Breaking Through Bias: Rackers Speak at ACT-W Conference

This weekend, hundreds of women will converge on Austin’s Norris Events Center for Chick-Tech’s Advancing the Careers of Technical Women (ACT-W) conference.

Among the attendees will be Austin-based Rackers Carla Crull and Nina Toscano, who on Saturday will hold their breakout session: “Your Brain on Unconscious Bias”.

Combining years of experience and research, Crull and Toscano spent months building their presentation, which begins with the evolution of the brain and how biases are developed. From there, it moves into pattern recognition and understanding how biases are translated into the workplace. The presentation closes with helpful tips for participants to gain the tools and techniques needed to break through bias.

“Our main objective is to show people that we all have biases and then show participants how to recognize them,” Toscano said. “You’re not a bad human if you have bias. We have biases because we are human. Our talk gives you the tools and techniques to productively deal with those biases.”

Both Crull and Toscano are heavily involved in the Austin technical community. Crull, a five-year Racker and subject matter expert/advisory recruiter belongs to many women in tech groups, has participated in past Chick-Tech events, and has plans to speak again at another event this September. A technical woman herself, Crull is a self-proclaimed advocate for women in tech.

“If I even crack open the door a little bit for another woman to gain confidence or change her life then I’ve accomplished what I set out to. That is truly my motivation,” Crull said.

Toscano said she feels similarly. A three-year Racker, Gallup strengths coach and executive assistant, Toscano has found her home within Rackspace’s culture. To prove it, she now leads both the Diversity and Culture Crews in Austin.

While unconscious bias is a hot button topic within the tech world, Toscano said this talk is much more than just buzzwords. Rather, it’s a way to approach the workplace with a mind for diversity, inclusion and improvement.

“We know that when we have true diversity our group intelligence is raised. It’s the best way to deliver a great product and retain the top talent,” Toscano said. “We’ve seen this at Rackspace and we want to share that with the conference attendees.”

Their presentation draws from multiple sources, but the main two are Howard J. Ross’s Everyday Bias: Uncovering and Navigating Unconscious Judgements in Our Daily Lives and Rackspace’s own Unconscious Bias training.

According to Toscano, Rackspace’s diversity council is currently redeveloping the Rackspace
unconscious bias training to be available both in-person and virtually. Over 200 Rackers have already taken the course and Toscano hopes to see that number grow once the program is relaunched later this year.

As Crull and Toscano gear up for this weekend’s event, Crull said her goal for the end of the presentation is for attendants to feel confident not only with their level of technical skill but in other parts of their career development.

“I want women to be confident — not just in coding but also in interviewing, negotiating, presenting themselves and taking opportunities to get to the next level of their career,” she said.

“Part of my goal is to teach and help people learn how to do this.”

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Grace Frye is an intern at Rackspace where she works on the talent acquisition team focusing on talent branding. She is a senior at Trinity University studying communication, economics and entrepreneurship. She is an avid traveler and prefers to spend her time hiking across the world.


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