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#52 Raising The Bar


Leslie Miley went from being a college dropout to Twitter's only black engineer in a leadership position. So why did he quit? Also a brand new Yes Yes No.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This episode is brought to you by better for him a new podcast from eighty people. In each episode Francesca Ramsay talks to visionaries in business leaders about mistakes. They ve made how they work their way through them and came out better for it. Listen on sport FI or wherever you get your podcast. This episode is brought to you by a Sana, a saga is an app designed to help teams, plan, organise and execute all the work they do together. It helps you. Extra sure nothing falls through the cracks, so you can focus on the work that matters most learn more Try us honour for free visit, assign a dot com to get started. That's a ass, a dot com. From gimlet? This reply I am, he gave and I'm out Goldman Do you think we're about doing it, and I fell. Same thing, that an open and fair manner-
That's literally. All I know about sports is the song, for football. Is that the sulphur forgets called the sun for football? Are you it s also vote by your member Hank Williams. The Hank Limbs Junior did that's on. I know the songs for football, that's cool is this week we have, as we ve ever, really Surprising, great peace that you reported, but that is in the second half of the show. First, going to yes? Yes, now, let's go welcome to yes. Yes, no, these went on the show where we treat our boss like our dad and walk through the internet and explain things to him a myth. These injuries get more and more humiliating. This, of course, Airbus Alex Bloomberg thanks for doing this again, Sir to embarrass you, but it seems like you like it cause you keep coming back. Well,
I learned things along the way. That's that that's a good big! I too there's a tweet and its from twitter username kept simple kept underscore simple and their tweet reads as follows: Contrast, the strong virile power ball with baby eight, the powerless White Kuc bow to veto, would do you know of the street means I can see some like I can see that some iceberg over the water, but I dont know how just answer the question I know now. I kind and now ass common to note this treatment. Yes, I do you fully now yes, Alex Bloomberg. Do you know what this means? I do that What Alex, how far do you may get em before yell ass me yeah I get lost at I get lost. At contrast, the to contrast, the strong virile power ball with Bebe lasted BB, eight baby.
Dash it ok, but before that you know, do you know right now that the power of all lotteries super high, yet the power by lotteries a billion dollars that I now cause, I'm a human being. Ok, I wasn't calling into question we'll be eight, is no. I don't know who BB ages. A lot of human beings, most human beings. I saw there there's a there's a new movie out so little movie, it's called star wars, refuge, joke eye and ear. Member! Aren't you d to an old saward movies? Yes, I do. Is the one that I spoke in beeps right, there's a new dry that always basin beeps. His aim should be eight. He looks like a volleyball with another volleyball on top of him, he Rosa the timely says like proper, and that's, his holdings very cute, he's very got it we have now. MAX out of my knowledge of this tree errors and what a cut ball is. Why there being compared so there's very specific reason why this person uses the phrase powerless of white cock ball and we're about to dive into this
because already like one that I'm gonna wanna not save in my brain, is that true? I'm really excited about were about to go. Okay, so are you familiar the slang term cock as unlike cock old yeah? So it's become this sort of catch all word for like a A minute cowardly men, people, Carbon Cox, there is a new people which people well New York Times article not that long ago, about how the phrase right which is to mean Republican in name, only has sort of Ben supplanted by the phrase cock serve active. Ok O cock is a slang term for like a cowardly, helpless creature of hay and As you predicted now we now we're gonna, take a dip in the man s sphere of her don't cooking weapons. They take
I'm afraid we can't I'm afraid. That's that's! That's how it has to be presented. The man is we're being there is a specific, part of the internet and I'm not sure if they self identifies the man a sphere, but there is a. There is like a sort of constant snuff blogs that are men's. Its activists and they are sort of white supremacist adjacent. So our wars. The force awakens came out yes late last month, yep too much critical acclaim now I know this is and one of the things that people were Varick excited about was the fact that it had a female protagonists and a black protagonist cod but there was a certain subset of the internet, was very mad about this. There are he meant was that re my main themes character, use the forced to
well too early in the series like you didn't get trained enough and they are like, of course they would make a woman so good at the force. That was really like a serious argument. There that was waning about fictional fantasy. Affirmative action, yes like there was saying like? Oh you, you, like Sheila, got separated the force, because she is aware that the main thing she a spot that a white man could have got into the jet. I gotta me: you took a vague that was born in a fantasy world, that a fake white man and that Benazir good have taken many other, basically in image, popped up from Fourchan, and it was all about how this movie was all about empowering people of. And women, and the only character for white men to identify with was the powerless wait. Cock ball, the
You know I hears here's my question: how far did they get into the movie cause harm solo comes back very quickly weight, but what does that have to do with contrast? The strong virile power ball. Someone's making a joke about. What's going on right now with the lottery, you're like the lottery is so big and strong right now, at one point, three billion dollars and whenever it is at this point, compare that with the low the powerless when male surrogate, the Ball Drugget front start work, the force awakens. How so, I think we're yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, would you like to explain back to us exactly what you weren't? Ok, once again the tweet contrast: the strong bureau power ball with Bb. Eight, the powerless white cut ball, so kept simple. Making an absurd is complete.
