Accessibility is good for everyone

It’s great to see the recent changes to Automattic’s long-term hiring processes based upon a user research study into how their approach to tech hiring resonates with women and non-binary folks:

In May, Automattic’s engineering hiring team launched a user research study to better understand how our approach to tech hiring resonates with women and non-binary folks who may experience similar gender discrimination in the workplace and are experienced developers.

What changes did we make?

  • Existing work and life commitments mean that it is important to know the details of the hiring process at the outset: we have published a public page that clearly outlines our hiring process so that people have a concrete understanding of the expectations.
  • We removed all the little games from our job posting page. We were trying to test people’s attention to the job posting and filter out unmotivated candidates; it turned out we were also putting people off who we want to apply.
  • We removed all the language that emphasized that hiring is a competitive process -for instance, removing language about application volume.

Whilst I don’t fit into their target audience for this study, if these changes had been implemented earlier I would have personally benefited from these, instead of being disheartened about waiting for 4 years for a response to a job application that never came (I did eventually work up the courage to apply again at which time I was successful).

This example shows that making your recruitment processes more clear and accessible makes it better for everyone, not just those who experience discrimination – much like web accessibility benefits everyone, regardless of ability.

AMA: hiring technical testers

Mark asks…

Right now the software testing space is a very challenging area to hire in. We see many candidates that lack strong technical skills, in particular strong foundational knowledge in programming and automation. Why do you think this is the case? How can we improve this?

My response…

Great question. I believe there’s a few factors at play here.

Firstly, software testing still doesn’t really get taught at universities. I know of a couple of Australian universities that offer a single software testing course, but from what I hear it’s the same as 10+ years ago when I did my software engineering degree where testing was always just an afterthought rather than taught as a way to build quality self-tested code. So I have found there isn’t technical testers with those skills coming straight out of university – they need to pick up these skills in the industry. I’ve been in some organisations where we’ve put IT graduates into these technical roles to develop these skills but they typically those graduates have wanted to move into software developer roles so this wasn’t successful.

Secondly, in the past, I’ve found few organizations that fully recognise and value technical testers/software test engineers as a profession it it’s own right, so a lot of people who have these skills may rather work as a software engineer/developer where they’ll be recognised and valued more. In the past, places like Facebook had zero testers or people will a sole responsibility for QA, although from what I have heard this may have changed. I have noticed recently there is a general trend to value these skills more highly of late and since there wasn’t enough demand in the past I believe it’s a catch up game of increasing supply.

 

Finally, technical testing particularly developing test automation for systems that haven’t been built with testability in mind can be a tiring task: especially when dealing with inconsistent or non-deterministic test results which an organization is often relying upon to release software rapidly. This potentially discourages a lot of people from taking on these roles, although as my GTAC talk promoted it doesn’t have to be this way if we build systems with testability in mind as a collaboration between testers and developers.