“The next thing Silicon Valley needs to disrupt big time: its own culture”

“We’ve created a make-believe cult of objective meritocracy, a pseudo-scientific mythos to obscure and reinforce the belief that only people who look and talk like us are worth noticing. After making such a show of burning down the bad old rules of business, the new ones we’ve created seem pretty similar…
Suppose that it’s a scientific fact that wearing a suit signals that a candidate is unfit for duty. Assuming that’s true, then what does teaching the poor bastard how to camouflage himself actually accomplish? Does clothing indicate a person’s inner qualities or not? What, exactly, is the moral we’re supposed to learn from this grubby little drama?
The theme is familiar to anyone who’s tried to join a country club or high-school clique. It’s not supposed to make sense. The Culture can’t really be written about; it has to be experienced. You are expected to conform to the rules of The Culture before you are allowed to demonstrate your actual worth. What wearing a suit really indicates is — I am not making this up — non-conformity, one of the gravest of sins. For extra excitement, the rules are unwritten and ever-changing, and you will never be told how you screwed up.
The theme is familiar to anyone who’s tried to join a country club or high-school clique. It’s not supposed to make sense. The Culture can’t really be written about; it has to be experienced. You are expected to conform to the rules of The Culture before you are allowed to demonstrate your actual worth…
If spam filters sorted messages the way Silicon Valley sorts people, you’d only get email from your college roommate. And you’d never suspect you were missing a thing."

My dad is a black man who has worked in Silicon Valley since the mid-90s (he’s been at big, established companies and also at companies he’s started, and held various very Silicon Valley-y titles) and whenever we talk about the problems of diversity in the tech world, he points to the term “culture fit” as the problem, full stop. I get the sense that he sees it often — people (esp. women) not getting a chance because they don’t signify the culture of the gatekeepers. Just now, it occurs to me to wonder if it’s ever happened to him… Although, I guess, from the outside you can never quite tell.

And I know that I am totally in the Culture; this is a huge, huge privilege of growing up in the area. As long as I get an introduction from someone or am wearing a nametag that indicates I’m supposed to be there (like, say, a Princeton class ring) that lets people see my skin color second, I can totally charm any techie.

And awareness of cultural barriers could do something, could cause people to be reflective and change their behaviors, but these people are making too much money and receiving too much praise to feel that it is at all necessary. Like, I don’t think anything is going to change until they lose the ego, and the only thing I can think of that might actually impact that is if the bubble bursts and people start losing money? Or maybe something that cracks the clique, like two important figures getting into a massive debate that makes everyone choose sides? Ooooh, or a company could start doing things differently and suddenly start beating everyone. Until then, everything in our society is going to continue to let them know that they are Good and Right and Changing the World with data-driven pizza apps.

Also — “It’s astonishing how many of the people conducting interviews and passing judgement on the careers of candidates have had no training at all on how to do it well.” (!!!!)

Related: “Star Lords: ‘Star Wars’ and the monomyth of Silicon Valley”; “My Experience: On race, culture, gender, and religion in Silicon Valley.”; More about that culture (sticking out is easy): “Not-So-Glamorous Silicon Valley”; from one of Silicon Valley’s congressional representative (who is amazing) “Silicon Valley Has a Race Problem”; “WHO DISRUPTS THE DISRUPTORS? WE NEED TO CHANGE THE WAY WE TALK ABOUT INNOVATION”; “Which Women in Tech?” ← women who can align to the Culture are catered to by current gender-diversity efforts

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