All roads lead to fail in the tech career path

I have managed to make it through more than 10 years in the tech industry.

It has not been easy, but I am still here and contemplating the direction I want my career to take in the next 5 years, as you do. I am a white, cis, female with a secure job and a good education. This is a good amount of privilege.

In tech, there are a few career paths for people to follow.

  1. Work at a company. Maybe you’ll go into management. Maybe you’ll stay an independent contributor on the tech side.
  2. Maybe you are feeling a little more independent and you have some ideas. The other main route is to start your own tech company.

This past week has not been easy in terms of thinking about either career path.

Path 1 — Work at a company

Many tech companies are as problematic as they ever were. We are hearing about Github treating women badly, yet again. There’s the trashfire-to-end-all-trashfires at Uber. We have also recently learned about how Google will pour millions of dollars into D&I initiatives yet it will not close its own wage gap because it’s too pricey and hard to figure out FOR GOOGLE. These examples are grim and they are just the ones we know about. My guess is that things are the same or worse at most other companies.

In terms of surviving at a tech company, Sarah Mei and Marco Rogers have both written excellent tweetstorms clearly laying out how and why getting fired often works.

Wow, this is looking pretty crappy, but that’s ok. There are other paths, right?

Path 2: Start your own company

What if I decide, that I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and doggone it, I can start my own company.

Here’s what I’ve been reading about women who have worked at starting their own companies in the past week:

Niniane, Susan and Leiti’s story

Katrina, Kristen, Claire, Sarah, Ellen, Gesche, Lindsay, Rachel, Wendy, Lisa’s story

Cheryl’s story

In fact, even the people reporting the stories have been getting harassed in real time on Twitter. (Thanks for the collusion twitter.)

This is not encouraging.

To be sure, these are all venture-funded companies and there are other ways to start tech companies, but there’s a reason Facebook, Google, and really every tech company you’ve ever heard of was venture-funded.

My prevailing feeling these days is anger mixed with frustration and sadness. What little transparency we have, horrifying as it is, has gotten us here, but it isn’t enough and neither are the dollars spent on “initiatives.” I am really sick of reading about companies “pouring money” into diversity when women and people of all genders in underrepresented groups must:

Signed forced arbitrage NDA’s

Sign confidentiality agreements about workplace conditions

Take money in exchange for silence when they are forced out

There are actions here that could be taken, but it usually takes a court case for something like this to change. We could look to our government or maybe the courts but given who we’ve got in office, I’m not holding my breath on change coming from that direction.

We are clearly not welcome here. The collusion happens at all levels around us.

If there were a protest about this today, I would be out in the street even as the clock ticks down on my own career.

Did I mention that my fallback is selling airbrushed t-shirts at the beach? It’s beckoning.