How techies became the new bankers

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SolarpunkFan
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How techies became the new bankers

Post by SolarpunkFan » 2017-11-14 12:51pm

The Guardian
When Danny Greg first moved to San Francisco to work at Github in 2012, he used to get high-fives in the street from strangers when he wore his company hoodie.

These days, unless he’s at an investor event, he’s cautious about wearing branded clothing that might indicate he’s a techie. He’s worried about the message it sends.

Greg is one of many people working in tech who are increasingly self-conscious about how the industry – represented by consumer-facing tech titans like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Twitter and Uber – is perceived: as underregulated, overly powerful companies filled with wealthy tech bros and “brilliant assholes” with little regard for the local communities they occupy. Silicon Valley has taken over from Wall Street as the political bogeyman of choice, turning tech workers – like it or not – into public ambassadors for the 1%.

“I would never say I worked at Facebook,” said one 30-year-old software engineer who left the company last year to pursue an alternative career. Instead, at dinner parties he would give purposefully vague responses and change the subject. “There’s this song and dance you learn to play because people are quick to judge.”

Like Wall Street before, the tech industry is a justifiable punchbag. “MBA jerks used to go and work for Wall Street, now wealthy white geeks go to Stanford and then waltz into a VC or tech firm.”

Patrick Connelly, founder of health-tech startup Corevity, also sees the Wall Street parallels.

“The focus of Silicon Valley used to be innovation with the wonderful bonus of money on the side of that, but those two things seem to have switched – just as the pencil-pushing mentality of finance in the 70s became the champagne lifestyle in the 2000s,” he said. “People have come to have too much swagger and not enough insights.”

With that swagger comes bad behavior, as highlighted at Uber, the subject of a litany of scandals including allegations of sexual harassment, intellectual property theft and driver manipulation.

“We have this habit of highlighting and celebrating brilliant assholes like Steve Jobs and [Uber co-founder and ousted CEO] Travis Kalanick, when the reality is they are awful human beings,” said Greg, head of technology at e-commerce startup Brandless, adding that it is women and people of colour who tend to bear the brunt of their behaviour.

“It reminds me of stories that came out of Wall Street in the 1980s, when sexism was part and parcel of the culture,” he added. “Stories like that become public very quickly and people find out and paint tech with one brush.”

Some of this behaviour stems from the hubris that positions profit-seeking corporations as benevolent forces in the world.

“You are selling ads, you’re not really making the world a better place,” noted the former Facebooker. “But most people drank the Kool-aid.”

It’s a view echoed by one current Googler in her 20s, who is embarrassed by tech companies’ cluelessness about their reputation outside of the Silicon Valley bubble.

“Internally I don’t think they have a good read on how they’re perceived,” she said, citing the backlash after it was discovered that ads were appearing around videos promoting extremist views on YouTube or the investigation into possible Russian interference in the US election, including buying ads on Google, Facebook and Twitter.

“[Googlers] will say ‘why are the papers making a big deal out of this, I don’t get it’. Are you fucking joking? These people don’t realise the scale of what they are doing,” she said.

“Some of these folks aren’t the most socially gifted people and therefore suddenly having a culture encouraging this experience for them bleeds into everything, giving them a sense of self-importance and entitlement. It’s effectively like dealing with children all the time,” Greg said, referencing his time at Dropbox when people would “fly around the office on these stupid scooters and skateboards”.

The combination of the toxic culture in some tech companies combined with rising inequality and gentrification in local communities leads to “aggression and suspicion”, he added.

Greg first experienced this in San Francisco in 2014, when protesters would picket the tech shuttle buses, which had become a symbol of gentrification and a lack of community engagement, and display signs saying “techies go home”.

“Being in tech puts a badge on you. Things are going bad for a large section of the economy in this area and here’s a shiny beacon of people getting paid far too much for what they do. It’s a very easy target especially if you mark yourself as one,” he said.

Greg mentions one particularly excruciating clash, captured on video, where a group of Dropbox employees awkwardly tried to move a bunch of local kids off a soccer pitch.

All of this feeds into the perception that techies are, according to the former Facebooker, “pod people” who aren’t part of the community.

“You wake up, get the shuttle bus, go to the bubble of campus and order food via an app when you get home. You are not a citizen, just a bizarre leech who makes money,” he explained.

While there’s still plenty of fodder for the satirical TV show Silicon Valley, Greg is hopeful the industry can become less embarrassing. When hiring for his own team he screens interviewees carefully to weed out “covert brilliant assholes”.

“There’s a large and growing number of people who have negative emotions about how it is right now and really want to change it.”
I'm not quite sure what there is for me to add. I've been pretty put-off by the tech giants lately, though this article describes that feeling in a much better way than I ever could.

