From hairdresser to software developer – diversity in our development teams is a strength

Published Jul 3, 2023, 10:00 AM
Written by Kandice Stern

From hairdresser to software developer. Past career experiences give our teams the edge.

It makes sense to match the diversity in our communities with diversity within our software development teams

I remember the podcast that galvanised me into pursuing my degree in Business Information and Technology.

The podcast was about techno-chauvinism where NYU Associate Professor, data journalist, AI researcher, and author Meredith Broussard discussed her book Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World, where she talked about how racism plays a part in the current state of Artificial Intelligence. 

Assoc Prof Broussard talks about the limitations of only having certain kinds of people working as software developers – they miss a lot of important, and sometimes essential information, because they simply haven’t experienced what their users experience, and they haven’t built in a method of testing what they make with a wide enough sample of real users.

She gave some examples of ways in which homogenous teams can produce systems with inherent bias. For example, Apple released their Apple Health to use a person’s iPhone to track every aspect of their health and activity, but it didn’t include a menstrual cycle tracker even though half the population will menstruate at some point in their lives. 

In another example, she mentions a viral video of a ‘racist soap dispenser’ and comments that a lack of diversity within development and testing departments leads to outcomes like this, where developers of a touchless soap dispenser didn’t realise that it would work less often on people with darker skintones.

Fixing biased technology starts with changing our idea of what developers look like and building technology with more diverse teams.

We need all kinds of diversity in our software teams

Yes, we need diversity when it comes to race, gender or socio-economic background. We also need to embrace differences in personality and experience in other industries. People have doubted my abilities because I'm so friendly and personable and because I'm a former hairdresser.

My experience as a hairdresser gives me an edge other developers might not have

As a hairdresser I learned the importance of actively listening to customers and taking time to genuinely connect with them. When it comes to hairdressing and most other kinds of business, people might come for a service, product or some information, however they’ll return because you gave them a terrific experience. 

I focus on people, on what they say verbally and non-verbally.

I’m always thinking about what an experience is like for someone, and how we can improve it. I also try to educate myself about how biases like racism, sexism, ableism, etc. are embedded in the systems we use every day

This shows up in my interest in accessible, inclusive and human-centred web design. I’ve really enjoyed learning more about developing software to be inclusive to a broader range of customers, and trying out a range of accessibility testing tools. 

I’m a non-typical software developer

I’m happy to say that I’m a non-typical software developer working with lots of other non-typical software developers at Symbiote. 

Working in a diverse group means that we’re familiar with, and remember to remain curious about things relating to age, different cultural or socio-economic backgrounds, parenting and caring responsibilities, disabilities and health challenges and LGBTIQA+ issues.  

I’m here to celebrate that I’m a woman who’s very much a people person. I love writing code because I love working with people. It's an honour to be able to create technology that improves people's lives. And I'm passionate about becoming the best developer I can be.

It’s time to break down the stereotype that developers are introverted, quiet guys who prefer to keep their headphones on, and encourage diversity in development teams.


Hey I'm Kandice

I love working at Symbiote because I get to work on projects that positively impact people's lives alongside a diverse team of highly-skilled people.

Kandice Stern - Front-end Developer - Breaker of stereotypes

Team member

Kandice Stern - Front-end Developer - Breaker of stereotypes

A motif of six squares arranged in a grid pattern with three squares on top and three squares on the bottom

I love working at Symbiote because I get to work on projects that positively impact people's lives alongside a diverse team of highly-skilled people.

Kandice Stern - Front-end Developer - Breaker of stereotypes