So much success, so much light: Silicon Valley might “produce” as many as 19 IPOs in 2019. Oh, it’s the promise of the traditional Silicon Valley startup culture come true: Where the end justifies the means and the winner takes it all. Really? Not really anymore, because more and more people object and start speaking up. A very healthy movement.
I admit that I didn’t pay much attention when I heard of cases of startup culture going overboard: Less women founders than men – of course, same thing all over the world, going to take another generation to fix. Hired less women than men and paid the women less – of course, less women study engineering and inexperienced managers falling for the salary trick. However, I did start paying attention after reading Susan Fowler’s blog entry about “one very strange year at Uber” with her account of how women were bullied and disadvantaged at Uber[. She shook me and many many others – thank you, Susan, for bringing this to light. But there’s more: In early 2018 thousands of Google employees went on strike to protest against their company developing AI for the US department of defense to automate the analysis of drone footage. More than 4000 Googlers signed a petition to terminate the contract, and Google’s management obliged.
Wow, tech workers blowing the whistle on abuse by their employer and directing how to use the products that they create?
This is new and very different from the traditional “ask for forgiveness later”-approach, where strong startup leaders such as Mark Zuckerberg @Facebook, Travis Kalanick @Uber and Elizabeth Holmes @Theranos forge ahead unhindered, plowing thru any obstacle and employees following blindly, keeping quiet in the hope to strike it rich.
Do we see the beginning of a new paradigm? Where tech workers are such a scarce resource in the corporate war for talent that they can dictate what goes and what doesn’t? Although shocked by the thought at first, I am now warming up to this thought: If the employees who create the intellectual capital that a company commercializes truly are “the most valued resource” of a company (a sentence printed in many, many, many company brochures and annual reports….), then they should have a seat at the table that decides on strategy including which markets to serve and which ones not.
Should employees of tech companies have more influence on the direction of the business?