Recruiting via GitHub and Unintentional Biases

My GitHub Commit History

I would like to talk about unintentional basis for a moment.

The above chart is my own commit history (on my personal account) on GitHub right now. Not a single one. Pretty terrible, right? Some people in our industry think so. I linked to this blog post only because it’s the most recent one I read – I’ve read others like this, too, recently.

Now, taking this with a grain of salt because it’s written by a recruiter with a decade of experience working at RedHat, I want to talk about two points.

The first, and least important, is that GitHub is just one of many Version Control Systems in wide use today. To claim that it’s the “social network of code” is very misleading. It’s popular with open source projects… but lots of really talented and amazing engineers work on proprietary systems that aren’t tracked in GitHub. I happen to be one of these.

VCSes are, by their very nature, suppose to be boring. They’re just a tool for tracking changes and promoting collaboration between engineers. Tools like this date as far back as to the 1970s. There’s a bunch of them on the market. They’re designed to get out of the engineer’s way, and let them focus on code.

I work on a legacy codebase at work that pre-dates GitHub by many years. We have a well established set of processes and scripts built around the VCS we use, and they’re working for us. It’s fun to think about adopting a new one, but let’s be honest, our current one works, and we’d rather focus our efforts on making cool things. We don’t want to take the productivity hit fixing something that isn’t really broken.

I work with some amazing engineers who create awesome things, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at our GitHub commit history. (I’d rather you look at the stuff we produce instead!)
The second point, however, is far more important.

This blog dances around it (most likely wisely, because this comes up a lot), but I’ve read several that suggest that “always be coding” (ABC) means that it doesn’t matter if you work on a proprietary codebase that’s under lock and key – all good engineers will spend their weekends and evenings writing code as a side project.

This is crazy.

I work with some really talented engineers whose “side projects” include things like “raising a family.”

Just in my circle of friends and coworkers, I know people that do things after work hours like participate in community theater, volunteer at a suicide hotline, be a parent to multiple children, care for animals in a shelter, contribute to grassroots political campaigns, write novels, and help create safe spaces for closeted LGBT people that are in need of someone to talk to. Each of these examples is from an amazingly talented and awesome engineer that any company would love to have on staff – but you’d never know it by their GitHub contributions.
Don’t let a tool like GitHub inject unintentional biases into your recruiting processes. It’s a pretty slick VCS, yeah, but remember that it’s just one of many… and you’re going to miss out of some amazing people.

April <3

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