The Start of the Evolution of YYJ Tech

May 15 2023


In 2023, a tipping point occurred in YYJ Tech. Although this had been slowly happening for a long time, the latest tensions in the #job-postings channel reached such a volume and level that job postings stopped being posted altogether. Job postings continue to be shared in other places, but posters commented that they no longer wanted to have to join in on an active conflict situation in order to simply share a job posting. A process began to try to shift this, and this document is the documentation of that process and its outcomes.

It is a challenge in itself to find the right balance between moving through our history and learning from it and becoming better, and continuing to hold onto traumatic collective moments as fuel for the next similar incident. We are the product of our collective history, but we also have the power to shape our collective future. We must understand where we come from to understand how we can best get to where we want to go next.

It is also important to say right now: this is a complex situation. There are multiple truths happening at the same time. Members of this community have stood up for pay transparency and done so in a way that caused minorities to feel excluded. Employers have oppressed salary equality and provided opportunities, and sometimes those situations are not mutually exclusive. These are not just "Victoria problems", these are societal, cultural and industry-wide challenges - but there are things about how this is playing out in this small community that change how we as a community feel and think about it.

The information that will be shared here will tease all of this out and share perspectives, trends and experiences collected during the process.

So to all of the members of the community that support this process - from watching the Looms, filling in one of my many surveys, responding with an emoji, leaving a comment, donating, or, coming to chat with me for most of an hour - I appreciate so much your collective energy in helping to make this space better.

Jen Reiher, Moderator

About the Author

I want to start this by sharing who it is who is writing this, because as much as I am going to try to remain objective, I still have a set of experiences and perspective that is shaping this work that you might want to be aware of as you read this. My degree is in Sociology and Gender Studies. Before tech, I worked in non-profit. I have worked in tech for the last 11 years, and have had roles like 1st full-time employee, Customer Service Lead, Front End Engineer and Product Manager. I live with my husband and our two dogs. He and I grew up in Victoria, so our perspectives are shaped mostly by this town, although I have worked for companies both based in Victoria, other Canadian startups and US companies.

I have been involved in different ways in the YYJ Tech Slack group over the years. Initially in a support role behind the scenes for the friends who were starting YYJ Tech as I continued to work on YYJ Tech Ladies. Later, as a moderator with a group of other moderators, trying to support through the more complex issues of race and gender we were experiencing. Lately, as the only moderator because it felt too hard to ask someone else to join in on supporting these really complex, very nuanced problems when I was struggling to navigate the complexities myself.

My family all came from many generations of white British and Scottish ancestors. I am a 3rd generation Canadian on my father’s side, and 2nd generation on my mothers which means that my history is inexorably intertwined with the conversations we’re having as a country about reconciliation and to be totally honest I don’t have a plan yet for what I’m going to do about that, I’m still in listening mode. What I do know is that Canada is not done, and I look forward to figuring out what I can do to shape the future to be better.

In many ways I feel similarly about this community - it’s not done yet, it has evolved in many ways over the years, and it will continue to evolve. The difference with this moment in time is that for the first time in a long time, this change is intentional and thoughtful.

Table of Contents


Early History

YYJ Tech has existed since 2016, and had grown to >5000 registered users, ~500 active users and ~200 active weekly posters by March of 2023. It had helped countless folks in the community find jobs, connect with each other and host events before global circumstances made that less of a good idea for a few years. Despite the overall registered user count growing to 5000+ registered users, active users peaked at ~680 at the start of the pandemic before starting a slow decline down to ~500 logged in users a week. Definitely this is a community with some stability, and a lot of potential, but definitely one that is seeing a high rate of churn, and ceasing to grow and thrive over time.

But reasons why this group exists pre-date its own existence, and this is important to understand because it shapes part of the way the rest of this document is framed.

To understand the context fully, we need to go back to ~2014 when, at a public event, the CEO and COO of Viatec (aka Victoria's Chamber of Commerce for tech companies) were asked “and what is Viatec doing about the women in tech problem in Victoria?” to which the COO replied “We analyzed the data and found there is no problem with women in tech in Victoria.” and the CEO replied “No comment.” This didn’t match up with the experiences of women I had connected to in the sector so far - we were experiencing pay gaps, being talked over in boardrooms, having our work discredited by our peers, and some were experiencing sexual harassment from their bosses.

A small group of women started meeting, after a few months of talking (and a few bottles of wine) we recognized that these institutions are run by men of a different generation, with different priorities. It was looking pretty unlikely Viatec was going to provide the support we needed. Around that same time, this new Slack tool was becoming possible and with NO idea where it would go, thought it might be a good way to connect with other women in tech and - if nothing else - feel less alone. So we created a slack “workspace” called Tech Ladies for supporting women in tech in Victoria. Within a few weeks, word had spread and several hundred women had joined, and were starting to network to formally and informally support each other.

We were a bit surprised a few months later when the email of a man - and not just any man, but the CEO of one of the most “prestigious” companies in town - requested to join. Not quite sure what to do, the broader group had a meeting to talk about it. Out of this, we recognized that while problems of sexism still existed in the industry we needed a safe space to connect just with each other - but that we would try to work with some of our male colleagues to start a gender-inclusive space that anyone could join.

This new “YYJ Tech” community grew even faster than Tech Ladies had. Like Tech Ladies, the group had very little defined purpose, and was a blank canvas for any member who joined to use it however they liked. Unfortunately, the initial Code of Conduct didn’t account for any issues of abuse of power we later encountered, or how we might handle some of the other more challenges ahead of us.

In short: the space was not set up for success at the scale it grew to, especially as a volunteer-run group subject to the ebbs and flows of the energy and interpersonal challenges of any social circle.


Aside from the typical challenges of spam on the internet, YYJ Tech has faced some incredibly complex moments of the years that were very public, but due to the nature of a free Slack group removing post history, and the dynamic nature of membership have become invisible to many newer folks joining the group.

It feels important to share and capture these because the community memory has lived on for many folks and with each passing similar interaction, conflict within the space has grown, and opinions and perspectives have become more entrenched. However, not everyone was in the group at this time, and even those who lived through it didn’t always experience it the same way or with the same context. During many of the interviews, people were wanting to understand why the conversation was so heated and were observing that it was more about the “meta” conversation than the actual issues themselves, and when they understood this history, they were better equipped to make sense of why the tensions were quite so high on both sides.

Incidents outside of #job-postings

During interviews, people were asked to share about times they have observed or experienced exclusion and harm. Only one incident was brought up in interviews, in which a community member sharing about an art show for people of colour was criticized as “reverse racism”. After much public community discussion, the member claiming reverse racism was removed from the community, and the original poster was satisfied with the outcome of the incident.

However, it is entirely possible more incidents occurred that are unreported. Numerous survey responses alluded to the community “feeling unwelcoming”, and that there is a “toxic” tone. Some of this could be connected to the observation from several interviewees that they often interpreted the tone of postings in Slack through the same tone of voice of negative incidents they have had in the past. This was particularly prevalent in minorities who experienced prolonged incidents of being treated inequitably by workers and/or employers.

The inequalities of the world are still experienced and bleed into interactions in the Slack community, leading to the same challenges that exist outside needing to be addressed here. This is difficult, because we probably cannot solve the problems of the larger world solely by typing at each other. But we do have an opportunity to try in a community space some things that could be innovative that could be models to re-use outside of this group - if we are successful.

