Upworthy’s New Head Engineer Shares Ideas On Diversifying Tech

By Kristen V. Brown
San Francisco Chronicle.

When Upworthy hired Rachel Fenn to head its engineering team last month, the viral clickbait king was looking for two things — it wanted a rock star engineer and, it hoped, a woman.

At the time, Upworthy had nine engineers, only one of whom was female. So the company wanted to hire someone who could not only steer its technical team, but help add diversity to its ranks.

As an industry veteran who had cut her teeth building embedded systems, managed multiple engineering teams and developed her own computer game on the side, Fenn fit the bill perfectly.

The Chronicle chatted with Fenn about the state of women in tech and her plans to help bring more diversity to Upworthy:

Q: When people talk about diversity in tech, so often the argument is there just aren’t enough female or minority engineers out there to right the balance. What’s your solution for finding diverse talent?

A: Oftentimes you can’t find a woman engineer to interview. But there are a lot of good programs in the city like Rails Bridge, which gives free programming courses to women. The idea is to get women who are sort of interested in programming to come in, take a class and get them interested enough to actually try and switch careers. I volunteer with them, and it’s a great place to network and meet a lot of women. Anywhere that teaches programming classes is good place to start. Etsy has had a lot of success with its code school scholarship program, which they have hired many women from.
You can’t just go out and try and hire a woman engineer. But what you can do is outreach, so that you are hitting all the demographics and the people you are bringing in for interviews is a fair demographic mix.

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