[MEN]TOR: Scot MacTaggart (he/him) – Cofounder of KRNLS, Host of Pitchwerks

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If it seems like only certain kinds of people are succeeding, find out why.

What do you do?

Management and communication help for businesses that want to grow.

What keeps you passionate in the tech industry?

Rule breakers who use tech to improve and reimagine things that aren’t working for everyone.

What do you like about the company you currently run/work for?

I like that I never have to hesitate about doing the right thing. A lot of people have to compromise – others sell out entirely.

What are some initiatives that your company is taking to create a more inclusive workplace?

At KRNLS, we talk the talk on a lot of things, but there are only three of us, so there’s not a ton of opportunity to walk the walk yet.

In terms of real actions and impact, I am probably most proud of how we bring our kids to work – toddlers to teenagers – so we can be good parents ourselves and so we can take pressure off that parent who is stressing out over the occasional minor distraction that a kid can cause on a conference call.

It’s not the end of the world. The other people on the call were only half-listening anyway. 🙂

What does being an ally to underrepresented folks in tech mean to you?

Just being aware of what’s fair and what’s not fair, and when something’s not fair, fixing it.

If their idea is good, defend it. If they are having stress heaped on them, defend them. If it seems like only certain kinds of people are succeeding, find out why.

What is the importance of making sure the tech community is inclusive?

This question can be tricky because it feels like you’re supposed to say that companies benefit from inclusion and diversity and various viewpoints, but I really don’t care about any of that. I think that’s a thing we say to convince companies to do the right thing.

I only really care about the humans in and around these companies, and there is just a minimum standard of decency and fairness that we all have to strive for.

We are definitely not there yet.

A lot of people are afraid to publicly learn, but it’s important to be transparent about moments of unlearning. This shows others it’s okay to admit your wrongs in order to grow. Can you share one or more “a-ha!” moments you’ve had where you realized “this is wrong” or “this way of thinking is biased”?

Five (?) years ago, I mis-gendered a trans individual four different times during a single 90 minute meeting.

I have no hangups or issues with the trans community whatsoever. I was just unprepared and a bit lazy.

Unprepared, as in: it never occurred to me that I wasn’t consciously thinking about gender, so of course I hadn’t thought about whether I would use the corresponding pronouns without thinking. Lazy, as in: I didn’t force myself to re-calibrate after the first error, so it happened three more times in that meeting.

I was also really slow and awkward about apologizing. It was agonizing. Hell, it’s agonizing thinking about it again.

What results have you seen from your tech equity and advocacy actions?

I have kept good things from getting shot down by silly people, and helped a few people to find the confidence to do their own thing.

Some research shows that it’s hard to have empathy and, in this case, practice tech advocacy without being exposed to some form of human suffering from someone different from yourself. Have you ever had an experience like this that has helped you to prioritize tech equity in your life and career today?

Yes. Yvonne Campos from Next Act Fund was the one who opened my eyes to just how unfair the startup funding scene is. All the VCs are men. Male CEOs are 90% of their portfolios. Yvonne brought me to my painfully simple worldview of just making things fair.

What is some advice you’d give to other men in tech, older or younger, who are seeking ways to be more inclusive with their actions?

Here’s a weird one: Pretend you’re me. Pretend you have a podcast and you have to book interesting guests. Networking events, meetups, whatever. Your life is your show. Make it interesting.

Understanding this subject got a lot easier for me once I started talking to a wider spectrum of people and trying to get exposed to truly new and interesting ideas.

Those ideas are intended to solve problems. You learn a lot about humanity when you find out what problems humans are trying to solve. If they’re willing to work at it, then it’s likely a big priority for them.

What is some advice you’d share with diversity-starved organizations?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Biased people are not the problem – we’re all a little biased and screwed up, just as individuals. Running a whole team of individuals is exponentially harder.

Assume you’ve always got some stuff to work on.


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