Incidents in the #job-postings channel

Starting in 2018, members of the community started asking hard questions to companies posting jobs in the channel about their salaries. After several months of companies posting jobs and receiving push back, in May 2019 the CEO of one of the more established companies got very angry in the public channel, and began to send direct messages to who he perceived as the main “trolls” “harassing” his company and employees. The messages contained insults, as well as threats that the CEO would use his influence and connections to get people fired. In the aftermath, the CEO’s account was removed, but he also recognized he had crossed the line and publicly apologized and agreed not to return.

The conflict has continue escalate on and off since then, including:

  • A long-standing CEO and founding member of Viatec repeatedly minimizing the experience of employees and minorities around pay transparency before being removed from the group
  • A female, immigrant CEO being barraged with negative comments, including being compared to a nazi, for her salary being perceived by the group as “too low”, experiencing a massive push back far beyond what any male, Canadian and/or white founders had experienced for similar situations

Each time, the community reacted not only to the subsequent incidents themselves, but also to the continued intractable meta conflict. Perspectives on both sides continued to galvanize, and although many facts, opinions, requests for salary were made, and passionate comments were shared. However, despite the same conversations being revisited over the past four years, nothing has been resolved and no clear path forward presented itself across the community. Asking for salary information wasn’t changing any employers' minds, and the continued tone reached a tipping point where more and more community members were leaving the community en-mass.

The good news is that the BC Government is working to pass pay equity legislation in 2023 that would no longer make it optional to post salaries with job postings. With a tentative launch date of November 2023 for all employers to be required to share salary bands, and a rolling deadline for being required to report to the government on salaries within the organization, these changes will eventually remove the concern about a lack of transparency.

However, there is a lot of “internet time” between now and when this law comes into effect, and it doesn’t impact what would happen if a role was posted with a salary deemed “too low” by the community, as we’ve seen happen in the past.

A decision will have to be made about where we draw the lines as a community about what is harmful and what we no longer will tolerate in order to minimize and remove, as much as possible, the harms being experienced.

The Evolution Process

March 2nd 2023, the group began a process to start to shift beyond a state of conflict. It wasn’t by choice - as the sole moderator, and after seeing these same conflicts ratchet up over the years it was really a challenge to tell: did the group harm more than it helped? Did the community still want to exist, or was it time to move on?

It began with an anonymous survey, shared to all active members, as well as an email to any members Slack had marked as inactive, and to the members of Tech Ladies. This survey had a goal of 75 participants (~15% of active users, and 38% of active posters). It received 153 responses (~30% of active users, and ~75% of active posters) - over twice the goal.

The survey asked the group to help design a set of questions designed to help us move beyond conflict.

  • What did we want to ask or be asked about the issue of salary transparency?
  • What did we want to ask or be asked about being more welcoming?

These questions helped shape a series of 1:1 interviews that followed.

From Mar 20 - April 7th, 39 community members met 1:1 with the moderator to dig deeper into the issues and the questions raised by the community. The results of this document are the synthesis of the patterns and learnings from this process. After the final report was summarized, each interviewee was given a chance to review to make sure that their perspective was captured accurately.

There were 3 goals of the process:

  1. Capture each person’s perspective, as they saw it, with deeper understanding of the root “why” behind their actions recorded whenever possible.
  2. Give a chance for folks to be exposed to perspectives and motivations not their own.
  3. Gather ideas community members have on what might make things better.

This part of the process was influenced by 3 things:

  • The work of the Canadian social entrepreneurs at Tidal Equality, whose Equity Sequence tool and process have helped large organizations find solutions to equity problems by tapping into the lived experiences and ideas of individuals within the organization that have passion, energy and more connection to the problems than leadership may be able to have due to their different experiences in the organization.
  • The book High Conflict by Amanda Ripley, which gives examples of strategies for disrupting us vs them conflict have succeeded all over the world.
  • User discovery models from the tech industry about deeply understanding user problems to start to imagine how we might use technology and/or process to solve these problems better.

Interview Demographics

Not unsurprisingly for the demographics of a tech community, Developers were the strongest category. Given that most of the conflict has been around job postings, HR also came to share their context and hear the perspectives from other folks.

It’s worth noting that there are a few clear gaps in the lack of data. One is there was no representation from folks who self-identified as speaking from non-binary or trans perspective. This is definitely a demographic that exists within Tech in Victoria, but also a demographic that is going through a particularly rough time mental-health wise at the moment due to the changing laws around the globe preventing their inclusion and closing of their human rights. It didn’t feel respectful to seek out this demographic if they weren’t self-identifying as having energy to contribute right now. Work will need to be done in future to make sure there aren’t unique experiences that we need to consider to include this demographic.

Another group missing, and also that has experienced a lot of collective trauma lately, was the lack of Indigenous perspectives. There is much, much work to do be done here both on individual, community and societal levels to make tech a demographic that is inclusive for indigenous folks. A decolonization initiative will be needed in future if we ever want to have a chance of including these folks. Rebranding will also likely be needed (e.g. just the name YYJ being connected to the airport code for “Victoria” has been brought up as one of the signals that this space is not designed with indigenous inclusion in mind in the past).

Many folks in Leadership came to the table, although within those leadership roles, many folks did not feel they had the power to change policies due to the nature of their team, or their power within the org chart.

Very few junior or intermediate folks joined the conversation, but several ICs mentioned they had only recently been promoted to Senior, so shared more recent memories of what it had been like earlier in their careers.

In order to make sure the data wasn’t too skewed by only having one size or location of company show up, this data was also collected.

What We Learned

During the interviews, it became clear that the actions of different actors in the channel had some definite entrenched perceptions that had formed. I often heard one of the following sentiments during the interviews - never aimed at any person or company, but at the group overall:

  • The employers in Victoria are hostile and/or power-tripping and/or abusive leaders who don’t value their own employees and are using the lack of salary transparency to hide their low paying jobs and take advantage of anyone who cannot advocate for themselves - mostly minorities
  • The men in YYJ Tech are angry and/or privileged and/or trolls who are harassing companies and HR people when they don’t see a salary, or don’t see a salary they like

This represents the anger on both sides, and there is frustration on both sides - and there are also many people who are in the middle, and see a little bit of both of these in their experience.

What was uncovered in this process is - the 'why' behind the motivations of both of these sets of groups is much deeper than the picture painted above, and believing that these are truths, and falling into the internet trap of shouting our own perspectives into the voice and not digging deeper on the other side is what has kept us stuck all these years.

Unfortunately there is some truth in the above in that while it might not represent the truth of the motivations of both sides, it is an accurate depiction of how the way the conflict has been going in that channel makes different people feel. How some companies have been responding has made ICs in the community feel powerless, punched down on, under-valued and disrespected. How some IC members of the community have responded have lead HR folks and founders to feel targeted, yelled at, and like 'the bar' is being set too high. These are uncomfortable truths, and hopefully speaking so plainly about them here does not lead to group inaction; this would be the worst possible outcome.

It is also critically important to call out that there is a 3rd actor coming into play here, one that has amped things up, exacerbated the division and galvinized the divide. This actor is the conflict itself. The science of conflict tells us that when human interaction crosses the line into conflict it can trap us into this stark, generalized, extreme viewpoint and the conflict itself then prevents us from digging beneath the surface further - especially on the internet. Once we entered the conflicted state with the first incident, it was going to take some real effort and intentionality to move us beyond it.

