It’s Tough Being Over 40 in Silicon Valley

Older workers are finding it harder to get jobs in Silicon Valley, say Carol Hymowitz and Robert Burnson at Reuters. So they take steps to seem younger and fit in. They hang around the parking lots of companies to see how their prospective colleagues dress, They study Reddit and other social platforms to get up to date on the latest pop culture references. They hang up their business suits and bowties. And they even go in for plastic surgery and lawsuits.

I’m 55. I haven’t personally encountered age discrimination. I’m fortunate. Or oblivious.

‘Hillbilly Elegy’ recalls a childhood where poverty was ‘the family tradition’

Fresh Air podcast:

My guest, J.D. Vance, is the author of the new best-seller “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir Of A Family And Culture In Crisis.” He says the book is about what goes on in the lives of real people when the industrial economy goes south. He writes about the social isolation, poverty, drug use and the religious and political changes in his family and in greater Appalachia. He grew up in a Rust Belt town in Ohio in a family from the hills of eastern Kentucky. Until the age of 12, he spent summers in Jackson, Ky., with his grandmother and great-grandmother. Vance joined the Marines, which helped him afford college. After attending Ohio State University, he went to Yale Law School where he initially felt completely out of place. He has contributed to the National Review and is now a principal at a Silicon Valley investment firm.

J.D. Vance, welcome to FRESH AIR. There’s a paragraph from your new book that I want you to read. It’s on Page 2.

J D VANCE: There is an ethnic component lurking in the background of my story. In our race-conscious society, our vocabulary often extends no further than the color of someone’s skin – black people, Asians, white privilege. Sometimes these broad categories are useful. But to understand my story, you have to delve into the details.

I may be white, but I do not identify with the WASPs of the Northeast. Instead, I identify with the millions of working-class white Americans of Scots-Irish descent who have no college degree. To these folks, poverty’s the family tradition. Their ancestors were day laborers in the southern slave economy, sharecroppers after that, coal miners after that, and machinists and mill workers during more recent times. Americans call them hillbillies, rednecks or white trash. I call them neighbors, friends and family.

Working poor whites have been a neglected minority in the US: Exploited by the religious right and populists like Donald Trump, and scorned and ridiculed by small-government conservatives and liberals.

Silicon Valley’s most self-destructive founder

Ellen Huet, Bloomberg:

Gurbaksh Chahal wanted to be a role model for the sales team at his digital advertising startup and show them how to close a deal. But the co-founder and chief executive officer of Gravity4 Inc. knew he couldn’t be effective as the face of the business. In 2014, he had been removed from the last company he started following a fight with his girlfriend a year earlier, in which he hit and kicked her 117 times. The brutal ordeal, which had been caught on security-camera footage, resulted in probation for Chahal and shattered his reputation.

Last year, Chahal came up with a solution: He created an alter ego named Christian Gray, according to a half dozen people familiar with the situation. The character, who shares a very similar name with one from 50 Shades of Grey, has his own LinkedIn pagefeaturing a head shot of Josh Dallas, an actor who appears on the ABC fairytale drama Once Upon a Time. Chahal would e-mail marketing professionals as Gray, and when he hooked a potential customer, the CEO would berate staff for being outsold by a fake person, said the people, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution. Two people said Chahal had at times used Gray’s sales leads as an excuse to fire workers.

But Gray’s career didn’t last long. While still on probation from his previous domestic-violence conviction, Chahal kicked another girlfriend in late 2014 and threatened to report her to immigration services, according to a police report that surfaced last year. While there wasn’t enough evidence to file criminal charges in that incident, it led to a judge revoking his probation last month, prompting Chahal to hand over the CEO role to his sister. Gravity4 and an attorney for Chahal didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment. A California district judge sentenced Chahal on Friday to a year in a county jail for violating his probation, pending an appeal, which his attorney said he plans to do.

Chahal’s self-destruction—and the former colleagues, shareholders, customers, and women left in the rubble—is an extreme case, but it demonstrates a more common risk in Silicon Valley of entrepreneurs who amass too much power. Chahal’s earlier achievements enabled him to run his businesses unchecked and use vague promises of startup riches to recruit talent. “He has a brilliant mind and a very flawed personality,” said Sam Singer, a crisis communications consultant who worked for Chahal in 2014. “He has become a poster child for everything the public thinks is wrong with Silicon Valley: wealth that comes too fast and too easily, arrogant behavior, the belief that the rules don’t apply to them and they are somehow above the law.”

The photo just screams, “Asshole.”

Silicon Valley’s hubris

Maciej Cegłowski is the author of the Pinboard social bookmarking site (he calls it “antisocial bookmarking”), and a trenchant writer with a concise, witty voice. Here he tackles the dangers of Silicon Valley’s belief it can save the world:

As computer programmers, our formative intellectual experience is working with deterministic systems that have been designed by other human beings. These can be very complex, but the complexity is not the kind we find in the natural world. It is ultimately always tractable. Find the right abstractions, and the puzzle box opens before you.

The feeling of competence, control and delight in discovering a clever twist that solves a difficult problem is what makes being a computer programmer sometimes enjoyable.

But as anyone who’s worked with tech people knows, this intellectual background can also lead to arrogance. People who excel at software design become convinced that they have a unique ability to understand any kind of system at all, from first principles, without prior training, thanks to their superior powers of analysis. Success in the artificially constructed world of software design promotes a dangerous confidence.

Remarks at the SASE Panel On The Moral Economy of Tech

The hyper-gendering of women in Silicon Valley is predictable and awful

Women in tech are always female-first. No matter where they go, they’re the face of women in tech, even where they don’t want to be, writes Nellie Bowles at The Guardian:

The Silicon Valley season premiere panel was eight men and one woman, and anyone could predict what would happen.

The interviewer onstage asked each man questions about the popular HBO show satirizing Silicon Valley’s tech boom. He asked the creator, Mike Judge, what inspired the show; asked a main character whether he knew it would be such a hit; asked an actor how much his comedic riffs got into the final cut. And then he turned to the one woman on stage, Amanda Crew:

“So Amanda, what is it like – this show is obviously a lot of guys – what’s your experience as an actress in this type of situation and also representing the females of Silicon Valley here?”

There it is.

I’ve never felt more gendered than since I started covering tech. I certainly like being a woman, but I wouldn’t consider it my primary identifier or interest. In Silicon Valley, one does not have that luxury. A woman in Silicon Valley, even one who’s just visiting for the night, is very specifically female – representative of women and there to talk about women. It’s by dint of scarcity (how odd to find her there!) but it’s deeper than that.

Monica Rogati, a data scientist, coined something she called the Bechdel test for tech conferences. It is a measure of whether women are truly being represented at an event. The requirements: 1) two women speaking 2) on the same panel 3) not about women in tech.

After covering tech for five years, I think I’ve seen it maybe twice. More typical is something akin to the upcoming Paypal panel called “Gender Equality and Inclusion in the Workplace”, which boasts a grand total of four men and zero women.

 

Jerktech: Silicon Valley’s most shameful export

Cory Doctorow:

Jerktech is the very apt epithet for the class of “disruptive” startups that sell things that don’t belong to them, like parking spots and restaurant reservations, simply raising the prices of them and making access to public resources a factor of your disposable income.

Jerktech: Silicon Valley’s most shameful export