Bias, Tolerance, and Test-Driven Development

Today, we are thrilled to welcome Saleem Siddiqui to the show. Saleem is a leading technologist, agile coach and author of O’Reilley’s “Learning Test-Driven Development”.

I define culture mathematically. It’s a sum of actions you do, things you support, and things you tolerate. “

Watch the full interview episode.

Saleem Siddiqui

Technologist, Keynote Speaker, Author

Saleen, you have been an Agile coach for many years. What inspires you in coaching?

The ability to influence and boost the careers of others, not necessarily mould them in one’s form, is the greatest inspiration and privilege you can have. My coaching and teaching happen in the context of the teams that I work with. I pay forward to others by coaching in agile practices, extreme programming, XP practices, test-driven development, pair programming, continuous integration, continuous delivery. 

Many women aspiring to build their careers in tech report bias in the hiring process. Do you believe gender-blind decision-making can help the situation? 

I certainly do. A vivid example can be the music industry. For decades, many believed that women couldn’t play certain instruments in an orchestra; they either didn’t have the lung power to play the saxophone or muscles to play the drums. This pseudoscience theory would exclude women from key positions in the orchestra around the world.

Now, most orchestras do anonymous auditioning. Musicians play their music behind a curtain, and judges only hear music. In that way, it turned out that more women get qualified to become professional musicians. We can apply this method to minimize gender bias in technology and in coding. Because when you’re analyzing code, you don’t need to know anything about the software developer’s demographics. The quality of code is the only thing we need to care about.

Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash

You’ve been in IT for over two decades. How could you compare the culture of engineers when you started your career and now? 

I define culture with a small letter “c” without getting into the organizational culture, global culture, or any notion such as Western culture or Eastern culture. I define culture mathematically. It’s a sum of actions you do, things you support, and things you tolerate. If you accept that definition, you have to peel back a layer and say, what are the things you do, support, or tolerate that have changed over time? The abysmal record of equitable salaries and hiring for women and marginalized groups is something we used to tolerate. Now, we don’t tolerate intolerance. That’s a part of the culture that has changed.

Recently you wrote the book “Learning Test-Driven Development. Could you elaborate on the technique’s benefits and what keeps it from becoming a standard for coding?

Test-Driven Development (TDD) is the most effective coding technique and one of the latest approaches that has become popular in the agile software development niche. 

However, rigorous testing of a product’s performance is often seen as less important than hitting a project’s deadline in the chase for speed. Many people who have more of a managerial bent as opposed to a software engineering bent see TDD as a waste of time. They miss a larger picture of the failing test that will keep us on track. An excellent way to put guardrails around your work is to write a failing test first and then write just enough code that will pass the test. You couldn’t have written superfluous code if your code had passed the test. 

Saleem, it’s been a delight to have you on the show. We’d love to have you back. Thank you so much.

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