This sections of this document aims to bring to light the things that the conflict has been erasing us from being able to ask or even see from where we each individually sit within the state of conflict, and to start to map a different path forward that is no longer trapped within the framework of the conflict itself.

This is a Community Worth Investing In

The good news is, although folks came to the table to focus primarily on the hard stuff that we have to work through as a community, many folks wanted, when asked “Is there anything else you wanted to share I didn’t ask about?” to express their love and appreciation for this community and what it provides to them that they don’t get anywhere else. While that good doesn’t mean we don’t need to address the hard stuff, it does feel important to celebrate those things that are unique and positive about this space so we don’t lose sight of them as we do start to address the challenges.

Many people are finding value in human connection here. Whether that’s through #watercooler, or some of the more niche channels like #gardening, #food and #photography, it’s in these niche and not necessarily even tech-related groups that community is being felt the strongest.

Folks are also using this space to resist other forms of mainstream social media that they are choosing not to participate in. They use the space for finding ex-coworkers instead of LinkedIn or Facebook, and some folks use it to message their friends or even their partner so they don’t need to log into any chat apps on their work computer.
During these last few years when in-person community was not possible, it became one of the only spaces some members were finding a sense of community, even if it wasn’t the same as in-person.

I also heard from quite a few folks who had either come to Victoria from other markets, or moved away and still wanted to contribute to the interview process or had stayed in touch because it was so remarkable that a community like this existed. The overall positive, collaborative, helpful tone was noteworthy, and they wanted to make sure that that information was accounted for in this process.

“I signed up when I was living in Calgary at the time. I can't remember how I found it but I was exploring at that time moving into tech and my partner and i were contemplating moving to victoria and thought it would get a feel for what the tech environment was like in Victoria. …. It was good to see that the tech scene here was much more active than what I was seeing in Calgary.“ – Majority participant

“Everyone was so welcoming and kind when I was there - it was really nice to just meet people through other people - there was always a sense that we're in this together. …. It was cool to be included in that scene. Now that I'm somewhere different it shines so much more that we should keep continuing. I still want to be a part of it even though i'm not still there.” – Majority participant

More than one participant called out that while things aren’t perfect here, and we have work to do, this space is still better than so many other parts of the internet. It was also observed that perhaps some of what’s making the space feel less safe is that women are comparing it to Tech Ladies - and by its very nature, that space will have less controversy in it because the experiences of members within it are more aligned with each other.

“There was an element that the internet in general is relatively hostile - it's not a great place and YYJ Tech, while I'm speaking from my privilege, is some of the least hostile that I'm in. I'm not a part of tech ladies but I assume it's a significantly safer space. As a comparison - it's really easy to say there's this one that's the standard and here's YYJ Tech but without the context to me it's a lot higher on the scale. … I see what you're going for and I understand wanting to solve the problem …. For me there isn't anything else out there. “ – Majority participant

This is both a positive and negative learning. Where there is diversity, there will be challenges of perspectives. In fact, that’s what research about conflict has learned - in many ways, it is the internet itself that is causing us to have to develop new cultural muscles for experiencing and dealing with conflict because never before have we had to be in spaces with so many different lived experiences shaping them, and thus the perspectives of the people within them. We haven’t quite figured out how to do that well - globally. This is new ground we are forging here, and that will be daunting, and we probably won’t get it right - but it’s also exciting! We are collectively breaking new ground.

We All Have Blindspots

Completely unsurprisingly, the perspectives people held depended on their lived experiences. Also completely unsurprisingly, the experiences were fairly dramatically split along lines of minority and majority status.

Although many folks who came to speak are aware that they hold majority status, and try to be aware of their privilege, it often became clear to them during the interview that that privilege was erasing them from being able to see things that were obvious to others. The same was also true of minority folks - many weren’t able to see some things that were clear to majority folks.

The hope of sharing these perspectives below is to help paint a fuller (although certainly still incomplete) picture than any one of us can see on our own, and have a true picture of what the realities and possibilities are within our community. A picture that can help spark and inspire new ideas or shape solutions in a way that are better than if we only did so from our own perspectives.

Harm Has Happened Here (and what to do about it)

When asked “what harms have you observed you would like to see changed?” There were not specific incidents of harm brought up that have not already been noted in the Challenges section of this document. On the one hand, that’s positive in that of the folks who came to this process, there is no new information - it’s just that these instances were so striking they are carrying large weight in our conversations.

It is worth noting that this doesn’t mean other harms have not happened. Some folks, when invited to participate in interviews, refused. This makes sense. At a certain point, trust will be so low, or people will feel over trying to make change that no amount of requesting to talk will help. We might never get a chance to try again with those folks, but it’s still worth trying to do better with the information we have now. We can learn and grow as a community, and be better the next time so that more people are not pushed out. Some folks did speak to the generalized tone of the #job-postings channel crossing the line, while others felt that the tone had been generally civil (at least compared to other places on the internet they had experienced). This difference in tolerance for conflict is part of natural diversity, and didn’t overlap with the minority or majority identity of the person being interviewed. However, for women who did find the channel had gone too far, they always pointed to how it was too similar to how they had been treated in person by other men at work, and it made them angry to see; the tone and approach was triggering. Some men were quite angry too, but for them it was less personal and more frustrating.

A perspective shared by several majority men was that they could observe that sometimes, the same people were saying the same things repeatedly over time, and would not back down from their perspectives. They observed that this often made minority members stop participating, and they wanted to work on addressing this in a way that would support more open and inclusive community conversations. This was not a topic shared by minorities during this interview process, but is a common observation by women in tech in general, as well as in this community, in the past.

“I've seen some times when I've thought "wow there's a lot of dudes weighing in” and you can see everyone else evaporate and the discussion turns into three guys stating their opinion aggressively and I've seen that happen more than a few times. The more tech chatty channels are great, but I've seen about. The reason I'm here is to interact with the community, and when there are people that are taking over the space and consuming all the available oxygen from the discussion it's not engaging with the community it's just a group of dudes shouting angrily at each other. It's not just one topic - it's any topic. I don't want people to be chased away from people not sharing the space.” — Majority participant

“I believe that most "tech bros" have positive intentions. The way they've been socialized means their capacity to listen and drive for positive change that will really make a difference that will inherently do that in a way that silences minorities. An example would be a recruiter posting in the jobs channel - a job where they can't share the salary range and immediately getting slammed in a way that's … unprofessional. I wish for people to take a step back and look at startups - at what point of the startup do you believe there is the most gender and racial diversity - the recruiting department. the people you're shitting on are the most poorly paid underrepresented people in this industry and it isn't even a thought that the people you're shitting on are women or people of colour.“ – Minority participant

There is a difference between community standards (enforceable by moderation) and ideals and goals as a community for how we would like to be open, inclusive and welcoming to each other. In order to be inclusive of all members of the community, we will need to be aware of how some topics, ways of communicating or even how we push for change may cause others to have strong reactions due to their experience as marginalized members of our community.

Going forward, we need to keep in mind that the following things are signals to minority members of the community that this space is not as welcoming for them to participate.

