A few weeks after I met Scoble at Foo Camp I met up with a friend in San Francisco who also knew him. He introduced me to one of Scoble’s female co-workers. She agreed with angry enthusiasm about Scoble’s behavior. Harassment was just part of working with him, it was commonly known, one of our “Open Secrets” in the tech world. But again, I couldn’t come forward and name her for risk of destroying her career and possibly personal life. So, despite being in the best position a woman could hope for, despite having ironclad in reputation and pretty damn good at opsec, I’ve stayed silent. I couldn’t risk the other women.
And then, without any more warning, Scoble was on me. I felt one hand on my breast and his arm reaching around and grabbing my butt. Scoble is considerably bigger than I am, and I realized quickly I wasn’t going to be able to push him away. Meanwhile, the people around just watched, in what I can only imagine was stunned shock. I got a hand free and used a palm strike to the base of his chin to knock him back. It worked, he flew back and struggled to get his feet under him. I watched his feet carefully for that moment. He was unbalanced from the alcohol and I realized if he reached for me again I could pull him forward, bounce his face off my knee, then drive it into the ground. (I knew this move because it had been done to me, then the martial arts expert who did it picked me up and apologetically showed me how to do it.) He laughed and rubbed his chin and said something like “I like this one, she has spirit.” I said this: “If you touch me again I will break your nose.” I could still feel his hands on me, his intentions, all of it. He laughed again, and I repeated, “If you touch me again I will break your nose.” He didn’t grab me again after that.
To have given up so much for something that ultimately didn’t come to fruition caused my already high stress level to redline. One of the most important things I’ve learned in my recent history is that it is ok to say “I’m not ok,” and it is ok to ask for help. So I did, and people stepped forward to say “I can help.” Some friends made sure to consistently check in to ask how I was doing. Other friends rallied to help connect me to companies that were hiring Engineering Managers. The result of this support is that the day after I made my decision to stay, I had intro emails to several different companies in the works thanks to these folks and I was interviewing the next week.
I feel like I have so many messages to deliver to the blissful masses from my now precarious vantage point, from the importance of early precautionary doctor visits to the merits of life insurance. But putting pragmatism aside, there is one thing I’d urge everyone to do. Stop just assuming you have a full lifetime to do whatever it is you dream of doing. I know it sounds ridiculously cliched, and of course you never think it will happen to you, but let me assure you that life really can be taken from you at any time, so live it with that reality in mind.
We’re in a very precarious time in Silicon Valley and in our nation. As I predicted, the previously quiet bigots are becoming emboldened by what is happening in our nation. We’re at a point where tech company leaders can no longer pretend that tech is isolated from the ills and woes of society at large; it is not. They can no longer equivocate on the subjects of sexism, racism, or bigotry of any sort. They need to be very clear and proactive in messaging about what their company stands for and values, and their actions need to speak as loudly as their words do. Either they approve of bigotry being part of their company culture, or they work to ensure that everyone knows that it will not be tolerated.