And between all the power by lottery, which is over a billion dollars right now. I think at the time of the saving in way with be eight, who is the new are to do new style character in the latest, STAR wars movie and be eight, I now know- is in the man s sphere, a section of the internet that up until through you know, half an hour ago, no existed, and I wish I was back there now just now, there's no! I am not convinced that the man is fear. Dipping into the master exists outside our governments, like Google search. No, no, no man is fear, is a real thing. The man, a sphere just Google. It. Opec has of Wikipedia Injury, yeah manage sphere, sorry, just as aid theirs. This development- is fear: dot com- oh my god. Ok, I'm done he resigned from internet. I'm gonna so anyway, so there's a secondary caught them, the men of Europe, one that people from Mass Europe. And fortune. That did the only
actor in star wars. Moves that they can identify with. Was that quote: powerless White cut ball, and that is the comment on Fourchan that kept simple is referencing in his securing tweet Yeah, where it? Yes, yes, yes, I, like always that's why we give to industry ourselves. One day. Why the way it's? Why do we keep entering gotcha? I was excited and pay you back do that that young innocent ask Limburg like twenty minutes ago, who was very excited when you, when you were about to launch into the story of the powerless white cock ball, and I was so excited that you're going to take me to a place of wonder. I mean I would call it a place of There you have it, you think it can be right back to future one wherever ones on hover boards. Basic back to future, too, were like the mean guys in charge into this Toby
Those things have gone back to the future, to I'm so sorry to break it to you all of back to the future. One takes place, another nineteen, eighty, five, nineteen, fifty five, it's in the second when they go to toy fifteen. I hate you. Are you crazy? No joy, really gonna fuckin human corrections column If it makes you feel any better? I pronounce everything wrong and I dont know what any words mean coming up after the break. Where do you keep your catch up? Stick around This episode is brought to you by better for it a new podcast from eighty peed hosted by Francesca Ramsay. We all make mistakes better, for it looks at how
stakes have shaped the lives and careers of visionaries and business leaders and helps them think differently about what their working for you'll hear from an entrepreneur who ventured out on his, and so I went out. I took seven hundred dollars. I had in the bank, but my own pickup truck, took some flyers business cards and later I had a business and in aid our role breaker, whose learned why we all care about work in the first place, but you are proud of the work, do you want to be able to tell your friends about it? You want to be able to feel like you're, making a different you'll hear how they work their way through their mistakes and came out better for him. The non Spotify or wherever you get your PA casts. This episode is brought to you by a Sana picture there, a world where you spend less time juggling email meetings and status, updates and, more time doing the work that matters the most your team, that's the world economy
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When I think of Silicon Valley, I think of his playground for rich techie guys, you know offices would be bag, chairs, ping pong tables ex boxes. I don't ever picture neighbour these are the people who live there and have actual, not venture capital lives. But there's this guy Snails, Leslie Miley he's a big. Shot in Silicon Valley, world he's worked at Apple, Google, Yahoo and he's different than most of his peers and a couple ways. First of all, his black and and he grew up in Silicon Valley. Just a cup miles away from all the companies they later worked at, but it might as well have been a different country. I reached him at his house I was talking about innovative and you don T sometimes one school was not fun. I'm African American, I'm gonNa Leslie, And you know it did. Who farm mainly hispanic neighbourhood back then Leslie That's just another found its way into the
a General Motors Assembly Line worker Anna stayed home mom trying to avoid getting beat up on the way home from school so? I would like take these really circuitous routes home and I walked for extra malls and you know just whatever I could cite a boy. You know where I know these guys right now. And- and I just went into- I don't know like- I can't live like a computer older, I can't remember the name of it and you know I would go in there, and I saw these these. What I thought were just video game machines and, after like a day to apply them. They're, like ever gonna hang out here. You learn to do something more than just play. Video games, and so they popped in like a programme of language and that's how I muttering, then they would sit and they would sit with me and you know the point arisen in our task to do, and then I could play a game a few years later, Leslie went away to college, but after a couple semesters he dropped out and he found himself back and said
took a job as a security guard, an apple in the nineties, because I had some programme experience, had hang out with the old school programmers when bathing six or seven days, and they taught me a lot so that's how I got started. They found its way into the Tec World fifteen years ago. Doing back end, on software Walmart and from there he went on to work at some of the biggest companies in Silicon Valley, Google, apple gap and three years Oh, he was thrilled to landed twitter, it's a really interesting company, and if it has a lot of great things about it and in some ways it may have been the best job I ever had after the debt. Of air garnered Michael Brown, the black lives matter. Movement was using twitter to organise, which, really inspiring for Leslie. It gave him a sense of purpose and it made him proud to work. There
This is obviously a dream job for Leslie, which is. Why was surprised to learn that in October he quit not for another job somewhere, but because working a twitter had just become too frustrated and he tried to explain it to me by saying, get well twitter. The product was being used by all kinds of people twitter, that company felt very white and very mail Leslie, was the only black engineer and a leadership position at the entire company. You this kind of look around in your like, while look at whose getting promoted look at whose getting the act allayed you know, and then you you look around you like all. We don't have any minorities in any ethnic or racial minorities in any position above Do you know what's up with that? He just didn't think that Problems were getting enough attention. He described to me eating. He attended with Twitter former diversity director JANET Van ICE. She was talking about dresser. Couldn't I asked, question. What are we doing to increase diversity engineering, specifically with African Americans and Hispanics herself
it was some someday long lines up. Well, I'm the only ones on only constrain are women right now, realizing that might be taken poorly the senior. BP of Engineering Alex Rotter stepped in, and these like a diversity that really important, and that you know we are really going to lead in this. You know, but we're not going to lower the bar to Leslie. This was infuriating lower the bar who said anything about lowering the bar, and this happened over time across his whole career when it was an apple. When he's, Google someone would say something in a room full of people and it was like Leslie was the only one hearing it when I was a good. And engineering director toss me the book, not an ordinary black man by Brian Copeland, with the comment that may be, I will get along better after read that book, it turns out the books called man, a genuine black man, but anyway, the guy given the book in the book is about
a black I live in her white never gets you know you get that book, I'm sitting on his couch negatives book and an I'm like. Ok, I need to talk to somebody, but I have no one here at my level above my level who I can go and talk to about this What do you think is intention was an that's it. You in that instance, does it matter. I'd, be just blog about it, but it does this intention at that point in time matter. No, and it did this digital, never matter it's it's an it's an ignorant thing to do, and it's a callous thing to do. Moments like these, where isolating untiring and it twitter. They were frequent enough that they began to weigh on him and when he talked to his bosses, they tell him that he was the price You know my early my career. My reviews would come back that I'm intimidating, I'm aggressive, I'm this, I'm that an and you know
I would always take that feedback rights argue the feedback. You try to get better to get you back. You try to integrated, but to integrate this feedback. Leslie ends up trying desperately. Not form to the stereotype of an angry black man and he has upset, Oh you know. If you know, if you have a time, you know any probably be enemies being himself fast for, where to performance review. While he was a twitter, be my manager at the time the doktor, the time was saying, is again you're, just not aggressive wire, which always like humbug. Well, what the hell just happened here you ve no five years. I was too aggressive day. I'm not aggressive enough. You know and then, when I was on my overcompensate it you know have I have I try to make people so comfortable and not be the scary intimidating black eye that I'm actually not be aggressive it because I don't want to scare people with all of its frustrations, Leslie still of working a twitter, he was changing. It was fun, but then in October
his frustration bubbled over there is doing another conversation with Alex Rotter waste did you know the conversation? Ok, I think you know diversity engineering, your word not doing as well as we would like to do, and I have some sites and ideals eye, and then he shouldn't conversations. I think it's you know it's a sourcing problem and we need to find out where candidates are falling out in the funnel is. All in all- we can just write it. Ain't us part. You write a name classifier. That, like like the name. No win is business, probably ninety percent vietnamese. So you know, if you know you you have time, you know, he's probably the enemies to be clean when Leslie says name, classifier woody means is a programme that sort but by their names they would autumn. We identify non white sounding names, so they would out of the hiring poor this Alex Rotter suggestion for how Twitter could find a diverse workforce and first of a tool that is likely to work. If you run
like Leslie Miley through it. It's pretty likely to assume that your white woman, but more than that for Leslie the EC factor. Something like this was just off charts and am senior thinking about it. I'm an engineer right and so suddenly I get this, but the part of me way, which is a major part of me, is like really really. Have to build profiling tool. You you're, suggesting a profile into. I said: I'm not sure if this is legal and economic action not interprets ethical com to do something like that but you know, but we could solve that problem and and I just realized. This is not something that this person is thinking about it as a problem to be solved as an engineer only and if they're going to look at source the problem. This way, you know I I I don't want to be a part of it, because it just does not sit well with me for his part, Alex.
Says that he didn't mean it that way, that Leslie took it, but still Leslie had enough, he just said: that's it and he walked away from his dream job Leslie almost immediately started speaking out about his experience, a twitter, and he made this argument. When that I find really interesting lesson as the twitters lack of diversity does not just affect the workplace atmosphere, but it goes straight to the heart of the product itself obvious You don't have people of diverse backgrounds, building your product you're, going to get a very, very narrowly focused policy that made you one or two things really well arduous. May not do anything really one. I think. If you look at twitter as a product, it doesn't do a lot of the symbols What does it do? Direct message? Well, it doesn't do media sharing really well right in and if you had people from diverse backgrounds, as you may have been able to to expand, you know what would you have our support? let me ask you this: how much of your does
I do see more diverse workplaces comes from the fact that it's just. Morally correct to have more diverse workplaces verses. It will make your product much better. Yes, I bet it. It's going to eat a diverse teams, have better outcomes. That is there. So much has been written on than the last thirty years. I don't even know why we're talking about it and anything, You know tat, I like it. I like a total socialist, but a rising tide does lived all boat Firstly, even though Leslie says it there's thirty years of research to back it up, this particular idea that diversity makes for better problem solving. I never heard of it. So I went and looked into it and there are actually a ton of people studying this concept like this guy from others, Scott Age, I'm a professor of complex.
