There are ‼️too many fantastic female software developers‼️.

It’s a problem.

I’ve worked with a lot of women over the (many) years I’ve run my software business.

And nearly all have been absolutely amazing. I mean, I’m probably a 10x programmer (post on that coming soon – it’s nothing to do with your skills at coding) but they’ve all been (almost😉) as good as me.

But that’s actually a problem.

Look around you.

There are a few women who are really really good.

There are a few men who are really really good.

And then there are lots and lots of men who are “just OK”.

🔍 Where are the women who are “just OK”? 🔎

Why aren’t they there?

It’s because men get to coast.

They get to make mistakes and speak in meetings and put forward ideas – even if they’re not great.

But women get driven out.

Every mistake is pounced on, they are talked over in meetings and their ideas are ignored (until a bloke suggests the same thing twenty minutes later).

And there’s only so long anyone can stand it before they get out and move somewhere more welcoming.

So, having only amazing women in software is a problem.

We need more mediocre women.

Because that’s how we’ll know we’re making a difference.

How to change someone’s life

Many years ago, all the way back in 2005, I had a corporate job.

It wasn’t a huge firm, but it was multi-national. I was a software developer, then a senior, then I became Technical Director.

As part of my work, I needed to simplify some code we were using, so I did some research. And I found this thing open source called “ActiveRecord”. It was written in a language I’d heard of, but never used, called “Ruby” – and it looked like exactly the sort of thing I needed. I thought I’ll study how it works, then copy it over into our system.

But as I delved deeper into how it worked, I discovered the rest; all the stuff that came with ActiveRecord. For those Rubyists out there, you’ll know that that means Ruby on Rails – a framework for developing web-based software that, a couple of years later, would take the world by storm – and still powers some of the biggest websites in the world.

More than Rails, though, I also discovered 37Signals and David Heinemeier Hansson. He had created Rails (and ActiveRecord) as part of their brand new “Basecamp” project management tool. And as I learnt more and more about Basecamp, DHH and 37Signals, I became entranced.

Because 37Signals wasn’t your ordinary web development agency.

They had principles. They took a stand.

Ruby on Rails was inefficient by most standards, because it prioritised “developer happiness” over code speed. Developer Happiness? When was the last time you heard of a technical tool that prioritises a person’s happiness?

Basecamp was simplistic by most standards, because it prioritised communicating with your clients over project management systems. Communication? In a project management tool.

And 37Signals took a stand against toxic work cultures, against Venture Capitalist culture and against long hours.

In those early years, I used to exchange regular emails with David (I doubt he’ll remember me now) and we met once, at RubyConf in Berlin (when I was working with Brightbox, another pioneering Ruby on Rails company and still the best place I’ve ever worked). He was always gracious, always friendly and always willing to help.

You might think that this is a nice tale and all, but you’ll never get real success that way. But you’d be wrong. 37Signals (now called Basecamp) is a multi-million dollar company – but they still fight to keep the company small so they can remain true to their values. DHH is a multi-millionaire himself, but he still speaks out against toxic work cultures. And Basecamp is still my favourite project management tool – because it’s still incredibly simple and just designed around getting out of your way.

What’s the point in all this?

Well, DHH is proof that, if you stand up for what you believe in, if you stick with it and you bring people with you, you can get there. Things don’t have to stay the same. You might not change the world, but you can change your world and the world of those around you.

What happened to loyalty?

I remember when I had a job working for another company.

It wasn’t a huge corporate, it was a relatively small company, with a lot of software developers based in India, and a smaller team based in the UK.

I was quite senior, and I really believed in the company.

But, at the back of my mind, I just felt like I was being taken advantage of.

Long hours. Carrying the weight of the company on my shoulders. Having to go above and beyond every day.

Questions would race through my mind.

When does life get better?

When do I start making money?” (I wasn’t really after money but I did want to live a decent life and take the odd trip away)

I want to make a difference but I’m wondering if I’m just burnt out

And then I would think about loyalty.

Don’t I owe it to them to stay? Don’t I owe it to them to give it everything?

The turning point was when we had a total disaster. I had been working 16 hour days for weeks. It was tough. And things still failed, we lost a significant amount of money and we had to sack a number of staff.

It was horrible and I took it very badly.

Then one day, my friend said to me “I don’t understand why you blame yourself – I’ve seen how hard you’ve worked for the bosses and you can’t blame yourself for all the things that went wrong – it was their decisions that lead to this

That was a trigger for me.

Why was I being loyal?

Why was I working so hard for these people?

Why was my well-being tied to people who were making bad decisions, who were making choices that lead to others losing their jobs?

And that’s when I decided I was going to figure out how to start up on my own.

At least that way, my fate would be in my own hands.

If I succeeded, it was down to me. If I failed, it was down to me.

And my loyalty would be to people who deserved it.

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