Machine Learning and Programmer Cheerleaders

Expert software developers, especially those who know machine learning, are always in high demand. Tech companies have all kinds of perks to convince developers to hire on and stay on. I’ve heard that Google gives its employees free meals, and that Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook also have lots of incentives too.

In China and Japan, it’s not uncommon for tech companies to hire programmer cheerleaders. A programmer cheerleader’s job is to enhance the working environment for software developers by improving morale. According to an HR representative at one Chinese company, their programmer cheerleaders have to be attractive, know how to put on makeup expertly, be at least five feet two inches tall, and have a pleasant laugh.

Programmer cheerleaders in action. “Give me a C!” “Give me a plus!” “Give me plus!” “What’s that spell?” “Pain!”

Well, no big deal, and if that’s all there was to the story, I wouldn’t have written this post. Far more interesting was a side effect. I didn’t know about programmer cheerleaders (also called programmer motivators) until I was told about them by a work colleague who came from China and joined the large tech company I work for. Another one of my colleagues listened in on the explanation and was outraged, screeching that it was sexist and misogynist and a bunch of other ists, and that these Chinese and Japanese tech companies should be forced to stop the practice immediately! I mean my colleague was really hot (emotion that is, definitely not appearance).

The irony of it all is that my colleague was spewing outrage while standing inches away from one of the motivating signs that my company has posted on most meeting room doors: “Diverse perspectives await. Open the door to new perspectives”. So, for my colleague, I guess new and diverse perspectives are OK but only if they agree with existing perspectives.

I didn’t say anything but I was greatly amused at the indignation. I value all kinds of cultural diversity and never try to mentally impose my cultural norms on some other culture. For example, I can think of many countries in the Middle East where the clothes worn by my outraged colleague would be considered trashy and completely inappropriate. As another example, many U.S. tech companies have frequent morale events where beer, wine, and liquor are served. To some cultures, this would be completely unacceptable.

My point is that different cultures in other countries have their own norms. If Chinese tech companies want to hire programmer cheerleaders, well, that’s fine with me and I’m not going to get bent out of shape about it.

Life is easy. Live and let live, and treat others as you’d wish to be treated. Oh yes, and always look on the bright side of life.

Left: Wearing those shoes looks as painful as coding with Angular. Center: Regular cheerleaders at a Microsoft event. All jerseys are number 10. I get it. Right: Not sure why this photo was returned when searching for images of programmer cheerleaders, but their uniforms look a little bit like Christmas wrapping paper to me.

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One Response to Machine Learning and Programmer Cheerleaders

  1. Peter Boos says:

    I guess it would distract me from the screen.
    On the other side the western culture is not used to personal contact, most of the times its just a quick handshake, rarely we hug, and massage and yoga are seen as strange on work. On the otherhand i have noticed woman on the workfloor are great, it keeps ethics and morals high. But in case of problems it can be more complex as well, programmers are often not that emotional. (tracts of autism). I’d be curious if it could workout, programmer loans get lower but more people could make money this way. And maybe it improves software if someone stands behind who doesnt know coding but just want that pink color (not sarcastic). The distance between end-users and coders and companies is most of the time to large. Even for popular programs.

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