Velocity NY Speaker Preview: Bryan Liles of DigitalOcean

— This is Part 1 of Load Impact’s Velocity NY Preview Series. Load Impact is chatting with some of the cutting-edge developers and executives who will be speaking at Velocity NY Oct. 12-14.

Bryan Liles of DigitalOcean isn’t looking to solve the diversity and inclusion problem in tech, but he knows he can leave the industry better than he found it.

Bryan’s Velocity keynote, The Darker Side of Tech, will explore the cognitive biases that prevent people from trying new software or new development processes and hiring from a more diverse pool of employees and executives.

“People’s biases are not allowing them to see the problems they are causing,” Bryan said. “It’s not just about diversity — it’s about inclusion.”

The problem of inclusion in tech (and many other industries) is systemic in the United States. It started with hundreds of years of people not getting opportunities based on race, religion and economic standing.

Bryan’s presentation at Velocity will relate operating system bias to racial bias — not something people might expect — but it makes perfect sense after brief examination.

As an example of how bias can hinder technical progress, Bryan will point to the genesis of Linux and how decision-makers’ bias blinded them from something amazing for years. While its beginnings are traced back to 1991, it took nearly two decades for many mainstream companies to understand the power and security of Linux and implement it.

As Jeffrey Hammond of Forrester Research said in 2010, “Linux has crossed the chasm into mainstream adoption.”

But why did it take so long for people to see the light on Linux, and how will Bryan compare that to inclusion in tech?

“People only know what they know, and we’re missing out on extremely smart people when our biases get in the way,” Bryan said.

So, it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about adopting Linux or hiring someone from an “urban” area with a “black” or “ethnic” name. Either way, decision-makers hurt their company by not giving every option and candidate a fair chance to succeed — even if they don’t know they’re doing it.

One of the barriers Bryan has encountered when giving this kind of presentation is it can make people uncomfortable, which is somewhat understandable. However, he knows that’s not a good reason to shy away from talking about it. Bryan’s seen plenty of people shuffle for the door when he’s started to make points about inclusion in previous talks, and that doesn’t help anybody.

“Whenever I’m saying this, I’m not saying that you personally are a racist,” Bryan said. “I’m saying the people who benefit from this aren’t doing enough to make it better.”

One of the promising things we’re seeing is technology has become more available for a wider demographic, and Bryan noted that can help break down some of the barriers people have to entering the tech industry.

Even then, it’s important to consider that schools like Stanford, MIT and Carnegie Mellon are incredibly expensive and still aren’t reasonably available for everyone. So, the deep roots of the problem will take time to remove.

Bryan is adamant that a couple of keynotes and editorials aren’t going to fix the problem, but again, he doesn’t want us to “solve” anything right now.

“All we need to think about is a bunch of little wins,” he said. “If we can make it better for this guy, or this girl, and they can pay it forward, we’ll be better off than we once were, and that’s all I’m trying to do.”

“I just want to leave the things I touched better off than how I found them.”

— Check out Bryan’s keynote and many more at Velocity NY. Use this coupon code — RAGNAR20 — for 20 percent off your pass. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.

Contact us anytime on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn and let us know if you’re attending Velocity. We’re always happy to meet up and chat.

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Velocity 2015 in Santa Clara: Highlights

(Photo Courtesy of O'Reilly Conferences Flickr)

We love what we do, and there’s nothing better than engaging a conference with hundreds of like-minded people.

Velocity 2015, in beautiful Santa Clara, Calif., served as another reminder that not only are we in the right business, but we’re in a competitive space surrounded by brilliant professionals who genuinely care about making the Internet a better place for everyone.

After a weekend to think about all the great stuff we saw, here are a few highlights.

Securing Organizations through Bad Behavior

Speaker: Laura Bell, CEO of SafeStack

Overview: This talk challenged the audience to think like a hacker with bad intentions. What better way to secure your organization than to think about what you would want to steal — whether that’s money, information, etc.

We highly recommend you watch this presentation because not only is it incredibly thoughtful and informative, but we think you’ll really enjoy Laura’s style and delivery.

Putting Web Performance Best Practices Together

Speaker: Chris Love of Love2Dev

Overview: In this 90-minutes session, Chris covered the best practices in web performance optimization for single-page applications, which included info from his appropriately named book.

The presentation held the attention of a packed ballroom that seated at least 300 people, and even included a large group of standing-room only spectators.

Chris also provided one of Velocity’s most impactful visual highlights — a slide claiming "the web is obese" with some interesting statistics on the average website. Although, there might be something else in the picture that grabbed people’s attention.

DevOps Kung Fu for Everyone

Speaker: Adam Jacob, CTO of Chef

Overview: While Chef was at the forefront of the DevOps movement, Adam’s presentation was about how the methodology doesn’t really “belong” to anyone in particular. In fact, plenty of companies are now moving to DevOps, and it’s fair to say no two processes look the same.

Here’s Adam giving this presentation at ChefCon earlier this year. The information is great, and it’s definitely worth watching for a well-placed Dave Chappelle/Wu Tang Clan reference in the middle.

API Marketing

Speaker: Vanessa Meyer, Marketing Director at Load Impact

Overview: And last, but certainly not least, Load Impact’s Vanessa Meyer owned the main stage and talked about using APIs as a marketing tactic.

Vanessa taught attendees how in some cases an API is a company’s core product, and in other cases a company’s API can be used as an effective growth hacking tool.

Check out the presentation below, and feel free to leave comments if you want to chat about it.

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