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Brogrammers: When computer nerds become frat boys

We all know “those guys,” who sport the backward hat and pastel collared shirts with a Natural Light beer in hand.

Insert now, “those other guys,” who look as though they haven’t showered for a week and spend way too much time in the computer lab, coming up with endless, needless computer code.

Now imagine these two worlds coming together. These guys are the “brogrammers.” These hi-tech heroes, who like to “bro down and crush some code,” are making the start-up tech industry the sexiest new industry since the music industry, and stepping on some touchy territory as they go.

Interested in recruiting cool kids to their companies, tech startups are using new tactics, to lure young talent. Plastered across schools like Stanford, which sits in the heart of the Silicon Valley, are advertisements like this one: “Want to bro down and crush some code? Klout is hiring.”

Danilo Stern-Sapad writes code for Los Angeles startup BetterWorks, though he is not your typical programmer. He listens to 2pac while coding and keeps liquor in his office. He told Bloomberg Businessweek, “We got invited to a party in Malibu where there were naked women in the hot tub,” says Stern-Sapad, 25. “We’re the cool programmers.”

BetterWorks is a small firm, comprised of 14 male engineers and only one female. And these numbers are part of a the trend. At tech startup Klout, on a staff of 70, only 20 percent women, according to CNN.

This demographic ratio creates for a strong “frat boy” mentality among engineers.
Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan, the first female engineer at mobile ad startup AdMob, which was later bought by google, expressed to Bloomberg Businessweek, “The frat boy mentality among engineering men is a little more pronounced in the startup world than in the more mature organizations.”

The frat boy attitude has gotten certain companies into trouble. In March, deal aggregator Squoot advertised a hackathon with lines like “Need another beer? Let one of our friendly (female) event staff get that for you.” It also touted gym access, massages, and “kick-ass cupcakes.” The site has since apologized.

Internet domain registrar and web host GoDaddy took some heat for their racy 2012 Super Bowl advertisement, that featured a “hot model in body paint” to attract interest in their new dot-co domain names.

Jennifer Lee, of web startup Upworthy recinded her business with GoDaddy following the Super Bowl ad indicating that a  “brogrammer” mind-set can have consequences for the company involved,” according to CNN.

COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg has been famously called the “adult in the room.” While she will successfully turn Facebook public with one of the highest IPOs in history, the sentiment is indicative of an industry still maturing and trying to define its own professionalism.

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