Signal Who it impacts How to self-monitor
The same majority voices dominating the conversation Minority community members If you’re noticing more than of these, it’s time to take a break and let others share:
• Are your posts very lengthy
• Are you repeating something you’ve said before?
• Have you dismissed or not engaged with points made by others in the conversation?
• Have you posted many times in a short time frame?
Lived experience of a minority is dismissed with a request to “show proof” This was particularly mentioned by female participants, but can also happen to people of colour • Avoid commenting on personal experiences with skepticism
• If you’re looking for proof, try googling to see if this is an already studied phenomenon of gender bias
Employers not being transparent about workplace conditions This was mostly passionately experienced by minorities of colour who had been harmed in the past, but female minorities shared these concerns around “bro culture” and salary disparities When facing criticism about lack of transparency during the hiring process, take a deep breath and remember this isn’t about you as a human posting the role - this is about someone struggling to try to make sure they aren’t exploited by another employer
Think creatively about how you might be an ally to marginalized employees during the hiring process to help them navigate their potential concerns:
• Can you do an informational interview to give them the inside scoop?
• Can you DM things that aren’t necessarily allowed to be public?
• Can you use your social capital to help them get to the interview stage?

Hot Topic #1: Salary Transparency

During the interviews, we asked participants to reflect on who is harmed, and who benefits, when salary is undisclosed.

• Biases tend to contribute to lower initial offers from employers
Socialized to be...
• more likely to value themselves lower
• less likely to negotiate salaries
• less likely to be confident setting boundaries with employers
• Time is wasted finding out if the salary band doesn’t match expectations Socialized to be...
• more likely to ask for higher numbers
• more likely to be confident to set boundaries with employers early in the process
• Less data points to compare themselves against to try to establish if they are paying competitively
• Employees who have no power to change policies are feeling uncomfortable with the level of anger about posting jobs without salaries
• At risk for long-term financial or reputational harms for not paying fairly
• Time is wasted finding out if the salary band doesn’t match expectations, and the potential employee walks away
• Gain the financial benefit of the salary gap for their bottom line & shareholders

Participants were also asked about harms and benefits when we remove salaries from the Job Postings channel.

• Still potentially ending up at the lower part of the posted bands
• Bias may contribute to being offered at a lower title and band than the posted role
• Some worried about losing out on potential opportunities to get into tech in the first place if job postings without salaries were excluded from the channel
• No longer impacted by social forces that lead to placing themselves outside of the band
• Removes the agency from individuals to choose • Increases friction to connect with other members of the community who have worked for that company to find out what it’s really like to work there
• Employers who have lower bands will still be open to the same push back from members of the community as today
• Those who do not post will be able to avoid social pressure to share salary
• Those who have invested in salary bands will benefit from more eyeballs
• Those who have higher bands will attract more employees

Not a single person who came to the interviews, regardless of their experience or seniority, thought that salary transparency wasn’t a good goal to be working towards. Perhaps this was self-selection bias in participants, because in what world would someone that feels that way want to spend 45 minutes defending something given the public nature of the questions that were shared! But, this was surprising given the diversity of participants within the demographics interviewed.

However, folks who were IC level (no management experience) and folks who were CEO level were more likely to speak about the issue in black and white terms - it was either a really important thing to have a salary range (ICs) or a small part of the compensation puzzle (CEOs). Folks in the middle with some power (either as some kind of middle-management leader or in their role as HR), who were maybe trying to influence policies of those CEOs from within often observed some of the reasons why it was complex for companies to actually have a number to put on a posting. No one argued those reasons made it not worth trying, but that they were not quick fixes to getting to the place where transparency was possible.

“On 3 separate occasions [minorities I knew] were obviously being taken advantage of. They were being paid less than I got paid for my first job out of school! The information disparity means that they didn’t know if they were being taken advantage of. They didn't know what they were worth and someone else was very happy to take advantage of that situation. I'm stuck between the people who want salary transparency and people who don't and that's a shitty place to be in.” – Majority participant

“I tried [to suggest salary transparency] when I started [as head of HR] and it was shot down [by leadership] immediately - it felt like they would never do it, and the way it was responded to made me hesitant to bring it up again. It was like "Oh, ok! shocking". We worked for 3 years to change hearts and minds to get them to understand… it's not a name on a spreadsheet with an exact salary - it's positions and bands and something that's helpful in many ways it can help with comp and performance - all the benefits get us to that point and the legislation was a stamp of approval. Everyone is on the right track. It is best practice.” – Minority participant

“Most executives are generally older white guys with a lot of privilege and don't want change that will impact their power. Good HR needs to bring that executive around that by sharing their power they will gain something from it. Yes it's the right thing to do but some people don't fully see that it's also the right business decision.” – Majority participant

Hot Topic #2: Salary Negotiation

Folks who fell into the “majority” category were less likely to be aware of or have had to think about inequalities of salaries before. For those who had, it was usually because they had connected with a colleague who was a minority and paid less and had been frustrated to hear about the situation. For those who had not thought about it before, most acknowledged this made sense to them even if they had not seen or experienced it themselves. Only one person minimized the challenge and impact of that gap.

Folks who held one or more self-identified “minority” identities were more likely to be aware of pay gaps, and frequently described knowingly or unknowingly taking a lower salary to find an opportunity.

“I base my qualifications on if it's on the lower side i think i can do [the job]. That's terrible. I need to give myself more credit. I just wish I had the confidence of a straight white male fresh out of high school.” – Minority participant

“I fully expected to be rewarded for my hard work and proving myself as the employees making 45+ bonus dramatic differences. I disagree with how disproportionately compared to the men on my team. I was also underpaid and I didn't find out until my boss gave me a 25k raise because they were getting acquired - and they had to report it.“ – Minority participant

“If you already feel good you've done something great [when you hire a minority] you also don't feel you need to do more. In a paradoxical way it works against its intention. …. I realized the people who were hired to work in my team under me - people who had 1/3 of my education, half my experience - were getting paid more. … Now I've worked for American companies. I've heard inappropriate things a lot more - people saying ignorant things. That hurts a lot less. I've never felt in the US in any room that anyone is giving any opportunity for charitable intentions, or like anyone is hindering my career based on that [like when I worked in Canada].” – Minority participant

Universally, the more senior the person was, the more confident and assertive they perceived that it was possible to be about salary, either because they had always been or because of learned behaviour over time.

“I am the worst at negotiation. I don't think I've ever really negotiated. I just accept whatever they're going to pay me. I don't like when they ask me what my salary expectation is - I'm more curious what you're willing to pay me. I'm terrible. I need to be better.” – Minority participant

Many of the men who spoke about having comfortable salaries, and having no problem negotiating also spoke about being a parent. This is also part of the undercurrent of how gender norms are playing out in this conversation. It is important to recognize the social pressure put on men to be breadwinners, and increasingly out of economic necessity need to bring in extra income in order to cover the cost of childcare and raising a child. Although these men didn’t speak negatively about this pressure in their comments, women whose husbands were experiencing higher salaries after becoming fathers were able to recognize that this was part of a shift towards negotiating for more, and that giving it to them was never questioned.

