I have worked with all sorts of people, conservatives, ex-military personnel, liberals, hippies, jocks, homosexuals and a whole lot more. IT and software development attract a lot of different people. I never really cared what their religious beliefs or political views were because it has no relevance to their work. I also try to avoid these types of discussions because they never end well. Religious and political discussions are not about facts and statistics, they are about belief systems. When people challenge something that you have believed in all of your life, you are probably going to get defensive, very defensive.
So, in my work, I choose to separate belief systems from the person. I judge people based on their work, because that is what is relevant to my daily job. That is why when I see people who are respected for their work get attacked for their political beliefs, I get upset. Reem Abeidoh knows what she is doing when she talks about social media. As she relates the story on her blog, she was headed to a user group meeting to discuss social media’s impact on business. A few minutes before leaving she receives an email containing the following:
Are you out of your mind. [Reem Abeidoh] is a left wing loon. No way am I attending this event. Her praise of Olbermann is enough to tell me she is way out in left field. How can I trust anyone’s expertise who is so misguided? Furthermore, this particular event is pretty useless for most if not all of us serious Engineers. Next time please get a topic that is more relevant and a bit more intellectual. Also more of a heads up would be appreciated.
I will not get into whether having her speak at the user group was relevant to their topic, as that is their decision. However, I take offense to one line in this quote, “How can I trust anyone’s expertise who is so misguided?” This worries me on many levels. What if I challenged someone based on their religious beliefs? I could say that someone is inherently an idiot because they are Jewish and do not believe that Jesus Christ was the savior like many people in the world do. This type of behavior is ridiculous. By now, we should know that intelligent people come from all races, religions, political parties and ages.
In today’s hyper-connected world, you can learn something from someone who lives an 18 hour flight away. You may not know what they look like, what they do for a living or even how old they are. I also consider myself a “serious engineer” when it comes to software development. In development, you need to read constantly as you never know what the new tools, techniques or technologies could be. You need to listen when other people are speaking, and you need to find opinions that disagree with your own. Having your own opinions challenged requires you to think about why you had the opinion in the first place. Maybe you did not have enough information originally, and now, by knowing more you can make a more appropriate decision.
My favorite tactic is to try to explain something to my children. When it comes to web development, even for a social media site, ask a child to see if they know how to use the site. My 8-year old daughter once complained that one of her game sites was “sucky”. The reason was, she could not figure out what was a game, what was video and what was an advertisement. She was the target audience for the site in question. We sent the site an email. Who did they learn from?