‘Nothing Special’: Rohan Gunatillake on Mindfulness In Design

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Photo by Ashley Baxter

I don’t know how it works but there are moments in life when someone says something which stays with you forever. All of us will have our own different examples of this: wise advice from a friend, an inspiring phrase from a book, or even something from a political speech full of hope. Words which have that magical quality of our hearing them at what feels like the perfect time so that they resonate both in that moment and also when we remember them again and again in the future. Read More

Jules Walter on Diversity in Tech: The Unspoken Empathy Gap

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Photo by Scott Schiller

Ken Norton recently published a great piece about the importance of authenticity and psychological safety in order to help teams succeed. In his article, he cites research from Google that suggests psychological safety is the most predictive characteristic of successful teams. As a minority working in tech, this article brought to mind a pressing question: given the lack of diversity in tech, how can tech workers foster a psychologically safe environment for minorities, many of whom struggle just to be their true selves at work? For me, it starts with empathy. Read More

Tammie Lister: Design for Humans, Not Robots

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Before I begin this article, let me set something straight. I am not saying robots aren’t awesome — they totally are. Robots are amazing. However, beyond comic book robots, there is this discourse between humans and robots. Robots are ‘near human’. We as humans have this fascination with robots. We play with them as toys, we make them in our own image. We have even developed robots with emotional states, that mimic, that care for us. Read More

Jewel Burks: How My Identity Impacted My Business

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Photo by Loyall Hart

“Is your leadership team still black?”

I will never forget when a venture capitalist asked me this in a meeting. Much had changed since the last time my black co-founder, black CTO and I had connected with this insensitive investor, but certainly not that. I answered in the affirmative and quickly, awkwardly ended the meeting. The firm did not invest. Perhaps it was our business model they didn’t like.

This was one of the most overt, but certainly not the only time, my identity was at the center of an outsider’s analysis of the worth of my company. I started Partpic because I observed a significant pain point that I wanted to solve. While working at an industrial distribution company, I found our customers struggling to describe the parts they wanted to purchase from us. Agents on my team would try their best but often err in trying to help customers locate products. Based on customer feedback, it seemed taking a picture would be a better way to search for items that were not labeled with a part name or number. Partpic was created to solve this problem for everyone. We built a computer vision API that can recognize part images and match them to a specific SKU. Read More

Saron Yitbarek: ‘I Don’t Belong in Tech’

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When I was at NPR years ago, I did a story on public education in California. I don’t remember the angle, but I remember looking up a stat to use in the script. I used that stat in a few places, and after fact-checking, I realized there was an updated number available. I went back and changed the references to the new number, relieved that I’d caught this mistake before handing over my script to the host. But I missed one. I heard it over the speakers when Michelle Martin, the host, read it out loud during the interview, and my heart stopped. I knew it was my duty to report it, so I went up to my editor and told her. She didn’t say anything, but I could feel her disappointment in me. I melted into a pool of shame. Read More

Justin Dunn on Coding A New Path to the Championship

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Photo by Patrick Dunn.

Growing up, I had one dream and one dream only—that was to play ball. While my friends were gearing up for summer breaks filled with swimming and barbecues, I competed in basketball tournaments across the country. I was a star in my region and flourished against guys that were nationally known. My commitment to basketball as a means of success is not a foreign concept in the inner city. Like most Black males, my only exposure to the achievements of men who looked like me was through watching sports. When I saw Allen Iverson or Tracy McGrady play, instinctively I saw myself. Therefore, basketball for as long as I could remember was all I knew. Read More

John Palfrey on The Paradox of Tolerance

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Photo by Dave White.

Co-Editor’s Note: Two weeks ago, I was lucky to be introduced to John Palfrey’s open note to his campus. It has stayed with me as the clearest piece of creative writing on the vital topic of inclusion. —JM

We teach more than just mathematics, science, writing and reading, languages, the arts, and other academic topics in our schools. We also teach character and moral development. Many schools do so explicitly, through the lessons that we choose; all schools do so implicitly, through the personal examples that teachers, coaches, and principals set for our students. Whether parents like it or not, there is no way for teachers to avoid teaching character to some extent; after all, our students are watching us as they learn. Read More

Alisha Ramos: Embracing My Mixed Race, Hybrid Identity

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This piece was originally published in my weekly newsletter on mixed race, Mixed Feelings.


In high school I was president of the Asia Club for two years. The club had members from various Asian backgrounds such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Indian. We were the crown jewel of every international/cultural event or competition at our public high school in suburban North Carolina. We would really bring it—from colorful dance performances to amazingly delicious, aromatic foods. Everyone knew the Asia Club was a force to be reckoned with, and I was damn proud of that little club for those two years. Read More

Lauren McCarthy on Building an Inclusive Open Source Community for Creators

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What I appreciate most about being an artist is the community. While some might imagine the lone artist toiling in their studio, what I have experienced is artists coming together on the internet and in-person, sharing ideas and questions, and finding ways to work together. One way this happens is through the creation, modification, and sharing of tools for artmaking. Read More