“Ever since we had our first kid he's been moving up and up in his org. … There is that pressure to earn more. I have heard there is research that when men become fathers, doors open for them - I don't know if it's a social or subconscious thing. They get more opportunities and their company maybe will pay them more …. whereas women will be held back. [I was in an interview] to hire a different position into a company and there was one candidate with a woman who had a toddler at home and they said ‘we can't hire her she's a flight risk’. I knew at the time: this is discrimination.” – Minority participant

Hot Topic #3: Salary Bands

The more likely they were to have been involved in the HR or the hiring process the more they were aware of the complexities of deciding on salary bands. The complexity of this also increased with the size of company, with smaller and newer companies having less formal and rigorous processes than larger, more established companies.

Because there is no one source of salary data, employers who are trying to create banding often purchase multiple sources of information costing thousands of dollars each. But the data sets are massive, so once received, employers needed to parse through them to determine which data actually relates to them, because not all job titles, locations and company sizes are comparable. Once bands are confirmed, most companies will go through a process of aligning and adjusting compensation to overcome gaps that have occurred internally first before reporting externally. One respondent had heard that in their 300 person company this work of determining bands took six hr folks six months to complete.

“A company like my company [300-400 people] there are 6 people spent 6 months trying to figure out what's appropriate. They bought data sets from head hunting companies and HR companies for salary ranges, normalized positions across bands would map to different levels. standardize existing positions and take into account relative pricing for the market and cost of living - there are a lot of things involved in that. There was no perfect flat approach - difference between RRSP matching between countries, different costs for vacation etc. They made an effort to deal with 3 separate companies pushed together. …. it gets tricky to figure out some of these things. “ – Majority participant, non-HR

“It's not just flipping a switch [the amount of work] is tremendous. Train all their managers, train all the executives, train all of the recruiters on how to talk about it and how negotiation changes and why not to negotiate. You have to look for the gaps because there is re-levelling because some people have been missed. You need to do that before you make it transparent so there isn't ill will. There is work that most people don't appreciate.“ – Majority participant, HR

There is no quick win or easy answer here because after a certain scale, these are complex things that require resourcing - something HR teams do not always have. Many people also acknowledge that smaller or newer companies frequently had no HR at all, and were more guessing, googling or informally polling colleagues to establish what a “good” salary is.

Having more data points in the existing YYJ Tech Salary survey would lend credibility to the data, but ultimately as self-reported data its usefulness will always be perceived as “less credible” than 3rd party data. However, for employers who don’t have access to any paid sources of data, that combined with data collected from salaries posted that are transparent was reported as potentially useful.

The Exclusion is Bigger Than Just YYJ Tech

During the interview process, a number of minority participants shared experiences of harassment they have experienced during their time working in the tech sector. They are available to read in Slack, although trigger warning before clicking through.

It is not uncommon to hear stories like this circulating between members of YYJ Tech Ladies when connecting in person. Again, the larger realities of the world and the industry impact our community in unfortunate ways. And again, attempts to look to leadership of the tech industry to address these harms have overwhelmingly failed to result in any meaningful change or justice.

Although the incidents shared here are extreme, the day-to-day frustrations of being dismissed or having their contributions overlooked both in the board room and in their paycheques weighed heavily on many female participants. This same general feeling of being dismissed also persists on the internet in general, leading to the stakes for and stresses of participating in the Slack group to be higher than for non-female participants.

“A big part of it is that discourse on the internet is really hard. It's really hard to get people to empathize between a human being in words on the screen and wanting to win the argument. …. The difference that women and minorities have is they get attacked on the internet because they're under-represented and they get attacked by trolls and they've been forced to pay attention and be more empathetic …. If we were in a bar or in a tea house or whatever, having the same conversation it would be different.” – Minority participant

“If you're a minority in tech and feeling vulnerable in general attacks feel more harmful, but it makes them feel alienated from the community at large. It has the effect of silencing voices. …. The minorities are not feeling as secure in their position and makes it feel like an unsafe space a lot of the time and they feel they can lose their abilities to connect in the tech community because they can't - and then they leave and then don't get the same benefits to reach out to find a new opportunity by dming someone in the community when they want to leave.” – Minority participant

The experiences we have shaped our interactions with the group, but we aren’t all having an equitable experience in the world outside, and if we’re going to support a thriving tech community through this space the reality of that will need to be taken into consideration in how we design our solutions.

A Few Reasons Why Those Topics are Nucelar Hot

Here are some of the reasons that emerged as to why the topic of salary bands and salary transparency is a very complex problem. Again, none of this complexity or these reasons excuse doing the hard work so quality between employees can improve, and just because these things are hard it does not erase that harm is happening.

This information is important to include because understanding a fuller picture can help us to craft solutions that have a chance of having the impacts we want to make. (More on what we can agree those impacts should be later.)

The Trimodal Nature of Salaries

For the last few years, the article about the “The Trimodal Nature of Software Engineering Salaries in the Netherlands and Europe” has been circulating around. You can read the article or watch the video here if you’d like to dig in, but here’s a tl;dr:

An engineer named Gergely Orosz in the Netherlands made an observation about what he was seeing in his local tech market. He’s since updated it to acknowledge that this is just how tech salaries work outside of big tech hubs like San Francisco.

A hand-drawn graph with two axis, number of positions and salary. The data shows three overlappign tiers of companies with more positions in the lower tier and very view in the high tier. A green bar sits on top of the lowest bar with the annotation "average salary on reports". A green bar sits on top of the middle tier with the annotation "highest salary on reports". A red bar sits on top of the 3rd tier with the annotation "The invisible range hidden from most public data"

There is no longer an "average" salary for software engineers: just an average salary per one of the three, distinct categories. He also notes that most companies tend to assume their salaries are competitive against a tier higher than they actually are - because without transparency, they have little data points that prove otherwise.

Tier 1: Companies only benchmarking against their local competition and non-tech companies, competing only with their local competitors.

This includes jobs where technology is not treated - or compensated - as a core competency at these companies.

  • Engineering is part of IT, and often view it as a cost center
  • Startups with little capital and bootstrapped companies
  • Some Government roles or non-profits
  • Agencies
Tier 2: Companies benchmarking against all local companies, even if they are not direct competitors.
  • High-growth startups
  • Universities
  • Some Government roles
Tier 3: Big Tech: companies benchmarking against all regional or global companies.

Most compensation is from variable income, like Stock and Bonuses, making total compensation patterns in this category very hard to quantify.

  • International tech companies
  • High growth, well-funded late-stage companies
Tier 1 Tier 2 Tier 3
NUMBER OF JOBS Many Moderate Few
COMPETITION FOR AVAILABLE JOBS Low - mid, depending on experience Mid - high High - extreme
Bonuses Low - none Mid - high
EMPLOYEE STOCK None or for leadership only, and then low Mid - high High - extreme, often major contributor to total compensation
VC FUNDING None or little Well-funded, but high pressure for 30+% year over year growth Historically yes, but often these companies are public, with continued pressure for high growth over time

Victoria's Tech Scene is Still Maturing

During the interviews, I had a number of folks come to bring their perspectives who had lived and worked in tech outside of Victoria in the past. These locations included San Francisco, Toronto, Vancouver, Israel, London and Calgary. These folks were able to observe some things that are unique to Victoria’s tech community that are adding to the complexity of this topic in a way that is unique compared to those larger markets.