Systems at the University of Michigan and an external faculty member at the Santa Fe Institute, Scott researches, how teams perform and in two thousand and four he published next meant that tackled the idea of quote unquote. Lowering the bar. I was interested in the question of when would it be the case if I were trying to hire people that I should hired the best individuals and when To be the case that I should higher just even random people running random, good people being a perfect of complex systems. Scott mathematical algorithms as a stand in for people, then he gave algorithms really difficult math problems to solve and then he'd make two teams, one for highly effective algorithms all programme to solve a problem in ways that are similar to each other, like how group of smart people. All, graduated from the same college, my baby, but then
filled the other side of his model with less expert equations, all of which approach problems from totally different directions like a team from different backgrounds, and so I was writing all these computer models on that. Article models and every in almost every model. I wrote. What was happening is that the team of the best individuals was not doing best. The team considering the best individuals, was getting beaten by just randomly picking people. The experts were losing. Is You think they were the ones they needed. The bar lowered granted we're talking about zero and one, but still it was strange Scott was noticing that the so called expert performers they wanted to, have really similar strategies when you put them on a team. They get stumped more or less at the same time, while the randomly picked less expert algorithms, they always had some new strategy to try and they won again and again
God says the same thing happens in real world experiments with people when faced with a hard problem, a diverse team, gets better results and by diversity he doesn't just mean racer gender. What commissioners did you can ask literally you know what knowledge basis do you can ask what experiences you pad Scots as that language? age geography, personal hardship they are, inform how we solve problems in crazy, subtle ways, and he gave me
example that I find totally mine blowing where we keep our ketchup. Now it turns out if you're, british or a few aggregate America from the south, not as a rule but generally speaking, are likely to keep your ketchup in the cupboard if you're, not british and you're, not often written this, have you tentacular catch up in the fridge and you could think relative around? Who cares right? Well, it actually does matter, because I suppose you Renate ketchup, if you're on a catch up and you're a catch him in the french person what're you gonna use or you might use man age. You might use mustard, because those are the things that you think of his next ketchup right, ear, alter actively you're a catch up in the cupboard person in IRAN and catch up. What's next to the ketchup in the cupboard well malt vinegar, so the more diverse backgrounds, the more associations you get in the more pass solving our problem and there actually a lot of relay examples of this Carl Zimmer,
I voted for the New York Times. He says that this ketchup story completely tracks with what he sees in the science world. If, if scientists is looking at a problem in that we are making to solve it, there's a range of approaches that they may think of just based on their training. And they can't even imagine that there is another way of approaching it in other, can imagine that there's ketchup in the pantry really and- and the fact is that another scientist can walk in and be like. Oh look you're looking at this totally there, way. Carl had a great example of this kind of cross pollination back about eight years. There was this gastroenteritis who was dealing with a patient who was dying of a horrible gotten
and everything he had been trying wasn't working, and so he had heard that if you give a patient taste stool transplant from healthy person that somehow that could cure these kinds of infections, a stool transplant, the gastro. Dramatist, Alexander courts. He tried it and it worked. The dying patient had a complete recovery in just a couple days, but courts didn't understand why to figure out just what was going on he needed to help someone else. A woman named JANET Johnson, I remember like the first time that I talked to agenda Janson. I and I said well minutes so you're, not you're, not a man well doktor and let go No, no. I mean ecologists and legal. What are you study and like a steady dirt? I I just I thought. Maybe I call the wrong person but his Johnson
play, and when she looked at the stool sample she saw something that courts didn't. She saw a thriving ecosystem just like the ecosystems in healthy soil. What it happened with a stool transplant was it basically a healthy ecosystem have been restored and it taken the place of the sick one it's not just stool samples, the microwave its thanks to a guy who is developing radar for the military, the discovery of the double helix mostly the work of zoologist in a physicist sure it can be triggered. A pull off but scientists know that if there stuck on a problem, they need to talk to someone who keep them catch up somewhere else. So between Skype. Just mathematical models and the entire his three of scientific breakthrough, it seems pretty clear to me that. Silicon Valley would benefit immensely for more diversity, which is awesome. I mean this is probably the first time in my life
profitable thing was also the morally correct but unfortunately, because I was excited about this idea I mentioned, my coworker Adam Davidson, I'm out, Davidson co host of gimlets surprise awesome without a Mackay may also very confident your times magazine he's? Also the founder of the radio show planet money in an expert on economics an atom says yes, diverse workforce, it's beautiful idea, and I am all for it When it comes to Silicon Valley, there are two big problems in the first is that we don't have proof that this works in Silicon Valley at because to prove it. You'd want to get all of those diverse Silicon Valley companies and they don't really exist. But I was looking at the numbers just this morning for Silicon Valley, looking at African Americans and so and valley- and it is even I knew I was gonna- be shocked. I was still shocked by the numbers The highest is that six per cent of
