On today's show we sat down with a fellow DJ turned tech professional. Be the first of all your friends to hear this fresh new episode of SnackWalls!
While the tech industry is still heavily dominated by male staff, Andrew has found that in his current position, finding diverse talent hasn't been much of a hurdle. It helps that he works at a university where there is a diverse selection of students coming through every year. Andrew thinks that the push to remove CS degree requirements for software engineering roles is a good move. There was a time when people needed to be in a university setting to learn about computer science, however that is not the case anymore. An apprenticeship model, for example, would work in tech because it provides hands on experience that is invaluable and often cannot be taught through coursework alone. In order to retain diverse talent, Andrew would advise companies to be upfront about their views and policies on diversity. The company culture and hiring processes should reflect this commitment so that every employee is on the same page.
Andrew DeGarmo is an experienced Web Development leader with a history of working in private, government (DOD) and nonprofit industries. He strives to foster a team environment where progress and accountability are front and center. With a BS in Computer Information Systems, Systems Security, he weighs in on Information Security and Assurance conversations regularly. On a personal level Andrew lives for music and so he launched a boutique record label and DJs professionally. He possesses a certificate in Music Production from the Berklee College of Music.
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Welcome back to the SnackWalls podcast. I'm Mike Roberts, your host, and we're here to talk about increasing and maintaining diversity in tech, beyond the perks. While companies think they can lure people in with unlimited PTO and dogs in the office. We're here to talk about how you keep them. All right, I'm throwing it over to our special guest today. In a few sentences can you tell us who you are and what it is that you do?Andrew:
Yeah. Hi, my name is Andrew DeGarmo and first off I'm a husband and father of two awesome kids. I manage a small team of developers for university advancement at Michigan State University. And I have a number of side hustles on any given day.Mike:
Nice. So I'll just jump right in and ask. I'm hearing from some thought leaders that finding diverse talent is a challenge. What are your thoughts?Andrew:
Yeah finding diverse talent hasn't been so much an issue as finding talent at the budget that I have, but I would say that tech is still heavily dominated by male staff. The university seems to have ironed that out to some degree, but as we have, we have more females in leadership positions, than anywhere I've worked before. But, given that we have a diverse selection of students every year, I think that has something to do with that as well.Mike:
Yeah. So I think you're addressing some of that, that pool of talent that's available. And I, I agree, I think on many of the college campuses that I'm on, very diverse background of folks and there's a lot of women in leadership. So I think maybe that's a clue for the folks outside that might be helpful. So, what do you think about the push to remove the requirement for CS degrees for many software engineering roles?Andrew:
You know thats actually, I hadn't heard of that very much until, until you brought that up. So I think that's probably a good move. There, there's obviously a need to continue growing and moving on towards, you know, newer ways of accomplishing things. There's a countless, its kind of one of those areas where regulation limits outcome. So, I have no doubt that this would make a good argument. And when I grew up, I didn't have access to a computer until I was like a teenager. But now my eight year old is making webpages in his third grade class. So, a lot of the basics that one might pick up from a computer science degree could probably easily be procured through more personal experience with a computer. But this wouldn't necessarily be attributed to any of the more niche skill sets. Those obviously having a degree to back those up would be a good move but it's not to say that you couldn't, you know, become an expert Salesforce developer, without a degree. So.Mike:
Yeah, absolutely. I think that's a, it's a sharp way of looking at it like that. I like that answer. And I mean, it's coming from the top, right? So we, we're seeing organizations like Apple, so Tim Cook, otherwise known as Tim Apple. So he basically kind of, was one of those big proponents that said, Hey, why are we doing this? Does it make sense? Are these the skills that our, all of our folks need for all of the roles that they do? And if it's not then like maybe we should rethink this. So I like your point that it could be an unnecessary barrier for some folks. What do you think about the apprenticeship pattern? Do you think it would work for more tech roles?Andrew:
Yeah, I absolutely think that an apprenticeship option would work for tech roles. But especially when you're talking on hardware side of it. I took part in a summer internship with Ball Aerospace back when I was finishing my degree. And, I got a hands on experience with, you know, running routers and switches and multiple data centers that they were running. Which was, was invaluable because I hadn't gotten any of that through coursework. And looking back, I probably should've devoted more interest into that I.T. Path.Mike:
Yeah. Although for some people they get kind of into a spot in the I.T. path and it becomes hard for them to like transition and it doesn't seem that same way in software. Like in the software path, you can often pivot and like something new comes out like blockchain and like you could just sort of like get into it and get a deep set of knowledge and be able to sort of like move into that or move into data science. It's interesting. I don't see as much in I.T. desktop support, that kind of space. It's like, go fix the printers. That's it? They're just like, would you please just go fix the printer? So, yeah, that's really interesting. What advice would you share with companies that are looking to retain diverse staff? So let's say they've done a good job of attracting diverse talent. How do you keep them?Andrew:
