down massively on Translation errors, which are a massive cause of waste. Tills makes the point that settings need to be regularly reviewed, through a regime she categorises as Scan, De-bug and Detox. One needs to regularly audit trust relationships too, Tills says. Power corrupts, and absolute power can corrupt absolutely.

“Are elevated permissions being abused? Well turn those permissions off! Anyone at the head of a domain can use those elevated credentials to conduct malicious activities,” says Tills. That’s not to say you don’t keep all windows of free thinking open, but maybe close them all, once in a while. “Power down and step away to recharge,” says Tills.How would Tills configure the IT industry’s Access Control lists? “Sometimes, it is less about who is permitted to access a domain and more about how that access is enabled. Access to the industry should be configured so that underrepresented people have the easiest access,” says Tills, “rather than expecting those people to do all the work of navigating access on their own, domain experts must go where those underrepresented people are, ready to listen and enable.”

What other default IT industry properties would Tills change? “Vary off: posturing. Close: self-aggrandising. Restrict overly complex language,” says Tills. “The Default language should be simple and understood by diverse audiences. Puffing oneself up only increases the likelihood that the audience won’t understand and will disengage.” Elena Malysheva has some ideas for improving IT’s empathy skills. As product manager in communications solutions for telecoms equipment vendor Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, Malysheva knows how to configure things properly. 

“Soft skills, emotional intelligence, communication and conflict management are equally important for successful operations within the IT industry and should not be overlooked,” says Malysheva, “these skills may not be inbuilt and specific training may be required to calibrate the team in how to communicate most effectively for a glitch-free workflow.”

Having taken the IT Industry Kit out of the packaging, Malysheva’s priorities would be to go to the menu and Authenticate the Promotion, Recruitment and Talent. “Update the legacy settings on Gender, Family Status and Age,” says Malysheva.

The Bias needs troubleshooting and shutting down. “Employees should not be overlooked for opportunities and promotions based on assumptions around their gender or domestic responsibilities,” says Malysheva

Hang on, there is a pattern emerging here. All the women have talked about Bias. What can it possibly mean? I phoned up the makers of the IT Industry and the bloke on the help desk said the following: “It sounds like the herdware setting had been corrupted. Don’t worry mate, switch it off and switch it on again. If that doesn’t work, read the manual.”