ten at some companies are African American, but but farmer, tipping less than one percent or african American and then in positions of real power and authority. It's much much smaller than that he'd like a larger set of data were from yes, a part, a problem with but its institutional racism or whatever it is problem with having an incredibly small number of minorities working in positions of power in fact going companies. Is it's really hard to make any conclusive determination about them? Khazars just aren't enough, so in order to prove that the vat, the value of of diversity, the workforce. Unita first have diversity in the workforce to be able to prove that its valuable yes. So for now a lot of companies dont want to take the risk, and they do
wanna, keep their investors happy by making money fast and that speed that pressure. It creates. The second big problem start ups, of course, want to grow quickly and Diversity he may make them more difficult. One theory is sameness is really good, especially for fast growing startups there, that when people have the same cultural background, the same educational background, they can communicate much more quickly. They can collaborate much more easily bridge. Much less misunderstanding. So I was actually thing about this on the way here. Like you and I are jewish guys who worked in public radio, yes we work for a company that has a lot of them, and you call me that can you come on the Pike ass and talk about this thing and we did not have to talk along
new instantly what you meant. I knew exactly what you would come out like see as a success and what you'd see as a failure- and it was very easy, but Adam says imagining different scenario: a company that decides to hire a bunch of employees from all over the world. They have different expertise, differ cultural reference is even different ways of arguing. So you could we stand by there'd, be an initial cost. You know initial disruption to read, but that over time. You would start getting the benefit like. Oh these people have different education, they ve different perspective. The benefit comes later, but if you're, the most numbers focus profit maximizing CFO, why do I want to be the first one? Why don't I wanna be the I'd rather be the eighth. When you don't have to look far for examples on us on Monday, most board of directors rejected a proposal for improving diversity in the company, calling it and Lee burdensome and not necessary and
That seems to be we're. We're out right now, a Silicon Valley, a lot of profit driven companies, that would happily be the eighth one to try a new approach. But Leslie Miley. He doesn't want. Be the eighth wonder, try this approach. He wants to be the first right now he's working on a new venture. He can't tell me much about it yet, but he believes that this company will be the exception in silicon, Valley, because it will be staff with people from all sorts of backgrounds. Since that is not all that hard to build a company like this. You just need to ask people you're interviewing a new set of questions that most companies aren't asking. Yet what I I need to do is look for the best Helen. Ah, you know give in a kind of a list of of different differing criteria like. How did you get to where you are? How you get to where you are, which is to say you made it here to this interview.
You ve probably overcome a lot of obstacles. To do that. I'd like to hear about it, and you think that's just a question that should be asked in lieu of when I really school you attend, or even what school did you attend? I totally they got supporting people should act. Its it. If you're, not asking a question, as you know, is it is, as the corset you not hiring hiring right. I wonder, he was a hey. I go to community college or you know I had Europe's didn't, have the money of the Spain's as I want to go for people. You know, because it shows that there are little that they have. They want a more rounded but they're they're around it individual. They have different life experiences and are going to bring to the table this idea that Adam Davidson brought up that diverse aims can slow accompany down, cost it time and money. I brought it to Leslie and he just didn't see care. I've read the lot of the studies about how haven't diverse team. You know, can impact efficiency and- and I think that's absolutely the case in most cases-
that it does, because people have to learn their different communication styles. They have to start having a greater understanding of the person there, working with you as a human being so it is going to take a lead, is going to create friction is gonna cost version is gonna, slow things down a nationally and for those of you to say eight we have to move faster. We just want to get people all know the same thing. I say go to hell because Just you're, that's lazy! We should all be trying to get better and end of getting better means. You have to be uncomfortable for a little while you know what so be it twitter, declined to comment specifically on Leslie Story or to talk to us for this peace, a spokesperson sent us a statement about the company's commitment to diversity you can read on our website,
Reply all is pda vote and me Alex Goldman Clear produced this week by TIM House. Should have been in any and fear. Bennett are editor, is Peter clowning the production assistance for Mervyn D gone. Yes, we were mixed by requiring Matt Labour is one of those nights, so fond and get so out a hand that, when you describe your friends you can tell, but they don't totally believe you spoke. Banks this week to shock Harvard item of the hidden brain podcast role is help. With this episode, our theme song, by the mysterious break master cylinder and our add music is by build buildings thanks to them, I a brass band for use their sown unify can find us on our website reply all that fail or on Itunes, Itunes, dot com, slash reply, all we're taking next off to work on some stories, so we ll see in a couple weeks thanks for listening.
Transcript generated on 2020-02-13.