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Increasing Safety in the Tech Community

How can we increase safety in the tech community? Some folks asked me thoughtful questions, and I’m answering them here. I have not credited these individuals since I don’t want them to get a thrashing online. It’s a mix of questions from different people so if you see your question here: Thank You.

What I’d like to see is an actionable plan for the MVP Program specifically is as follows:

  • clarity of process regarding complaint tracking, recording and frequent feedback of complaints made to community Programs; the MVP CoC tells you some guidelines, but it was not clear (to me) what happens after you make a complaint. I think that needs to be set out very clearly. As part of the PASS Board team at the time, we did this for the PASS Anti Harassment Policy and it means that both sides of the divide have their expectations set regarding the process, for example: complaint ‘owner’, cadence of updates, method of updates and so on. This is fairer to all parties.
  • accountability to another group within Microsoft; a virtual panel, for example. If you make a complaint and you are not comfortable with a decision, there is no ‘appeal’ process or if there is one, it was not made clear to me.
  • someone needs to take ownership. At PASS, we had a governance person who saw everything through.
  • Diversity, Equality and Inclusion training everywhere, and that includes community people. IIRC, DEI sessions at MVP Summit were optional but I’d mandate that people attend at least one session.
  • Communication is not what you say. Communication is what you get back. It is a process of negotiation, listening, and understanding. Sometimes that has to be done in slow time, over a call or getting the right people in the ‘virtual’ room.

If any of these things were in place, I was not made aware of it.

Do you believe that complaints on programs like MVP should be shared publicly?

I believe that Microsoft could take advice from organizations on implementing proper complaints processes for community groups. It should also matter even if you are not an employee.

Personally, I have had to complain publicly because I had nowhere else to go; that was kind of my point. I’m sharing publicly because I had to, and there was really no need for all of this if the above user-centred process had been in place already.

Should the community Programs be accountable to someone internally?

Yes, absolutely. There is no escalation point or ‘appeal’ course when things go wrong. Microsoft is a huge organization with resources I cannot begin to imagine, and they should be able to put their head right on it by themselves to ensure that people have somewhere to go to complain if the MVP CoC process breaks down; like an ‘Appeal Board’. It would make community groups accountable, and it would mean that they have to think better about their decisions because they need to articulate it to someone else. It would also mean better tracking, recording, and feedback to all parties.

As I understand it, my complaints were not tracked, and the information was not shared with the right people. Again, communication. I’d had a perception of the complaints process and I wasn’t advised differently; I’d assumed things were getting passed on but they were not.

So one change I’d like to see is better internal communication at Microsoft. Actually, when I think about it, I think many people would probably like that in all sorts of spheres!

I had complained about a situation a few months before I left last June, leading me to request a change from the Data Platform MVP strand to the AI MVP strand, and it was not followed up. Eventually I had a Teams call with the AI Product Group directly and explained the situation, and they had not heard anything about it. They said they’d initiate the change themselves, but then I experienced another issue and left anyway, which was a pity. So I did try and stay in the Program, and I thought that this would be a good way forward.

The information should be shared, but shared with only the right people.

What else do I specifically think would be the right thing for Microsoft to do globally to ensure that DEI is core to their DNA in everything they do?

For Microsoft specifically, I’d recommend that every partner, from top to bottom, has to show that they have done some Diversity, Inclusion and Equality training. Many partners do this anyway. By using their partnering and dollar power, they can direct other organizations to consider DEI. As I understand it, there is no current requirement for Azure third-party support partners, for example, to show that their teams have done any DEI training at all.

I am hiring at the moment, and I have asked my local Chamber of Commerce contacts to conduct DEI training as part of an employee onboarding package. We will also get ‘Mental Health First Aid’ certificates. I am also looking at an external HR service so that I can be sure that I am looking after the team properly. I also look at my suppliers, with a focus on recycling, reduced plastic usage, anti-slavery statements and so on. If I can do this, so can much bigger organizations.

Death of a Thousand Lashes

The way I see it, if they had wanted me to continue on the Program, they would have mentioned other routes of reconciliation, and encouraged conversations about increasing safe spaces, but that didn’t happen. All that happened was that people didn’t understand why I was upset, and assumed it was One Big Thing rather than ‘Death of a Thousand Lashes’ of varying severity. Obviously, people judge when they don’t have the facts but I am trying to do good things even though it’s a position of pain.

A police officer told me once that women like me do not heal as quickly, because we have to find meaning in everything. We have to ask our selves ‘why?’ and we have to find answers and meaning. Her advice: ‘Not everything has to have meaning’. I disagree. So, I tried to find a way to help other people so that I can find meaning; it means something. Not everybody has to find meaning, but I do.

FIN

To summarise, I tried to use my MVP and RD privilege for good.  I’m sure you can understand that this is an emotive and wearying topic for me. I tried for ten years to change things and ended up in a terrible place but I am trying to find some meaning, and some way to turn this into something positive.  I need time to heal and if I keep trying to change things then I’ll never find that healing ever in my life, and I think I need to try to find some healing. I’m lucky I got this far and I’d like to find some happiness. I’m not going to find that by going back to a situation which made me less.

I don’t think I’m asking too much here, and I don’t think that the above list is anything extraordinary or unreasonable.

2 thoughts on “Increasing Safety in the Tech Community”

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