Jan. 8, 2014 9:15 am

3 good reasons to stop hiring ‘rockstars’ and ‘ninjas’: Mike Subelsky

There is no programmer who is a "rockstar." There is no marketing specialist who is a "ninja."

Photo by Flickr user technotheory under Creative Commons for Attribution.

Update 8:42 a.m. 1/9/14: While an employee of OtherInbox, we changed the wording to reflect the fact that Mike Subelsky was also its cofounder.

If you read about tech startups, write about tech startups, or yell about tech startups, you’re more than likely familiar with people who work at tech startups calling themselves and their employees “rockstars” and “ninjas,” because through technology anything is possible and words cease to hold their original meanings.

It needs to stop. There is no programmer who is a “rock star.” There is no laundry-washing service that employs “ninjas.”

Just listen to Mike Subelsky, a developer-entrepreneur who cofounded OtherInbox prior to its acquisition and subsequently cofounded the Hampden-based advertising technology startup Staq.

He presented three good reasons for ditching “rockstar” and “ninja” during‘s end-of-year podcast:

1. “Besides just being trite, I think they represent a whole category of words and an attitude that maybe unconsciously selects towards white, middle-class dudes.” Yes. Tech has a diversity problem.

2. “I think it just reinforces bro culture in programming.” Bro.

3. “We need to bring in all kinds of people into this profession, including people who are mid-career in something else.” People who are oftentimes not rock stars or ninjas.

Andrew Zaleski

Andrew Zaleski is a freelance journalist in Philadelphia and the former lead reporter for Baltimore. Before moving to Philadelphia in June 2014, he was a contributing writer to Baltimore City Paper and a Tech Check commentator for WYPR 88.1 FM, Baltimore city’s National Public Radio affiliate. He has written for The Atlantic, Outside, Richmond magazine, Washington City Paper, Baltimore magazine, Baltimore Style magazine, Next City,, The Atlantic Cities, and elsewhere.

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