Ben Parisot of Planet Argon: Building Inclusive Teams and Developer Satisfaction (Scaling Tech Podcast Ep33)

Diversity in tech is essential for driving innovation and solving new, complex problems in new and effective ways. That’s why we need to intentionally create inclusive and diverse environments where our devs can have the space to thrive and bring their unique perspectives to the table.

Today, our guest is Ben Parisot. Ben is the software engineering manager at Planet Argon, a Ruby on Rails agency that specializes in modernizing and futureproofing Rails applications for companies and organizations. As an engineering manager, Ben works closely with engineers to help them broaden their skills, improve their capabilities, and advance in their careers. He is also proudly queer and a strong advocate for LGBTQ+ representation in tech.

In this episode of the Scaling Tech podcast, you can expect many practical tips for building an inclusive team culture and creating a safe space for your developers. Ben and Arin also exchange advice for increasing developer satisfaction and providing value to each team member.

Join us in this episode to learn more about diversity, inclusion, and satisfaction in tech. Stay tuned for future episodes where our host, Arin Sime, will bring even more tech leaders and help you level up your software teams.

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Key Insights with links to jump ahead are below

About Guest

Name: Ben Parisot

What he does: He’s the Software Engineering Manager at Planet Argon, one of Inc. Magazine’s Best Workplaces for 2023.

Company: Planet Argon

Noteworthy: Ben helps engineering teams improve processes, increase productivity, and boost morale. He is proudly queer and a strong advocate for LGBTQ+ representation in tech.

Where to find Ben: / LinkedIn

Key Insights


Self-awareness is an essential trait for inclusive leaders. The first step toward promoting inclusivity in the workspace is self-awareness. Once you’re conscious of your privilege and its advantages, you’ll better understand the perspectives of others and be more equipped to create a safer space for everyone.

Ben says, “I think being self-aware in the way that you’ve just described yourself is probably the biggest part. Being aware of your privilege and being aware of what it means to be this white male in this industry, just sort of the doors that that opens for you, myself included. I would say that there’s structural, systemic things that companies can do to be more inclusive and provide safer spaces for people coming on to their teams, and there’s also individual stuff that team members will need to learn on their own, possibly at the behest of the company through trainings and stuff.”

What is developer experience (DevEx), and why does it matter? Developer experience is not just general productivity or employee satisfaction. It refers to anything that affects developers’ overall satisfaction, such as workflows and processes.

Ben explains, “When we’re talking about developer satisfaction or developer experience, we’re talking about things that the developer or your engineering team as a whole is experiencing every day in their day-to-day work that is causing them to like or not like what they’re doing. So these are workflows, deployment workflows, project application setup, PR review processes, how much focus time they have. So there’s lots of different areas that can influence developer experience and lead to more or less satisfaction amongst your team.”

The best way to promote psychological safety within your team is to educate yourself. Education is always key when it comes to promoting inclusion and overall satisfaction within a team. It helps create a safe space but also improves collaboration and team culture.

Ben says, “I think that the most important thing to do is educate yourself. Oftentimes, you have really well-meaning managers, really well-meaning team members that just don’t know where there might be areas that are or things that are making people feel unsafe or unheard. So I would do the research, read DEI experts in the field around queer representation, representation of women and nonwhite people. I would say that talking to your team members is also just a really easy way to do it.”

Episode Highlights

It’s essential to engage with underrepresented groups consistently and genuinely.

Diversity and inclusion are not just a checkbox exercise. To truly cultivate an inclusive and diverse environment, organizations need to actively engage with underrepresented groups, not just when there’s a specific need. 

Ben explains, “Of course, the people that are generally saying that are the people that are CIS, straight, white, male, and they’re generally, even if they don’t realize it, using the same pipelines that they went through. So it’s about the same type of people. They’re seeing the same types of people coming in because it’s the same pipeline that they went through. And they’re not putting a ton of effort into diversifying their sourcing of candidates. That’s not going to get you very good results in terms of the applicants that you’re looking for. You have to engage with different groups of underrepresented people, and you have to engage with them not only when you need them. It’s not like a spigot that you can turn on and off when you want a queer candidate or a black candidate, or a Latina candidate. You have to be in those communities and building relationships just for the sake of doing that and supporting them.”

How to strike a balance with AI usage? 

AI tools are changing how software developers work by helping them understand and fix errors more effectively. But where is the fine line between helpful tools and over-reliance on AI? Ben and Arin share interesting perspectives:

“We use ChatGPT and the Copilot chat box for that a lot because those are less like, ‘Here’s exactly how to fix this’ and more of ‘Here’s what this error is trying to tell you, and here’s likely the culprits of it.’ So, if there’s an error message that’s not very clearly written, or we have a dev that’s not familiar with it enough, then we’ll use tools for that.”

Arin adds, “I think the way I’m thinking about it at the moment is a little analogous to continuous integration and continuous deployment type of pipelines, especially when those were newer in the sense that, as a manager, you want to find the sweet spot between mandating the use of it and some base level things that you have to do. Your code has to have this level of testing before you commit it and push it, that sort of thing, without over-mandating exactly how you use it or sort of taking away all the creativity of the developers.”

Motivating dev teams is about providing meaningful value.

Motivating dev teams is fundamentally about recognizing and catering to the unique value each team member finds meaningful in their work. 

Ben explains, “People are motivated by many different things and all different types of fields and jobs. I would say that on an engineering team, though, value is the keyword there. So when you’re talking about, ‘I’m motivated by providing value to a user or a client’ versus, ‘I’m motivated by playing with the newest, coolest thing,’ the newest, coolest thing is also a value. You’re learning the latest technology, and you’re providing value by being a subject matter expert on that latest technology. So it’s really recognizing where people are seeing the value in the work that they’re doing and making sure that’s aligned with the business goals.”