Recently I read the following from an otherwise interesting series of articles from GitHub detailing how their process works:
It's a lot safer to hire someone after you've had a few beers with them in a non-threatening environment rather than create a large, stressful interview process… We all work together, but we're not just coworkers; we're friends. We bleed friendship and work together, so it's hard to tell when we're discussing work and when we're chatting over beers. This is not just for a fuzzy feel-good feeling.
I hate it when a dev shop cites going out to drink with the team as one of their most important duties. Evaluating coworkers based on what they do in their personal time intentionally makes a giant leap towards all sorts of other prejudices by starting with one, which is that everyone loves to drink (I would imagine that makes recovering alcoholics uncomfortable). I am absolutely not surprised that there has been controversy surrounding GitHub and alleged sexual harassment.
If a team or a leading personality on that team truly believes the venn diagram of “great developers” and “people who want to be our / my good friends” perfectly overlaps it should be taken as a sign of narcissim or at least hubris.
No one seems to realize how sick and twisted dev culture is right now. The most common thing I hear from developers who are trying to cast their team in friendly, postive or non-threatening light is that they enjoy beer. As if enjoyment of beer matters. It is actually very similar to how in most rural parts of America otherwise nice, friendly people will, in an attempt to be disarming, tell you that they believe in Jesus Christ like all good people. They're just blind to how potentialing alienating the statement is. What if you're Muslim? Or an athesiest? Is the message that you are not like them? Similarly dev teams try to convince potential canidates they're cool with “we drink” and don't realize how much of a filter they're putting on a potential relationship.
I've worked on development teams where I felt everyone was evaluated based less on progress made to the project and more on what happened during happy hour. That was not a fun feeling. Over time, it became difficult to view anyone in a positive light when they made a mistake at work, because it appeared they were putting more effort into the friendship club than their craft and for that got protected from the fallout of their work-related mistakes.
Certain types of knowledge stay with a developer. If you master Git, you'll always have a better understanding of version control and maybe release processes at any future team or job. If you master C++, there is likely never going to be a language you won't be able to pick up. But if you instead focus your energies on being friends with Billy, that won't be very useful if you ever wake up deciding you don't want to work with Billy because after you bonded he let you in that he was secretly super racist. The same outcome can happen if Billy gets fired or ends up not working on your project anymore.
The worst evaluation I ever got in my life came from a new manager. He said he didn't know what I was doing yet but everyone thought I was funny so I just needed to keep it up. That was literally the only feedback I got about my performance. I got a middle of the road (but positive) rating but it didn't matter because since then I always distrusted that manager.
Today there is thankfully a greater focus on getting female developers and righting the wrongs caused by blatant 1980's sexism. But even as so many male devs loudly proclaim they have no prejudices and don't understand why its so hard to hire or find female devs, we live in a time when it still feels too controversial or above par to say developers should be evalutated based on how they develop, and nothing else.
True equality in the work place does not happen by simply “avoiding” sexism, exclusionism, or other clearly bad things. It is accomplished by stringently reviewing your own codes of conduct in how you judge others and actively striving for a high level of professional integrity while being aware of how your own prejudices might be affecting you. Unfortunately growing this skill requires more than just a trip to the bar.