The main one relevant here is that Venture Capital funding doesn’t, or at least historically hasn't, flow into companies here in the same way it does in other markets. What this means is that we have more companies who are “tech companies” who are either bootstrapped, or close to bootstrapped. The impact of this is that many companies who are startups paying wages in Tier 1, and some startups with VC funding from outside Victoria paying wages in Tier 2. This is likely contributing to the observation of massive differences in pay for the same roles between companies.

“VC capital is run by the same 8 people in Victoria. if you can get 1 or 2 the rest will follow but if one decides it's a hard no you won't get money. It's a cabal for a lack of a better word. if you go to bigger markets you can get a really big cheque, but that's not happening here.” – Majority participant

Although this may be starting to shift as the tech community in Victoria matures, and market forces globally shift due to the pandemic and subsequent fear of a recession, the long-term change will still take time to work through. In talking to organizers working on increasing the flow of capital in the city, there are movements happening to diversify (on an individual level, as well as demographically) who can contribute to VC funds, potentially giving more opportunities for people who are in the tech scene in Victoria to get more involved as collective funders of new companies.

Some of the resources that exist for funding in Victoria in 2023 include:

Although there are an increasing number of Tech companies in Victoria, there were a number of folks across all demographics who observed that competition for roles is extremely high, especially for a junior role. The impact of this is that for those that want to get into the industry, especially those that have transitioned into tech later in their careers, those Tier 1 low paying jobs might represent a massive opportunity to have a path to a higher salary later in their career. But, competition is fierce, and that makes it economically viable for entry-level salaries to be lower. This might not just be in Victoria - but this is definitely experience by people within our city.

“I see a lot of saturation in the market. Lots of jr roles that are posted with or without pay that get 200-400 applicants and it's very competitive and you're never really sure which postings are worth spending time a cover letter for, to do a 2-3 hour test for, to do 6 rounds of interviews is sometimes ridiculous . 4 rounds of interviews for my first role and a two hour coding test which I had to do twice and i didn't get that position but I put in upwards of 12 hours of time into that company. I'm not totally financially vulnerable but sometimes I feel like I am.“ – Majority participant

“[I was talking to someone in finance] and he said "well if you go to search for this jr position you might find a larger band then when i go to see who applied we have 600 applicants so why would we have the market band when we're getting applicants for the lower band anyway" i'm still processing it - in the moment i said "well if this company decides to have an entry level band and have next to no experience needed and this will get your foot in the door then maybe you have an argument but if you have skills or experience you need a market rate - there's something worrisome… just because you can get someone i don't think it's right. You can get someone for anything. That's where the exploitation comes in.“ – Minority participant

Minority folks were more likely to acknowledge that it was these tiers of jobs that they had to take to get into the industry in the first place because their minority status made it that much harder for them from competing equally for Tier 2 or 3 companies as their first role. Reasons for this ranged from some blatant cases of discrimination, to not feeling confident to live up to the standards of the job without criticism.

However, minority folks also shared examples of how the low wages were causing harm, and this seemed to especially intersect with the experiences of women and immigrants. This is a hard reality to face that this is happening both across and industry and a city that sees itself as progressive - but these represent the 'why' behind the urgency for change. This has a disproportational impact some individuals more than others.

“[When I responded to being offered a salary lowered after they saw in person I was black and tried to find out where I was from] I pointed out ‘I was born here - I’m not an immigrant.’ And she was surprised. [I told them] “What you are proposing is highly illegal because you assumed I wasn't from here - I really need a job but not that badly.“ – Minority participant

“I felt so lucky leaving college to get offered a job before I graduated. Yes, I would like money to pay rent. It did not cross my mind that I should or could negotiate. Even now [as a manager] I would struggle to advocate for myself. It's so easy to doubt yourself and to worry that even if you succeed and get a company to pay you, that is also going to cause them to have high expectations. Am I going to have to be absolutely amazing every minute of every day to justify this salary?” – Minority participant

“It was exploitative. I knew at that company that one of the dudes was being paid more for the same job same performance. where it crossed the line was after my first performance review after a year. i got awesome feedback midway and then promotions and pay gave me a useless amount of bump and 2-3 years away from promotion to the next level. …. I refused to sign the wage paper that's offensive for how much the client likes me. I was firey. I really pushed for myself.” – Minority participant

“Salary has been tough because I haven't negotiated well. I have a habit of sticking it out for way too long and by the time i'm ready to leave i'm like ‘get me the fuck out of here before i burn this place to the ground’ and I'm ready to accept anything remotely reasonable. I took a 10-15k pay cut to get out of [a bad situation at a company].” – Minority participant

“[When I got access to our recruitment database] I started to notice that anyone who didn't have a pronounceable name wasn't even given a chance.They didn't open the resumes. These are stories you hear and it's hearsay - but I saw holy shit this is happening. Not from people who are hitlers and nazis, but regular well-meaning people operating on their default.” – Minority participant

What is important to take away from this is that once companies start to post salaries as a standard, if we then begin to compare the compensation of Tier 1 companies to the compensation of Tier 3 companies, we are not having a nuanced conversation that reflects the reality of an increasingly global tech talent market.

It was also clear from talking to minorities that economic equality at work alone doesn’t erase the rest of the work to be done, but it can remove one factor that those with the most power - employers and shareholders - have the most power to shift.

“The Work” Beyond Salary Transparency

What became more obvious as interviews went on was that salary transparency is really just, as many who were interviewed said “the baseline” - it gives us something that will at least have some hope of levelling the playing field economically between majority and minority members of the tech sector. But, then this is when the rest of “the work” will begin.

The real work is about not taking advantage of and exploiting employees. The unfortunate reality, both in data before and supported by anecdotes shared above, is that when exploitation happens it disproportionately impacts minorities. The information we have here can collectively help us all to start to see the system we’re working within, and identify where we’re either part of enforcing the system, or we’re doing work to resist the system.

Underlying the experiences of minority voices were not bad experiences within the Slack group itself, but stories of past times that they had been impacted by the topics at hand. Stories were shared of pay inequity, sexual harassment and general frustration with badly-behaving “tech bros”. Some had tried to take on equity or DEI work, only to realize that neither did those same colleagues who were contributing to workplaces they felt excluded from day-to-day want to participate in the initiatives, leadership often was scared to stand up for change as well.

For immigrants and people of colour, microaggressions around race are part of everyday life, and they frequently reported just walking away from spaces where that same harm was present, including YYJ Tech Slack, out of sheer exhaustion.

Part of the way through the interviews it became clear that no one who had experienced low pay was upset, until they felt taken-advantage of by their employer. A new question was added to the pool: where is the line between an opportunity, and work that exploits or takes advantage of someone?

Minority respondents who identified only as female were likely to see that both exploitation AND opportunity had been present for them at the same time. Majority respondents were more likely to see any amount of exploitation as unacceptable. Some Minority and Majority respondents saw that the topic was complex, but advocated strongly for rules around pay transparency because it helped disrupt the power imbalance between employers and employees, and without the government legislation in place there is low likelihood of compliance from most employers.

