Plenty of people and publications are talking about women in tech. I happened to land at a northern Colorado company that is doing more than spouting formulas, platitudes and statistics.
Women developers make up 53% of Radial Development Group’s staff, at a time when women nationwide make up slightly more than a quarter of the computing workforce. The national average is less than 30%.
First, let me say, I’m not a software developer. I’m here to build a hybrid public relations/marketing/sales/consulting pod. The number of women, and their varied backgrounds, piqued my interest.
“Radial looks for candidates who will be a great fit,” developer Kristen Doucette told me. “The feeling is, you’re here because you fit.”
Radial, based in downtown Loveland, was founded six years ago by Ben West and Marshall Smith. Both had worked for other tech companies and startups and had a plan for the look and feel of theirs.
West explained: “We started out building a company where we’d be happy to work, where we’d want to work.”
The company has 15 employees and continues to expand. As it grows, West plans to maintain a similar gender balance.
“I like Radial,” said Stephanie Ogburn, a journalist-turned-Radial-team-lead. “I feel like it’s one of the few places where employees are legit empowered to shape the company. A lot of attention is paid to culture. It’s a key part of making Radial a good place to work.”
When the Radialests (my term) talk about culture, they’re talking about values, attitudes, goals and atmosphere. Culture is not a word the founders bandy about. It’s something they do. Actively.
West and Smith, for example, dispensed with the idea of nerd cred, the notion that if a person hadn’t started rebuilding computers and coding in elementary school, she wasn’t qualified as a developer. Instead, they work to create a university-type culture where everyone is viewed as a lifelong learner.
Rebecca Vetter, Radial’s engineering director, was an elementary school teacher for four years and a Mary Kay rep for 10. Up to that point, no one had suggested that technology was an option. When she began looking for a new career, her brother, a UX designer, hounded her to learn code. A summer boot camp sealed her decision.
“I always really liked math and I was good at it,” Vetter said. “I relate coding to math. Coding is like math without the numbers.”
She was the first woman Radial hired. She started as a junior developer in January 2016. Her role has since evolved to manage team leads and ensure developers adhere to set processes.
“We get to be choosy about how we operate as an organization,” West said. “If we set a strategic goal, if the values align, it comes together. We deliver.”
The tech industry as a whole struggles with recruiting and retaining women, but Radial hasn’t.
The reason? West said it comes down to listening, taking action and being accountable. Or, as developer Caitlin Cerra noted, Radial has business processes in place to address concerns. West and Smith don’t just say the right thing. They do it, even when it’s uncomfortable or difficult.
“The people,” said programmer Kristen Doucette, “make or break your job. No matter how hard or stressful it is. The people who work at Radial care about you. They want you to learn and grow.”
The women on Radial’s team come from a variety of backgrounds. And, West and Smith followed Dan Price’s salary formula: Pay everyone, from founders to rookie developers, the same amount.
Ogburn worked as a journalist, but wanted to enter an industry with more career opportunities. She was interested in web design. In college, as a student employee in an IT department, her supervisor taught her to take apart her Mac and install more RAM and a new hard drive.
She weighed her options and signed up for a 6-month course at Galvanize. She joined Radial after completing the program. She subsequently moved to another company where her salary was 30% higher, then took a pay cut and returned to Radial in November because of the culture.
She’s not alone.
Doucette worked in medical billing and was headed for med school.
“Most of the people I worked with were miserable,” she said. “I didn’t want to be part of that.”
“I couldn’t get my hands on enough guidance or material,” Doucette said.
Always interested in technology, she hadn’t considered making it a career. She enrolled in a boot camp and met Ogburn at a Women Who Code meetup. She joined Radial in March, a week before COVID-19 caused massive shutdowns.
And Cerra, with whom I share an office, holds an MBA from Duke University. She spent a year working in private equity, but technology held an attraction. She searched for internships and landed at PayClip in Utah. Then, “accidentally became a developer.”
Every day, as I learn more about Radial, how it continues to evolve, and where I fit, I’m fascinated. And glad I landed here.