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Re: How techies became the new bankers

Post by K. A. Pital » 2017-11-14 01:44pm

Brilliant assholes?

Sounds like a fitting description for a bunch of rich sick sociopaths who have a severe empathy deficit.
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Re: How techies became the new bankers

Post by TheFeniX » 2017-11-14 01:54pm

I always enjoy when some Apple fanatic gets up on a soapbox and rants about how Steve Jobs was this brilliant innovator who paved the way for advances in personal computing while Bill Gates was the idiot socially worthless clown who just stole everything.

Jobs couldn't even be bothered to give his daughter more than $500 a month in child-support, and he only started because he had to, because he's a trash person. Just watch Pirates of Silicon Valley. You get to see all the other characters pushed to the side in favor of overblown egos and who could lawyer better.

Tech has always been trash. The people involved have always been in their own little bubble.

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Re: How techies became the new bankers

Post by K. A. Pital » 2017-11-14 02:15pm

I think that it is pretty much an open secret. It is not that much "news", the sector culture was toxic for years.
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Re: How techies became the new bankers

Post by Zaune » 2017-11-14 03:05pm

Jobs was a brilliant innovator who paved the way for advances in personal computing. It's just that he was also an arrogant, ruthless and selfish son of a bitch. Brilliance and ego tend to go together like that.
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Re: How techies became the new bankers

Post by TheFeniX » 2017-11-14 04:07pm

Jobs didn't innovate shit, except on the business and "fuck you, pay me" side, which I have to give him credit for. Much like I give EA Games credit for also being the best at being the absolute WORST and separating rubes from their money. He's Thomas Edison reincarnated. He's intelligent, but also an incredible scumbag who was willing to fuck anyone out of their inventions for as little as possible, preferring to give them absolutely nothing.

He built his empire off the backs of guys like Wozniak (then royally screwed them over because he could) and the nerds at places like IBM who actually innovated and whose bosses didn't know what they had. But Jobs was a much better faceman than all those nerds put together. Even going into the future when he "invented" the iPad... that HP had done in 2001.

Jobs is an innovator in sales pitches and convincing people they should start using what's already been around for years and paying out the ass for it.

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Re: How techies became the new bankers

Post by houser2112 » 2017-11-16 08:24am

TheFeniX wrote:
2017-11-14 04:07pm
He built his empire off the backs of guys like Wozniak (then royally screwed them over because he could) and the nerds at places like IBM who actually innovated and whose bosses didn't know what they had.
I know he did this with Xerox PARC, but not IBM too. Is this a mistake, or was there some interaction with IBM I'm not aware of?

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Re: How techies became the new bankers

Post by SolarpunkFan » 2017-11-16 10:54am

To add to what TheFeniX said: much of the technology necessary for the first Macintosh was already in existence, being developed by several labs and companies at that time.

What Jobs did do was ensure a nice shiny design was made for the products (he didn't design much of the hardware himself either). He was a showman with some sense of aesthetics on the side. innovator he was not.

Also (response to the hypothetical Apple fanatic here): I'm pretty sure the Commodore 64 was more influential in starting the PC revolution. Apple didn't come on stage until later. :P

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Re: How techies became the new bankers

Post by TheFeniX » 2017-11-16 02:16pm

houser2112 wrote:
2017-11-16 08:24am
I know he did this with Xerox PARC, but not IBM too. Is this a mistake, or was there some interaction with IBM I'm not aware of?
It might have been Xerox or even HP. Wozniak was working for HP around the time of his "partnership" with Jobs, so they had to give them right of refusal (or whatever it's called) since a lot of their original work was done while Wozniak was on the company dime. They, mainly Jobs, were able to convince them what they were working on was worthless. IBM might have not been involved, it's been almost 20 years since I've looked into it and IBM didn't think personal computing was ever going to be a thing. I could be crossing some wires.

That said, Jobs was working for.... Atari I think and was offered a bonus if he could reduce the chip count of an arcade game. Jobs, not knowing a fucking thing about anything, partnered with Wozniak who did all the work, and Jobs pocketed nearly all of the bonus. IIRC even Wozniak, while reducing the chip count, couldn't also give the game a scoreboard or point counter, but due to the terms of the contract they still got the bonus. While I'm not all up on the tech stuff myself, the way he did it was still extremely useful for future development.

Wasn't Wozniak the first guy to get characters to display on screen for a personal computer? Whatever the details, Wozniak was a true dyed in the wool super-nerd who was unprepared to deal with someone as slick as Jobs. Possibly WITHOUT a guy like Jobs, no one might bother remembering Wozniak's name. But it doesn't change that, from everything I've read a watched about the guy, he's a true class act and he never held a grudge against Jobs, even as he was screwed over time and time again. And you actually need guys like him for guys like Jobs to be able to put on his stupid turtle-necks and convince everyone to buy what others made.

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