Respondents who had a clear vision of exploitation commented that the line in the sand centered around the importance of choice, and autonomy. Perhaps this explains why for some minority respondents, posting jobs without salary information was acceptable - being able to access more job opportunities, or maybe even knowingly choosing the one that pays less for other reasons might be more important than being paid the most.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that banning posts without a salary isn’t still the right option for the community, but it does present an unexpected finding that perspectives on the best solution is not as black and white as just “people who are and/or support minorities only want pay transparency immediately and without question” or “employers who don’t post salaries are workplaces that don’t value equality”. There is a messy middle here that we have to acknowledge and work through as we explore our opportunities and options for moving out of this conflicted state and into one that is constructive.

What We DO All Agreed On

A New Community Purpose

During the initial survey, folks were asked to give their own statements of what the purpose of the group was. Words about tech, local, community and connection showed up strongly.

Percentage Count Theme
74.0% 114 Tech / tech adjacent
66.9% 103 Local / Victoria / Island
49.4% 76 Community / hub
39.0% 60 Connection / gathering / come together

In terms of purpose, aside from job-postings all of the topics were related to connecting to each other.

Percentage Count Theme
25% 36 Socializing / chatting / friendships / discussion
22% 32 Job postings / opportunities
21% 31 Networking / relationships / directory
17% 25 Sharing / Role-specific sharing
15% 22 Events / lead to in-person connection
12% 17 Help / support each other / advice / guidance
12% 17 Ideas / knowledge / information
9% 13 Shared interests / hobbies / niche topics
7% 10 Learning / career growth / career development
4% 6 Collaboration
1% 2 Improving ourselves / products / city
1% 2 Buy / sell / classifieds
1% 2 Industry pulse / issues affecting tech

Synthesizing all of this together, and iterating based on feedback via a @Polly survey, we landed on an updated purpose statement that better reflects who this is for, and why folks should join.

YYJ Tech is an online community that connects & supports professionals in the tech industry in and around Victoria, BC.

Shared Norms

This clip was the primary framing for asking participants about how they wanted to shape new code of conduct policies. In this clip, the Parks & Rec main character says that she doesn’t hear “anger” in council meetings (where clips are played of people screaming and throwing things), she hears “caring loudly”.

Interview participants were asked where the line is for them between “crossing the line” and “caring loudly”, and the majority agreed that it will be incredibly difficult to make hard and fast rules. As observed above, not everyone even experienced what happened in that channel as conflict. Where the “line” is is very much a personal thing, and everyone will have a different line.

Thinking about examples of when the community had crossed the line, the job postings channel was used as an example almost exclusively. The following are themes that emerged over multiple interviews.

Behave as if you were at a professional event

This thread of professionalism was common in many interviews. While some examples are needed to help make this clear so that moderation can be effective, this seemed like a recognition that for some, this space has felt more like other casual spaces on the internet like Reddit - to the detriment of the sense of ‘community’ in the space. Folks pointed out that unlike Reddit, we do have to maintain professional relationships with each other that go beyond simply chatting. We may work together someday, or may decide we don’t want to ever work with a person or company based on the behaviour we see in the community.

“It goes back to what's allowable in the community - the behaviours I see coming up in the salary transparency around not understanding the other point of view has been normalized and the way people react to that. We don't need to change our point of view to have a respectful conversation but recognizing that we may disagree, here's why, it's ok that we disagree and it can be a conversation. this isn't specific to YYJ Tech - this is the internet - this is why I don't do Reddit - people just scream at each other all day through their keyboards. I can't do it. That doesn't make it not harmful.” – Minority participant

“I think that for me it's ok to voice opinions about salary - when people start putting each other down and making them feel stupid or trying to shame them publicly in the group it becomes bullying. … We're all professionals. …. This is a professional community. if you wouldn't say something to your colleague or your boss or your mom - we all know when it stops being kind and professional communication.“ – Minority participant

Use kindness to build community

Strong voices on both perspectives were seeking more kindness, and more gentleness in responses when things get tough. Whether that means walking away if you feel yourself getting too frustrated, or digging deep for empathy for the other person, keeping our tone civil and constructive matters to community members.

“[As a community I’d like to see us] have some strict rules but go above and beyond - if there's a case we would want you to explain how this is a kind comment, not how this violated human rights and broke the law. How did it contribute to the sense of community?” – Minority participant

“For those who feel strongly … be kind and loving. Friction to promote change won’t work if it’s not in a loving caring way. Keep respecting one another.” – Majority participant

“If I had seen anything negative I probably would have just left, to be honest. It's one of those pick your battles and do I have energy? If I don't feel safe I'll just bail.” – Minority participant

Make sure you’re putting your anger or energy in a place where it has a chance of having the outcome you are looking for This is definitely a reaction to the job postings channel, and was not seen to be as applicable elsewhere in the group. There is a need to create space for constructive criticism and not tip into toxic positivity where we don’t have high standards for our community and employers. However, many folks felt strongly that giving feedback in the way that we have been in the group has not resulted in action happening, and we need to find alternative methods.

This was particularly pointed out by women who are developers, feeling frustrated that other women were being “punched down” on, even if the overall goals of some of the members pushing for change were motivated by trying to push for an overall positive outcome.

"It feels like you're shooting the messenger and they might be a messenger for an evil corp and they have no power - we're all just stuck in this capitalist hellscape together. …. It is a new trauma of wow this community is filled with some angry jerks but i didn't ask for you to represent me as an angry white dude and i especially didn't want you to be an asshole to another women - that's anti what i want.” – Minority participant

There is a need in this part, however, to make sure that we are not protecting organizations from criticism through this change. We never have, and will continue not to, enforce code of conduct rules when businesses or organizations are the point of criticism. This needs to be made clearer in the Code of Conduct going forward.

We all have to help to foster safer and braver spaces

When minorities were asked what kind of signals we could send that this is a safe space, they said:

  • Be welcoming equally to newcomers, regardless of gender, skin colour or if you think they might be an immigrant
  • Don’t make comments that dispute or invalidate lived experiences of minorities
  • Respect boundaries when they are set

We do want to still have space for “caring loudly” here. We cannot use this as a moment to silence the hard things we learned about during this process that many, especially minorities, are experiencing in our community. However, if we are going to succeed at having minorities in this space, we will have to adjust our code of conduct to account for these new norms, even if it does mean we have to change our strategy for the tactics of how we get there. Many folks also pointed out that having leaders share space with non-leaders does have a chilling effect on being open and speaking up. The imbalance and differential of power is just too great. This was more commonly shared by minorities, and always from someone who had had a bad experience and felt unsafe speaking up.

“Right now anyone can join any channel - it limits people's interactions. I will also say I don't think it's beneficial to have any senior leadership in the group - there's an inherent power structure there .… I know that I would also be excluded [due to my role] but I would rather save that space. We would lose something if we stop interacting all in one space if people's intentions were more pure, but being around leadership tables, the intentions aren't pure. I see them use it as a tool to further their business.” – Minority participant

Finding ways to shift this dynamic will be critical if this space is going to be as safe to speak up bravely as possible, but the logistics of how to do this with the limitations of Slack as a community platform will require some creativity and innovation.

Be curious to hear about the other person’s perspective

This will be the hardest one. This is the very social and cultural moment in time we live in that is making the conflict arise in the first place. We are lacking in social norms where this is the norm, and adopting new ones will not be as easy as simply making a new line in the code of conduct.

The good news is that the very thing that the research says will help is what this whole process was designed for: to give space to truly hear each other, and start to be exposed to perspectives that are not our own. Hopefully, it is the seed of the start of something we can grow from. But, it is just the seed and it will need energy and care to grow into the right thing for the community.

