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SparkFun Electronics will be closed on July 3rd, 2015 in observance of Independence Day. Any orders placed after 2:00pm MT on July 2nd will be shipped out after the weekend. Thanks!

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Jess M

Member Since: November 4, 2013

Country: United States

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Director of Marketing and Communications at SparkFun. Expert cat herder. Purveyor of fictional worlds. Powered by ridiculousness, caffeine, and charm.

After a decade of debate and public outcry last summer, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler issued a statement today promising to protect the open Internet.

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Navigating the masses of International CES 2015 to bring you the highlights of all that's up-and-coming with electronics.

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A gaggle of SparkFun folks are here in Las Vegas for the 2015 International CES show–the biggest, best, and showiest show for all things electronic. Here’s the highlight reel of Tuesday, January 6.

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  • As AVC has continued to grow, we need to make sure it’s sustainable. That means some things will be changing–such as including the battle bots, venue changes, and, yes, admission charges. Even if it’s at our building, it’s not free to put on the event, and we want to make sure we continue to offer the most awesome autonomous vehicle competition this side of DARPA.

  • We like to think we have our priorities in order. ;)

  • We did consider that not everyone is on Twitter, but as Emcee Grady said above, it was the tool that made the most sense for us to run this contest. If we did it just in the blog comments, there’s no easy way like a hashtag to export and track all that data–and remember, a real human being has to sit down and tally the responses at the end of the game. We love you guys and definitely want you to be able to participate, so in the future we’ll see if we can find multiple methods of entry.

  • It’s not as simple as “more women in tech.” What this post was really about was the discrimination and hostility women and people of color face in STEM fields. My previous comments gave lots of scientific evidence about the system in which girls and people of color grow up, and how that translates into fewer of them going into these fields. You said we’re making conclusions without evidence–are not these studies evidence? Are not the experiences of thousands of women and people of color evidence? What we “decided” is that women and people of color should be able to go into these fields without being told at every turn they don’t belong there. I’m not talking about “being oversensitive”–I’m talking about death threats, rape threats, having your work ignored or stolen by colleagues and having no recourse because you’re “just a woman”. Your suggestion–that SparkFun only hire women–misses the point. We’re not talking about just our company. We’re talking about an entire system, and we are doing what we can–such as supporting efforts to encourage and mentor girls and kids of all backgrounds in STEM, our educational outreach to children of all ages, celebrating the scientific achievements of women and people of color that are largely ignored by textbooks, etc–to change that system. It’s not about a perfect 50-50 balance. It’s about removing undue obstacles and affording equal access and opportunity.

  • I can’t answer for everyone at SparkFun, but in general I’d say that senior projects count as experience in a lot of places. My senior thesis did when I first graduated from college, as did my husband’s senior design project (he’s an EE.) Internships, volunteer experience, work for student orgs–those all helped me, and many people I know, get my first job after graduation. It depends on what kind of job you’re applying for–entry level, stuff like that should make you stand out. If you’re freshly out of college and applying for VP position (not in a start-up), they’ll make you stand out but it probably won’t be enough. :)

    You have a valid point about rebranding of the term privilege. I’ve heard people say that before–the problem is, I guess, is that the dictionary definition of privilege–i.e., benefits and rights conferred to one group but not another–is what’s being used here, and I just don’t know another term for it, lol. I think the real issue is conversation and actual dialogue, rather than just yelling at people (which is what happens on Tumblr a lot). Yelling never really convinced anyone.

    When you talk about people losing their individuality, that’s sort of the point of that experiment. When you’re told every day of your life for as long as you can remember that you are X not Y, that you can’t do ABC, that you’re not as good as this other person, that you’re lesser–it’s hard to shake that stuff. I think you might relate, given your story about how people respond to you when they find out where you went to high school. :)

    The GitHub incident really just was a catalyst for us. Things always hit harder when they’re close to home.

    I totally agree with your comments about education, and I’m glad that I’ve helped in some small way. We need smart people to speak up and work on these issues, and many others, and I hope you hold on to that passion and conviction. It’ll take you a long way. I’ve actually read Contact, too (although it was a million years ago)–everybody’s gotta love Carl Sagan. :) If you’re interested in astrophysics and diversity in STEM, I also suggest you listen/read things that Neil Degrasse Tyson has said. He’s recently been starring in the revamp of Cosmos, which was originally Carl Sagan’s show.

  • I don’t disagree that life rewards those that overcome their obstacles, but I was pointing out that when an entire group of people is systematically discouraged from participation from something, it’s rather insulting to insist that they simply need to “work harder” instead of looking at the problems inherent in the system.

    ….Now I just really wanna post a Holy Grail gif.

