Words matter. We need to change the story to change the engineers.
Several years ago, I was listening to an NPR story about how The Hunger Games caused a dramatic rise in the number of girls trying archery. It occurred to me that if Microsoft and other tech companies were truly serious about increasing diversity in tech, they should try to change the cultural narrative about who could succeed in tech, by funding the creation of best-selling novels and movies featuring a more diverse set of role models. I believe that the way we talk about engineers impacts whether people try engineering, how confident they feel, and our perception of their competence. I also believe we can change this story, change our very culture, if enough of us work on it.
To that end, I started a couple of projects. The first was to create a novel. I came up with a plot and characters. I hired a ghostwriter to write the book, and ran a Kickstarter (supported by many of my past and present co-workers – to whom I am eternally grateful!) to pay for the ghostwriting. My novel, Raven, was published in 2020! It is a fun and exciting tech thriller that’s great for young adults and “not young” adults alike! And the sequel is being written right now.
The second project was a website that features books and videos that showcase diversity in STEM. That site is live now at stemverse.net – go check it out and find some books and videos to share with the kids in your life! And please consider sharing the site with others in your network.
HOW CAN YOU GET THE BOOK?
Raven is available in both e-book and paperback form, on various platforms (search your favorite site!):
I’m also working to get some libraries to pick it up, starting with libraries along the west coast.
Reviews are coming in, and they’re great! Check some out here:
- Kirkus: “Gripping and fresh, with memorable characters—a winner.”
- Foreword/Clarion: ★★★★★ “fun, technology-centered novel”
- BlueInk: “a compelling read with tension ramping up until the truth behind the hack is revealed”
- Self-Publishing Review: ★★★★ “Raven is a wonderfully original tale with memorable characters set in an innovative world”
- BookLife: “Computer-savvy teens will appreciate this mystery with a touch of family drama, featuring a team of adolescent white-hat hackers.”
- Matt McAvoy: ★★★★ “undeniably well written, entertaining and quality work”
- OnlineBookClub: 3 out of 4 stars, “a fun read”
It’s a fast and fun read, and features a diverse group of young people not just writing code but saving the world!
WHAT HAPPENS TO THE PROCEEDS?
I’m giving the book away as close to free as I can, but due to the intricacies of pricing, I do make a little. Any proceeds from publication of the novel or any derivatives will be donated to causes that support bringing more women and minorities into computer science, like Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, code.org, and TEALS. I’ll report back here with donation totals now and then!
Find out about my first donation here: Supporting Diversity in Tech
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
Of course, to succeed in changing young readers’ impressions of tech careers, I need young people to read it! At the moment I’m working on marketing the novel – spreading the word as broadly as possible. That’s where you come in – you can help! If you support my cause of bringing a wider diversity of workers into tech fields, if you want to change the way we think and talk about software developers, help spread the word. Tell the people you know about my book! Share this web site, or my posts on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook! Share the book with young adults you love!
Here are more ways to help:
- Help get Raven into libraries: Donate some copies to your favorite library, fill out a suggestion form that they carry my book, or refer me to it so I can make the donation/suggestion. A number of people have paid for books to be donated to libraries – help me give these away!
- Help get Raven into independent bookstores: Send me a referral to your favorite bookshop.
- Help me give away Raven to young readers: Refer me to youth organizations I can donate the book to, or sell it to at-cost – or donate books to them yourself. Contact me if you want to buy copies at-cost for donation.
- Help me reach people interested in diversity in STEM: Refer me to events/audiences that want to hear about changing stereotypes this way. Tell me about podcasts and news feeds that would want to spread the news about my efforts.
- Help me reach young readers: Refer me to reviewers, podcasts, or sites that influence young readers. Where should I advertise? Ask the young readers in your life how they learn about new books. Ask them to share the book with their friends!
- Read the book and give it an honest review on your favorite site: I’m not looking to pad my numbers, so don’t pull any punches – but even mediocre reviews help readers decide if they’d like a book.
Or even, join me in my effort: try your own project to “change the story to change the engineers!” If you want to try, I’d be glad to talk to you about my own journey, and help you however I can.
It would be great to create a Book 2 and Book 3. I certainly have a whole lot of ideas for them, and know a lot more about the publishing process now, so I’m certain I could get them published faster. But first we’ll see how Raven does. If we’re able to reach a lot of people, I’ll use that momentum to keep going!