Can you engineer empathy (as part of learning to code)?
Dev Bootcamp, an intensive nine-week coding program in San Francisco’s South of Market district, offers a unique “Engineering Empathy” curriculum. About 30 students stood in pairs and spoke to their partners simultaneously: You don’t respond to email fast enough. Why are you checking Twitter — nothing important happens there. You’re too old to be here. You’re faking it. You don’t know how to develop. You have no career. You’re the worst pair partner. Your accent makes you hard to understand. You’ll never get a programming job.
When the cacophony finally subsided, many of the would-be programmers were in tears. Some were holding hands. One man sat down and put his head in his hands. “My superego runs on a disappointment platform,” he said to the room.
The culture of tech (male-dominated, sexist, entitled and so on) has become even more visible as of late. Even the parodies of Silicon Valley, such as HBO’s Silicon Valley, face criticism for not being inclusive enough.
So I’m a bit stuck on how to parse this particular example. Of course it’s good that people are given the chance to develop empathy! I’ve been teaching designers about presence and mindfulness (and will be doing so again later this year at UX Australia). Perhaps it’s just how the writer took something earnest and presented it out of context, thereby making it look ridiculous (in other words, like a scene from Silicon Valley).
I suppose things can be both wonderfully beneficial and hilariously ridiculous at the same time (see rock music or romance, for example). I’ve taught a lot of workshops where you if walked in without context you’d wonder what the hell is going on. I feel trepidation (because I can’t tell how whether this is authentic or just a put-on) but I really want to recognize this as a good thing.