Whatever new moderation tools, techniques and new members who join the moderation team will need to step into supporting and guiding the community through the challenge of learning how to do this.

Our Ideas for Change

Out of the 1:1 interviews and responses to the initial survey, members of the community had many ideas about the kind of changes we could make to support things to be better. The community was then asked to rate each idea with one of 5 emojis: 😍, 🙂, 😐, 🙁, 😭, with the goal of identifying which ideas we have general commumity buy-in for pursuing at this time.

Here are all of the ideas the community generated, in the order they were shared for voting.

Would YYJ Tech be better if we…

  • had an on boarding and channel discovery experience to help people find smaller communities aligned with their interests and hobbies
  • created a more formal directory of folks to assist with networking and learning more about culture fit (leaning into #buy-a-coffee)
  • create a log of past incidents and how they were handled to help build confidence in moderation
  • set up an easy way for community members, especially newer ones, to connect together in 1:1 or smaller groups
  • improved the Code of Conduct to have more specific examples to support more intentional moderation
  • develop new community conventions to manage the challenges of #job-postings. For example, create a convention for when someone is speaking as a corporation, not an I.C. and/or have a community standard way to respond to questions about a job posting
  • provided information when a salary is outside of the typical range for that size of company
  • made an external job board that could post to Slack but also let users browse to just see what they want to see
  • created a channel to support and coach each other to overcome gaps of confidence while job hunting
  • set a community standard about how we will handle #job-postings going forward. Ideas shared include: a) Make salary a required field b) Make job postings read only c) Positively reward companies who share a salary range
  • tried using other technologies besides Slack that support more community management, either for certain topics, or long-term.
  • started to organize to support the growth of the VC investment sector in Victoria so companies can afford to pay better
  • highlighted community members on a regular basis to get to know them beyond just their Slack bios
  • organized in-person events, both formal (e.g. town halls) and information fun get-to-know-you (e.g. dessert club) regularly so we can get to know each other outside of just writing
  • removed leaders from being able to see and participate in discussions related to salary and workplace conditions, either by removing them from the community entirely or just have certain closed channels
  • had an application to join, including being walked through the code of conduct expectations & popular channels to set expectations for community tone and reduce the number of spammers joining
  • created a way to collect feedback on job descriptions that gets sent directly to policy makers instead of via the job poster
  • built out the Salary Survey data into a full-blown tool that employees and smaller Startups could use to help with salary benchmarking
  • created a resources portal for determining compensation bands to help educate community members and smaller organizations
  • develop a way for employers to opt into a "vetted by YYJ Tech" evaluation, to help smaller employers share their perks beyond salary
  • charge employers who do not post a salary range
  • create more formal pathways for members to contribute their unique skills back to the community

These ideas might not necessarily be the best at resolving the conflict or solving for even underlying harms, but we know they won’t make the conflict worse by getting collectively stuck on if it was the right direction to move in. We can lean into the ideas that all the folks who engaged in the evolution process agree will be positive for our community.

Ideas Without Community Support

Evaluating these ideas seeking things that we “all don’t hate” does mean that some ideas won’t have community support - at least not in their current incarnation, or not at this moment in time.

Of the ideas shared and voted on via Polly, the following ideas have more neutral members and negative detractors than positive supporters:

Idea % Positive % Neutral % Negative
YYJ Tech would be better if we create a way to collect feedback on job descriptions that gets sent directly to policy makers instead of via the job poster 43% 46% 11%
YYJ Tech would be better if we tried using other technologies besides Slack that support more community management, either for certain topics, or long-term. 30% 53% 17%
YYJ Tech would be better if we removed leaders from being able to see and participate in discussions related to salary and workplace conditions, either by removing them from the community entirely or just have certain closed channels 25% 31% 44%
YYJ Tech would be better if we charge employers who do not post a salary range 21% 21% 58%

This helps us know where to steer away from while the group is still in a state of conflict so that we can collaborate on the things that we all do agree on so we can build towards navigating through the complexities of the harder challenges ahead of us.

This does mean that the challenges these ideas were intending to address will remain persistent, and we will need to take further action and find alternative solutions that we don’t all hate.

Top Ideas

The good news is that we DO have lots of ideas that we do overall agree on - in fact, the majority of ideas had broad appeal to the community.

Here are the top three that were voted on in the Polly, where the positive community will far outweigh the neutral or negative community sentiment.

Idea % Positive % Neutral % Negative
Organize in-person events, both formal (e.g. town halls) and information fun get-to-know-you (e.g. dessert club) regularly so we can get to know each other outside of just writing 83% 14% 3%
Create a channel to support and coach each other to overcome gaps of confidence while job hunting 83% 17% 0%
Make a plan to enforce community standards about how we will handle issues going forward 82% 16% 2%

Additionally - in order to support the change management of these new ideas, and help enforce the community standards - I’ve added in a final action item for the hackathon, although this was wasn’t voted on, it did come up frequently in the feedback from interviews and surveys.

Create a plan to recruit, train and support moderators that can help to support our new community standards, including dealing with issues of abuse of power and minority trauma

These are the ideas that will be tackled in a hackathon. The more people that join, the more ideas we can achieve! All skills in tech are applicable, not just coding skills - so please join if something catches your interest.

Help these ideas happen

In Conclusion...

YYJ Tech has a lot going for it, and there is strong community will to overcome the challenges, largely in the #job-postings channel, to grow into something even better. We are not immune to the social challenges of our society, but there is a desire to find ways to collaborate and work together to be a strong and positive force that makes the tech community here a better place to be.

When we asked leaders the "why" behind their reluctance to post salaries, we learned that for those who had embarked on the journey, it took a long time and required a lot of resources in order to do it in a way that truly addressed the problem sustainabily and equitably. Often, the organization was small enough or growing so fast they actually didn't know the answer - and inequity certainly wasn't registering as problem they were facing as an organization.

This is in stark contrast to the motivations of ICs that came to the table. Negative experiences of themselves or their friends and colleagues is the driving force behind the desire for transparency. No one who had something to criticize came at it from wanting to punish or harm companys, but with deep sadness and confusion that investing in salary bands as a clear lever for pay equity was not seen as important work to be done in 2023. For folks experiencing challenges related to salary while working in Tech, it was not pay disparity between companies, but within companies that cause them frustration and anger, but this was usually directed at the larger societal challenges that made it possible for this to be acceptable business practice vs individual actions.

These challenges are not small, and there are no easy answers, but the moment to act is definitely now. With the changes in BC legislation coming, the general community energy is centered around two things:

  1. building more community between each other, and
  2. focusing on how we can collectively rally around things that empower and enable us to have the best career and employment experiences possible.

The collective knowledge of the community reflected here holds some keys, and some fabulous ideas, on what that work is. There are limits to what a Slack group can do to change the world, but we want to work together to do the best we can to make working in tech in this city as great as it can be.

Next Steps

This work isn’t done! This community will keep changing, and evolving and our collective effort will be required to continue to work on making its evolution positive.

Next up, we’ll put the top ideas for change into flight starting with using our Hackathon time to collaborate to get them started. We’ll keep using @Polly to get feedback on how those changes we put into practice are going, and where we have opportunities to iterate.

📝 Sign up for the Hackathon