  • To address a few of your points:

    RE: Proficient vs Experienced–words mean different things to different people. Person A might have taken 2 semesters of Spanish and consider themselves “proficient,” when the job posting really means they want you to have an advanced degree in it. Added to that, women tend to underestimate their abilities, so a woman reading that job posting with “proficient” may not think she’s qualified when in reality she is. SparkFun is a little different than most other companies–for one, we’re more interested in aptitude and potential than other places might be, and two, we actually ask you to “show your work.” Engineering applicants are asked to provide examples of projects, devs are asked to provide sample code–when I was interviewing, I was asked to give examples of campaigns I’d run. So we don’t have to worry about how someone evaluates their own skills–they’ll show us, and it becomes very clear what they’re good at.

    RE: Privilege–I think you’re misunderstanding how this word is used when discussing issues of equality. (As an avid Tumblr user myself, it’s not always the best lens, because people can get pretty polarized on there.) Privilege doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It doesn’t mean you haven’t had personal tragedies or haven’t been abused in some way. It doesn’t mean that you haven’t worked hard or and it doesn’t undermine your achievements. All it means is that you have been afforded certain benefits by society that other people have not. Let me give you an example: Black drivers are up to 7 times more likely to be stopped by police than white drivers. This article outlines privileges men have in something as seemingly trivial as gaming, such as not having to endure constant harassment and requests for nude photos. We’ve not seen a confirmed case of a person being murdered simply for being heterosexual. Those are all examples of privilege. The institutions of power are overwhelmingly male and white. What this means is that a white, straight male, you have privilege in that you see people like you in positions of power, and do not have to fight a legacy of racism, sexism, and homophobia in order to succeed. This article outlays some examples of white privilege. It doesn’t mean that you don’t work hard, it just means there aren’t extra barriers place in front of you the way they are for women and people of color. There’s a privilege of class too–would you argue that Bill Gates doesn’t have privileges compared to yourself? Americans have privilege too, over people born in developing countries. There are all kinds of privilege. It’s not meant to demonize anyone, it’s just meant to acknowledge that we’re not actually on a level playing field as a society.

    And that’s the fallacy of meritocracies. They’re supposed to reward people for their work, but if one person has a whole bunch of extra obstacles piled on them, it’s not exactly equal work. Meritocracies are great if everyone’s starting from the same place, but that’s not really how the world works. If you’re starting at a disadvantage, it’s hard to compete with people who were already halfway to the finish line. Please don’t read that as you didn’t work hard to get where you are–I’m quite sure you did–but the point of privilege is to try to get you to see things from other people’s point of view. Jane Elliott, a teacher and activist, conceived of an experiment in 1968 called the brown eyes/blue eyes experiment that she still does today. This video shows her doing the experiment recently and it’s a good demonstration of how issues of race and gender still plague our society.

    RE: GitHub perceived as a sexist company–We never said that. We said that sexism and racism are issues that are an ugly side of STEM, and that this was one example of something we know to be a problem. GitHub is making efforts, and we commend that–but we also wanted to literally put our money where our mouth is and show that we’re not just paying lip-service to support for diversity. Hence, the donations.

    Lastly, to your point about objectivity–it only works if everyone has equal access and opportunity. I’ve given you some data above that show it’s not, but if you want more, all you have to do is Google it–or better yet, listen to the people who live this every day. In a perfect system, yes, pure objective measurement of ability and merit would be the way to go, but we don’t have a perfect system. We have to work with what we got, and that’s exactly what SparkFun is trying to do–make a bad situation better however we can. We can’t just do that within our walls though–we have to try to make change in the world outside too. It’s an obligation for those who have the ability to speak up, but it’s more than that to us–we care about this deeply, and want to make it better.

    To that end, I sincerely hope that I’ve been clear I want to have a conversation with you about these topics, not just yell at you and shut you down. I’m glad that you’re thinking about them and that you posted what you did, but I also think it’s important to hear what people who don’t share your experiences have to say. As a woman who’s worked in male-dominated industries my whole life (defense and tech), this is a subject near-and-dear to my heart, and the only way we can change anything is to openly discuss and confront it.

  • It came from the fact that we, as a company, find issues of equality–particularly in STEM, because that’s our world–to be a hugely important issue. In this instance, it was a situation that also involves GitHub, which we use heavily, and we wanted to speak up about something that’s pervasive in our field. SparkFun makes products, but we also really care about the community surrounding making, innovating, and technology. Culture is every bit as important as products here.

  • “The reality is, women have different interests and all biases and prejudice aside, there will NEVER be an equal number of women in tech for the same reason there will never be an equal number of men in the child care or health care industry.”

    This is a truism that has zero foundation in reality. You’re looking at the outcomes of an unjust system and then claiming that that’s evidence of something intrinsic in men and women. Women and minorities are told at ages as early as nine that STEM isn’t for them, and encounter obstacles at every turn that simply aren’t there for white men, because they are daring to pursue something outside the paradigm built by the people in power. Girls are taught to believe that they are not as capable in STEM at young ages when that’s simply not true. Please listen to the experiences of people who live this every day, especially their early experiences, instead of brushing it away with unfounded statements–the very same statements that help build those obstacles I mentioned earlier. I’ll refer you to the words of Neil Degrasse Tyson–build a system that affords equal access and opportunity, THEN we can start talking about intrinsic differences that affect career choice.

No public wish lists :(