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InfoQ Homepage Podcasts Ash Coleman on Testing, Ethics, Diversity and What it Means to Be an Ally

Ash Coleman on Testing, Ethics, Diversity and What it Means to Be an Ally

In this podcast recorded at the Agile 2018 conference Shane Hastie, Lead Editor for Culture & Methods, spoke to Ash Coleman about testing, ethics, diversity and what it means to be an ally.

Key Takeaways

  • Testing is not a simplistic process that can be reduced to automation, although automation helps
  • Ethics matter in software development I we need to build products that the builders are proud of, that people will use in real life and that is safe for them to use
  • The lack of diversity in teams producing AI/ML based products results in very biased datasets
  • Ally-ship is an important role for people who have privilege to support and enable people from disadvantaged communities to overcome the biases in the system
  • It takes work, money and time to fix the imbalances in our workplaces – it doesn’t just happen because we would like it to

Show Notes

  • 00:21 Introductions
  • 01:19 Talking about the quality of a product from the perspective of a user
  • 01:34 You need to understand how your software lands with and impacts your user base, and to do this you need regular feedback loops
  • 02:21 Tester’s jobs take many forms
  • 02:42 The ethics of software development – what is good to build, how do products effect society
  • 03:05 Building a product which the builders are proud of, that people will use in real life and that is safe for them to use
  • 03:25 The approach you need to take when testing algorithms
  • 03:49 The need to ensure that the data used to train algorithms is the correct data
  • 04:18 We need to pay attention to ethics and the impact of ML & AI systems on people
  • 04:42 The lack of diversity in teams producing these products results in very biased datasets
  • 05:28 When thinking about testing these products you need to be very clear around which aspect of the product you are trying to test
  • 05:42 Is what we are producing correct, fair and safe
  • 06:12 It’s not just about testing what the product is now, it’s about understanding what the product may become in the future
  • 06:26 Diversifying the space in which the product is being built and used is one way to help reduce the biases
  • 06:54 It’s not the amount of people who are involved with the product, it’s the breadth of people who are involved
  • 07:30 The more diverse the people who have an opinion on a product are in background, financial circumstances, gender, race, education levels and other factors, the better the feedback you get will be
  • 08:52 When building a software product, ensure you use a process which allows for and  enable course correction, learn from feedback and adapt
  • 09:25 The initial version is a place to improve upon
  • 09:38 You can’t correct the original dataset, so recognise what it is and there are mistakes in it then improve it going forward
  • 10:30 Some of the questions that Ash gets in her “ask me anything” sessions around diversity and inclusion
  • 10:42 People from the privileged groups want to know how they can contribute and help
  • 11:14 Ally-ship is the answer
  • 11:34 Being an ally is a learning process for everyone involved
  • 11:54 Empathy is vital to enable the conversations that are needed
  • 12:26 Is not about the ally, it is about the members of the disadvantaged groups
  • 12:52 Give yourself the space to be an ally and contributor, do the best that you can
  • 13:03 Examples of practical ways to be an ally
  • 13:57 Doing better as an ally is about understanding where you are and what you are comfortable with
  • 14:13 Learning new ways of interacting and working will always be uncomfortable
  • 15:24 How does someone be an ally?
  • 15:38 Understand where you can make an impact – where much is given, much is expected
  • 15:48 Exploring how privilege exhibits and how someone with privilege can make a difference
  • 16:40 There is a lot of learning involved in ally-ship
  • 17:03 As a manager, ask yourself what does it take to employ a more diverse group, call out the imbalances
  • 17:42 As a leader sponsor and support people from underrepresented groups
  • 17:57 Ash’s own experience of discrimination as a black woman tech
  • 19:22 Be an ally by calling out imbalances and being a supportive sponsor to ensure that changes are made
  • 19:37 It takes work, money and time to fix the imbalances in our workplaces – it doesn’t just happen because we would like it to
  • 20:04 The lack of diversity is not a “pipeline problem” – it’s much more a retention issue
  • 20:42 There is a huge pay gap between people from under-represented groups and privileged groups
  • 21:30 Ensure that the communication about job requirements is clear and consistently applied
  • 21:52 As an ally, call out the discrepancies you see and be accountable for fixing those you can and exposing those you need help with
  • 22:16 The amount of support that is needed to enable people from under-represented groups to feel that they can bring their whole selves to work
  • 23:25 Imagine constantly being in a fearful state because you are the only person like you in a situation
  • 23:47 The impact of this feeling of being different and not part of the group on employee retention
  • 23:58 The key part of diversity is being able to keep people and afford them the same opportunities that everyone else is getting
  • 24:15 Educate yourself as an ally, give yourself the space to learn, know that it is going to be uncomfortable and do what you can to be a sponsor/advocate/ally  


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