Twenty years ago I learned an interesting lesson about men and women. My boss (male) and I had interviewed a candidate (male) for a tech support position. He exhibited the personal characteristics we associate with tech nerds — shy, a bit overweight, poor social skills — while possessing, what seemed to us, as the requisite technical skills. Since tech support was always done over the phone, as long as he could speak, we felt that we should give him a chance. Our company’s human resources department would help him with his phone skills (they did this with all new hires), and would let us know if there were any problems. There were problems. Serious problems. He did not really have the technical knowledge we thought he had. As a result, he made customers do outrageous things. For example, when he could not solve a problem with our software, he would often tell clients to backup all of their data, reformat their drives, and reinstall Windows and our software. This bizarre suggestion was brought to our attention. After a few weeks he was fired.
I wondered how we were so wrong about that new hire. I got the answer from a female coworker who said, “I don’t know why you hired him. I saw him. He’s crazy.” She was right. We were very wrong. We didn’t pick up on ‘the crazy.’ We engaged in ‘tech talk’ the way some guys engage in ‘sports talk.’ As a result, we looked right past the person. In fact, we ignored the person. That was our mistake.by