Yeah I think retaining diverse staff requires having the ability to discuss having a diverse staff and making this known upfront both in company culture as well as in the hiring process. So, you know, it's, I mean, you have somebody come in for an interview and you make that one of the opening lines is that you're, you support having a diverse staff and make that known so that they take that into consideration when an offer's made. But yeah, I definitely want to support this and I think that I could grow here because they are being very upfront about, you know, this being an issue. So, yeah.Mike:
Yeah. And I think to your point, a lot of organizations are feeling more comfortable having these conversations, but some still fear that like, I don't know, they'll make a mistake or they'll something wrong. And so they kind of are a little bit more like they hold back and they're not just like, look, we're trying. Which I think people will appreciate. If you just say, look, we're trying, we're trying to get better. We're trying to understand this problem a little bit better. So help us out, you know, what advice do you have, but it's that lack of transparency it's to your point, just being upfront from the very beginning and say, Hey, like, this is important to us, part of our culture. Um, I think that could be helpful, like super constructive.Andrew:
Communication is key for sure.Mike:
Yeah, absolutely. What about, who is someone like yourself that you'd like to acknowledge as a leader and you think it might be a good guest on a podcast like this?Andrew:
You know I could list off a number of people just in the university, but yeah, I'll probably, I'll shoot you a list of potentials.Mike:
Sweet. Where can we find out more information about either you or anything you got working and working on at the university? This is the time for shameless plugs.Andrew:
Sure, sure. So I'm in the middle of a pretty big Salesforce implementation right now. So we're, we're switching over a system that's been around for the last 20 years. And I mean it's 20 years old. Um, and, uh, so that's been taken up a lot of my time lately, but yeah, outside of work I run a small boutique record label. Primarily in the house, techno, deep house kind of genre, but, yeah, you can find information on that at StayUp.us. I also have a Bandcamp set up with StayUp.Bandcamp.com. We've got a few releases out there, both digital and vinyl. Um, and, uh, and then my LinkedIn page has all of my professional.Mike:
Nice. I like it. So we'll throw those links into the show notes. At one time in my life, I was a DJ, so it is near and dear to my heart. Especially if you're cutting, cutting vinyl like that. Yeah I was definitely around in the time before we had, I remember it was a big deal. We had CD players and I was like, telling my boss, look, we gotta get this in the booth. And he's like, I'm not paying for that thing. Like, look, I'm lugging these big crates of records around. You're going to get this thing. So I don't have to take these crates down here every, every weekend. What's the benefit. I'll tell you the benefit, my back. So, last question. What have you been snacking on lately? What's your favorite snack?Andrew:
Man uh, honey roasted cashews are my weakness.Mike:
Ohh, that's good. Gosh, of all the nuts cashews are, they're the most dangerous cause they get that little sweet vibe to them. So you just keep eating, you want more and more. And so, man, I like that. That's a good one. We have few minutes left, so we could do one of a couple of things we could either end early. You could ask me a question you could talk about, you know, something else that you're into. What would you like to do?Andrew:
Well, what kind of music did you use to play?Mike:
Ooh, that's a good question. So I was mostly hip hop and I worked in the only, so we're really close to the border here in San Diego. So I worked in the only hip hop club south of the border and so it's no longer hip hop clubs. It's very different now, but, it was kind of interesting being in that position where my parents were certainly not happy about me crossing the border like every weekend. And, I loved it because it was, it was definitely a great, experience, in that like hip hop, audiences, they will let you know if they don't like something, like if I'm trying to break a record, they'll let you know right away. Nope. This ain't working. Where just going to get off the dance floor and just mean mug you. And Im just like, you dont know this song is going to be the jam in like six weeks. So you've heard it here first. Sorry.Andrew:
That's the blessing and the curse of being a DJ is you get all the new music, before everybody else. But yeah, no I definitely, I started out my first DJ, experience was in high school. I did a dance and I had an a hundred dollars mixer from radio shack, a portable CD player on one channel and, a deck CD player for the other one and it was rough. But, but yeah, it's great experience. I, I still play on occasionally, just not, I don't have time. So.Mike:
Yeah, I mean, I, I wish I could. At one point one of my roommates that I was living with at some point stole or allegedly stole my turn table. And so then I didnt have turning tables anywhere, more for a really long time, but I keep saying that once I get my stuff together and I get a little bit of, you know, side cash, I'll probably set up another little music room and stuff, so we'll see. But it's, it was definitely a cause that's how I kind of shifted into software engineering was just like, I gotta get out of this because this is just a, this is not a healthy environment, the best way to describe it. What's the opposite of this. What is the other skill I have that I'm pretty decent at, and it was, you know, writing software. So it was a good logical choice, but DJing was fun. So awesome. Well, I appreciate you coming on the program, Andrew, this has been a super fun and yeah, just thanks a lot for sharing your, your advice.Andrew:
Yeah, thanks for having me. It was a, it was a good time.Mike:
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