A perceived lack of ethics in the tech industry will be a major talking point at the forthcoming Impact Summit 

Technology is a huge part of all our lives. Looking at the profile of a large proportion of the tech sector’s workforce, however, it’s clear that the industry needs to change in order to better reflect those who are using these products. Again, that’s all of us.

Little wonder that April Wensel, founder of Compassionate Coding, which emphasises emotional intelligence and ethics in the tech industry, felt the need to step away from the industry and concentrate on building a new culture for those working within it. The Impact Summit on May 15 at SWG3 in Glasgow will be the first time a Scottish audience has the opportunity to hear April speak about changing the toxic atmosphere that can exist in tech.

Following 10 years of working in Silicon Valley, April was disillusioned with the culture she found herself working in. Moving from company to company, she saw trends emerge.

“The same problems existed. Apart from a lack of women or other minority groups, I saw that unethical things were being done around misleading customers or using manipulation tactics. Across that decade I saw it was a systemic issue. On a more personal level too, I could see that people were burning out.” 
Having engaged with other tech hubs she saw that the problem was trickling down from Silicon Valley. 

“I became completely fed up with the culture and at the same time I also became vegan. I started to think more about compassion, which of course is a main tenet of veganism, and having compassion for all living things. It struck me that it was the thing missing from tech – there was no compassion.”

That was the beginnings of Compassionate Coding in 2016, even though, as April admits, she wasn’t sure how to go about it. “I ran it as a lean start-up, which meant I would experiment. I started off doing workshops on emotional intelligence for software engineers. Even though they aren’t at the top of organisations, the people writing the software have a lot of power, I think partly because the skills are seen as difficult to come by.”

That’s another message of Compassionate Coding, it’s not voodoo – if someone has the desire to learn coding, April believes they can.

“The inability or unwillingness to share or pass on the skills is another problem in the industry. There can be a little bit of arrogance that goes with the territory. 

“Being honest, I wasn’t exactly immune to that myself when I was in these largely masculine dominated workplaces. I took on all these traits to become ‘one of the guys’. I didn’t like myself for trying to fit in.”

When April started teaching emotional intelligence to engineers she found that many didn’t have any at all. “We’re talking about ethics and artificial intelligence, but we’re dealing with people that focus on the machines and logic. It can be tough to get them to hear about ethics when sometimes they don’t even care about the person sitting next to them. Or in some cases themselves.”

She believes the industry can be complicit in taking advantage of people, not encouraging them to switch off and unshackle themselves from the screen, and making the most of the endemic workaholism that exists.

“People are addicted to work for so many reasons. It can be a way to avoid other problems. It can be difficult to convince them of the benefits of changing their lives.”

When April began Compassionate Coding the reaction, even from friends was questioning and the only initial cheerleader was her mum.

“Even some female friends in tech weren’t really on board at first but I think that was more down to protecting their own position. They would say ‘do we really need this April?’ and question how I could make a company out of it. But I knew I was onto something.”

April adds that people even questioned name Compassionate Coding, as something of an oxymoron but the fact that they regarded it as such only made her argument stronger.

“The fact that there was so much push back on it made me more determined to get things moving because I knew there was a problem there. A lot of the more masculine reaction was to make fun of me.

“However, when I did convince them to hear me at talks, I started to get positive feedback on it.  It many ways it was more satisfying to be able to open the eyes of the sceptics.”

Good mental health in the industry is an area that April is determined to tackle and, as it should, it starts with her own. “To stop getting burned out, the idea is to feel committed but detached, meaning I do absolutely everything I can to make these changes but ultimately I have to stay detached from the outcome. I can’t control other people, I can’t control what resonates.”

The Impact Summit has a wide range of speakers who have the same values-led ethos as Compassionate Coding covering a diverse range of industries.

“I’m looking forward to not only speaking at Impact Summit, but also listening to the range of other speakers, particularly the people from TheVeganKind,” adds April. 

“Being vegan really does impact on a lot of decisions that I make every day, it does change how I feel about how I interact with the world, physically and mentally.

“Most of the events I speak at tend to be tech-based, but this is much wider. It will be interesting for me to see how Compassionate Coding’s approach fits with everything else that’s being spoken about on the day.” 

Impact Summit takes place at SWG3 in Glasgow on Wednesday, May 15

For more information and to book tickets, visit: