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Reflecting on one very, very strange year at Uber (susanjfowler.com)
4107 points by grey-area on Feb 19, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 1013 comments



>On my first official day rotating on the team, my new manager sent me a string of messages over company chat. He was in an open relationship, he said, and his girlfriend was having an easy time finding new partners but he wasn't.

Totally normal behavior! Who hasn't spoken about their sex life the very first day of interactions?

"Welcome to the team, we use Git for source control, all of our company knowledgebase is on Confluence, and I'm in an open sex relationship! See you at lunch!"

I can't fathom what kind of weirdo does something like this, male or female.


I would guess that this happens more often than you imagine. Women often don't share stories like this for fear of retribution at their current company or future companies, or because they think you won't believe them. In addition NDA's are often a condition of receiving severance.

Most women in Silicon Valley have had experiences similar to those mentioned in the article (HR disbelief, multiple women reporting same man to no effect, retaliation, legal threats, &c, &c).

The OP probably declined a severance package to write this.


Well, it sounds like she quit, wasn't fired/laid off, so a severence package probably doesn't apply (although if the rumors about how bad Uber is to work at are true, perhaps they do offer severance packages to those quitting...).


I know multiple women at other companies who have been offered severance after they quit just to keep quiet about how bad things are. Not rare.


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My "data" is every woman I know in tech sharing this story with a comment like, "A version of this happened to me" or "I know so many people who have had this happen to them." Also multiple stories of women reporting harassment and being forced out of companies, as well as multiple women I know signing NDA's as a condition of receiving severance pay to avoid discussing a company's poor treatment or management of harassment.


Then don't write "I guess it is common", state the number of women who told you such things. Personally I haven't heard many such stories from women in tech.

Also differentiate between some colleague being interested in them and boss proposing sex on first day.


Have you tried asking them? It feels vaguely ridiculous to expect hard data and facts on things of "people told me". I know I have female friends who have told me similar stories, but I couldn't for the life of me remember how many, nor would I want to start iterating these anecdotes to a stranger on the internet. In exactly the same way it would be to start statistically analysing any other statement on "people told me [x]".

As for the latter, putting lines in the sand is a good way to be seen as not wanting to listen... I'm not saying that's what you're doing in this case, just how it comes across. Like, you've decided in advance what you want the result from the discussion to be, and no woman will be able to cross whatever standard you've chosen for inappropriate propositions (even when this is totally untrue).


I took issue with the "I guess it is very common that women expect that kind of harassment", because it plays into sexist stereotypes. I think in these matters )(sexism, racism, bias), it pays to be precise. How else can you counter bias? What if countless people told me they had been mugged by black people?

Don't understand your comment about lines in the sand. What do you mean?


A very large part of the problem is that claims of harassment are waved away, and the same people are allowed to harass again and again. There's a lot of evidence pointing to "believe women when they say they are harassed."


I didn't say anything about disbelieving any women - I take issue with simply "guessing" that stuff like that happens all the time. That is just confirming bias with bias, completely removed from reality.

Apart from that, I wonder what evidence you are talking about? References? How often are claims waved away? Or is that just something you intuitively know?

And by the way, people coming out in response to such an article is also just classic confirmation bias. You need to put stories in relation to the total workforce before you claim almost everybody gets harassed.


I remember a thread a few months ago where said the twitter feed google had up for promoting working at google was evidence google wasn't interested in hiring male coders anymore.

If only you applied such rigorous quantitative standards of evidence to your own claims.


Huh - that Twitter feed obviously is tilted towards only showing women and PoCs as engineers. It is not just a "guess" - you can look at that feed and check for yourself. And at least you can come to a different conclusion than me, because I cited the source. With "I guess", it is just a reinforcing reference to already existing bias. (For reference, here is the feed: https://twitter.com/lifeatgoogle )


I did look and we disagree. Perhaps you can quantify what you saw?


I'll give it a shot, going through the first 100 tweets or so counting men, women, skin colors, is that what you mean? Hope to get round to it later in the day.

And btw I think it gives the impression they don't want to hire men, it doesn't prove that Google doesn't want to hire (white) men. But if they are interested in hiring white men, they might check the message they are sending out.

For sure their reputation is so good that white men will probably still apply in droves, so whatever (same probably goes for women and PoCs, anyway). But in my opinion they will also drive away some people. (edited to add "in my opinion")

And as I said - it is fine if you disagree, but at least there is something tangible to disagree on. That's different from simply playing into some stereotypes. Seriously, you are defending here the equivalent of "I have heard all blacks are criminals, and therefore it is true, no matter what you say". Wtf?


>But they will also drive away some people.

What evidence do you have for this?


My feelings :-) Granted, that is not yet "some", only one, but with millions of white men on the planet, chances seem high others see it the same way.

If you really want to nitpick, quantify my sentence with "in my opinion".


Absolute confirmation bias.

I can't wait for your quantification of the life at google twitter.


Well I don't have that much time, so for now I only looked at pictures with people in them they have posted since December 1.

Simply counting people yields 29% white women, 19% women of color, 21% men of color, 30% white men.

Not a very exact science, though - I left out groups above a certain size (for example picture from Anti-Trump demonstration or MLKday), and in some cases I couldn't recognize the people. Many white men come from office shots where they linger in the background, whereas there are many tweets explicitly featuring female or black engineers. It seems by only looking at their "media timeline" I also missed photos like this one: https://twitter.com/Every28HoursPla/status/83166688771703193... (which they retweeted).

I'll try to find time for a better "analysis", ideally including texts.

Compared to last time there seem to be now more posts boasting technology at Google. For example there were several about Tensor Flow, all featuring the same white guy (I counted him for every instance).

I couldn't find the time when I last posted about lifeatgoogle, would have liked to look at their tweets from around then.

For comparison employee stats from 2014: http://mashable.com/2014/05/28/google-employee-demographics/... - 70% male, 91% white or asian.


So what's your conclusion?


HN won't give me a reply button further down, and I want to go to bed, so I am replying here:

Yes, it reflects demographics of the US, but not demographics of tech or demographics of Google employees. So the account definitely doesn't reflect life at Google in an unbiased way.

Also, I tried to err on the side of counting too many whites. For example I counted this screenshot from an animation movie as two whites: https://twitter.com/lifeatgoogle/status/824649101069455361 I counted the blurry people in the background of this office: https://twitter.com/lifeatgoogle/status/817466019526610947 but I only counted 2 PoCs here despite the further pictures with more https://twitter.com/lifeatgoogle/status/822528000646381568 I also missed a lot of pictures because I didn't realize the retweets wouldn't be in the "media list".

I just made it up on the fly for a quick, simple metric. It would be better to decide beforehand what counts, for example if the person should be the item of a news story, should be presented as an engineer, stuff like that. And a longer time. I think I had 150 people, so the animation picture alone accounted for more than 1% of the final count of white people. As I said, some office shots greatly raised the white people count, counting only people who were subject of major stories would have lowered the percentage a lot.

Maybe you are jumping to conclusions because they confirm your beliefs?


Actually I had no idea what the demographic percentages of the US were before I looked them up.

Your original point was that you thought Google wasn't interested in hiring male engineers anymore. The current demographics of Google are irrelevant to Google's hiring strategy. Why would they be?

You're not only displaying confirmation bias in the way you are trying to undermine the clearest quantification you have access to, but you're also avoiding your original statement.

You initially presented the lifeatgoogle twitter feed as evidence, and you had no quantifiable evidence that it was biased. Now that you do have a quantification, you're walking back the importance of that evidence. Perhaps you're doing this so you can maintain your poorly quantified view?

If only you gave as much latitude to other people.


My claim about them not presenting any white males was from another time - do you recall by any chance when it was? As I explained, the sample size I used now was small, and a few pics can have made a big difference. I think when I made the claim there were different pictures, that is why I said more data should be looked at (to reduce random variation). I probably wouldn't have made the claim about the current timeline.

And again - I only used one simple metric, which already shows bias (it doesn't represent the actual demographics of Google employees). You assume now that metric is conclusive because it fits your conviction. By looking into more aspects the picture would be more clear.

And where do I not give latitude to other people?


>You assume now that metric is conclusive because it fits your conviction.

No, you're now walking back your claims because the one metric you have quantified doesn't fit your conviction. At the time you claimed that by simply looking at the feed you could tell it was biased. You initially made the claim that the lifeatgoogle twitter was related evidence to your claim that google wasn't interested in hiring men anymore. I'm not silly enough to claim that a brief perusal of a twitter account can be extrapolated into a claim about a company's hiring strategy.

Thanks to your quantification, we have some evidence to suggest the lifeatgoogle twitter is fairly representative of population demographics along gender and racial lines, at least in the US. I don't see the data as conclusive of anything more than that.


This time around there were more white men, I think - in part because of some specials like Tensor Flow, or a picture from an actual office.

It is still biased against white men (if it is supposed to reflect the actual distribution of Google employees), but not as extreme as last time. I really would like to find the date of my last comment about it. Also perhaps simply more data is needed - a single picture with several people could shift the results here, because I checked only pics from 2.5 months.

Also better methodology needed, this was just a quick shot looking into one simple metric.


You're again, falling victim to confirmation bias by rejecting the best quantification you've provided yet.

Lets examine the data you've provided - 29% white women, 19% women of color, 21% men of color, 30% white men.

This data is entirely in line with the demographics of the US. About 50/50 on gender and 60% white. In fact, given google's global hiring reach, these figures are actually biased towards white people - while about spot on for gender. This entirely contradicts the point you were originally pointing to this twitter feed as confirmation of.


If anything, this thread has just made me newly impressed with Google's approach to inclusion. It's also really, really obvious that the person you are responding to isn't able to reconcile seeing PoC and women with their own world view.


Huh wtf - what does seeing women and PoCs have to do with a "world view"? You think I am not aware that women and PoCs exist?

Exactly. You don't understand. So stop talking and start listening to the women around you, yeah?


Which women? There were no women mentioned, just a guess that it happens often. There was one article by one woman that is the topic here. Afaik nobody claimed that her story is unbelievable.


> Personally I haven't heard many such stories from women in tech.

Women learn from a very young age to be very selective about who they trust, in a much more nuanced way than men do.

If you haven't heard such stories from women, it's quite probably because they're not comfortable telling you such things.


There aren't even that many women in tech who could tell such stories. Your argument is really quite worthless because it could be used to prove anything.

In any case, as I mentioned in another comment, a collection of stories is not a good way to gauge the problem. You need to put it into context - number of women in total, and also, what happens to men. Stories like this suggest that only women ever have bad experiences at companies. But you can find lots of male reports of being unhappy at a company, too. Why isn't that reason for men to quit in droves? Presumably the Uber-woman is happy with her new job at Stripe, too.


Consider that you may not be a safe person for women to tell such stories too, if your first instinct is going to be to minimize and dismiss.


I didn't minimize or dismiss any woman's story: the isssue here is the reference to imaginary women's imaginary stories. I can not dismiss an imaginary story, because it doesn't exist.

The issue is that because of bias against men, few people even realize that they are talking about completely fabricated assumptions in this thread.

And again: there are not even that many women who could tell such stories. I'd say 1 in 20 software developers at companies I worked for were female. So it is not a case of me not being told things by women on a significant scale. The women didn't tell me such stories because those women don't exist to begin with.


It would be nice to believe that all these reported events are exceptional, and to an extent they are atypical, but it is indicative of a fairly broken work culture that such things happen.

Until recently, I'd only ever read accounts of bad things like this happening at certain conferences, and not seen anything first hand. A few months back, one of the female staff on our team changed their github picture. When mentioning this in conversation, it turned out that random people (not physically at work, but github users who did not know any of us in person) were harassing/propositioning her solely due to that image. What sort of screwed up person does that?! People should be able to do their jobs without dealing with crap like that.


"all these reported events" - what do you mean? There was one event reported here, and a "guess" that it happens often.

I don't doubt men are often attracted to women, even colleagues. Whether that alone should count as sexist harassment I consider debatable, but in any case it is not the same level as a boss proposing sex on the first work day, with threat of career disadvantages for rebuffing the offer.


There have been a few high profile incidences of fairly bad things happening over the last year; see the code of conduct introduced at some conferences after some of them. Some people just don't know how to behave appropriately, sad to say. This story being a poster child for how not to behave, and how not to handle the situation properly if you're in HR.

And regarding the last paragraph, I'm not talking about anything in the workplace between colleagues or otherwise. I'm talking about creepy strangers propositioning people they have never ever met or communicated with, on github. github is not a dating or hookup site for strangers. It's for sharing and collaborating on code. There are other, more appropriate, sites for dating- and hookup-related activities with willing participants who opted into it. No one wants or needs to deal with strangers propositioning them through the tools they use for their professional work. You should not feel required to hide your appearance or identity to be comfortable doing your job without being harassed, unsolicited, by strangers.


The codes of conduct are unfortunately sanctimonious non-sense to beat people over the head with. Those who champion them never apply the rules to themselves, and those who really want to harass pay them no heed. This was already the case with Adria Richards and her dongle joke offense, where she harassed a guy by putting his photo on Twitter and cost him his job, and got lauded for it by gender activists and news articles alike. While citing the code of conduct.

Real harassment is already illegal. Conduct policies can only serve in the gray area where people do not want to get police involved, but still want to exact some form of retribution and punishment, often by playing the politics game. It empowers the wrong people for the wrong reasons. It also creates the illusion that tech is particularly nasty, when the exact opposite is true: despite what activists claim, it is far more meritocratic than most industries, and far more reliant on tools and methods that emphasize work over personality and identity.

The propositioning, this is a fact of life: men propose, women dispose, and it's creepy unless he's attractive. Fact is, people like to date people with similar interests, they meet in all sorts of contexts, and some are more tactful about it than others. That doesn't mean it's automatically harassment to be flirted with outside of a dating site or bar night, or that it's never welcome.

One asshole manager is just one asshole manager, and such crudeness is the exception, not the norm.

Some people would love to receive just an ounce of affection and appreciation just for merely showing up, so being able to complain about it is the luxury of the desirable. Especially when, as I've often seen, it's paired with exasperated stories of how so-and-so just won't take the endless "clear hints" that have been made, but a polite but firm "sorry, flattered but not interested" is never actually provided. We are told we must be more empathetic, but the empathy for the socially awkward or the lonely, those who are bad at reading social cues, that's never on the table. All this talk of "safe spaces" seems to vanish once it's the real nerds and geeks, the 'losers' who need consideration.

Just keep in mind, HR is mostly a female-staffed endeavour, and the passive aggressive and underhanded interaction described is certainly not typical of male interaction styles. If it's a poster child for how not to behave, I don't think those griping about techbros and misogyny are quite thinking through the implications here.


I don't think tech is more meritocratic then other jobs. Various signalings and posturings and confidencw often count so much more then merit. We don't even know how to define merit and never ever talk about what merit is.

Also, if she reported you to hr, then you should consider it hint clearest possible. We are not even talking about subtle misunderstandings here, he invited new employee to have sex.

Stop blaming douchebaghery on geekiness or nerdiness, most geeks are not like that.

Also, there is little direct about male keeping business info away from competitor or retroactively lowering her review scores to keep her. The politics there was ugly as fuck and had zero to do with merit.


The code of conduct also implies (male) visitors of conferences are rapists unless told otherwise. I personally find it very off putting if a conference of meetup has such a code of conduct. Not because I want to rape or harass (I don't), but because it is insulting.

I think if you organize an event, you should be allowed to assume your target group are good people. For people who nevertheless step over the line, the normal standards of decency apply and they can be dealt with, CoC or no.


finding data about underreporting of sexual harassment in the workplace is by definition difficult, since it is by definition not being reported, so anecdotes are all we have in many cases.

If you want a source though, here is one: (https://hbr.org/2016/10/why-we-fail-to-report-sexual-harassm...)

In this case, the data is moot. It doesn't matter if 10% of women experience this, or 90%. Whether or not it is a problem is not in debate. It is a problem. Preventing sexual harassment is everyone's responsibility, even if you are not the one harassing.


Of course the scale of the problem makes a difference. People are also being murdered on a daily basis, but we don't claim it affects the labor force at scale (like "there is a shortage of women in STEM because they have all been murdered"). Just like murders should be prevented, sexual harassment should be prevented. But that doesn't necessarily make it a large scale problem.

As for the linked problem, I criticize that it doesn't properly define sexual harassment. The comparison here is to a guy who proposed sex on a first work day and threatened a stunted career. Is that really what women experience all the time. Or is it mostly that an unwanted colleague is attracted to them? The methodology is also not clear (very likely they only asked women, which seems rather one-sided. For "real" crime there is a reason for there being courts and judges).


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what do you mean?


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If you think a comment shouldn't be on HN you can downvote it or flag it.

There's a high karma threshold for voting. There's a lower karma threshold for flagging. Flagging (I think) should be reserved for serious violations. The flag button appears if you click the timestamp of the post.


Please do not talk to anyone, male or female, like this.


Unfortunately the 'I am in an open relationship, want to fuck?' line is something that I've seen more than once, initiated by both men and women engineers. At least one of those examples goes to a lot of conferences, and pretty much opens with that line to people in the opposite sex, and has a Twitter following in the 5 digits.

I am also aware of a funded dev tools startup that has a single woman engineer: She happens to share a bed with the CEO every so often. Imagine how comfortable that must be for any other woman that might join the company, or anyone sharing a team with said woman engineer.

So I have seen the kind of weirdos that do something like this. I don't wish them on my worst enemy.


> I can't fathom what kind of weirdo does something like this, male or female.

People who get off on violating other people's boundaries.


Or who can get away with it.


Sex addict is the term that comes to mind.


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Please stop posting uncivilly and unsubstantively like this.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


What's with all the 'this is unbelievable' comments here?

This is absolutely believable, Uber has pretty much made it their standard to break the laws where-ever they can, why should work place conduct be any different? In for a penny, in for a pound.

You'd never hear something even close to this from Stripe or some other company run by upstanding folks.

Fish rots from the head.


I fully expected this thread to be a shitshow, but comments here are overwhelmingly supportive of Fowler, and except perhaps for the very bottom of the thread, I don't see much much "this is unbelievable" at all. I'm pleasantly surprised.


It is good to see the support here. I am unpleasantly surprised at the comments admonishing her for not lawyering up, though. She bothered to write publicly, which is more than anyone outside the situation could rightly ask. She wrote very well on painful, personal events and I think can be proud of how she handled it. It opens the door for others, and Uber management is going to have to deal with it one way or another this week.


I give stuff like that a pass. We're the "well, actually" capital of the Internet (or at least one of the "well, actually" major metros). I think we all just want to be able to participate in the discussion and are not very tactful about crowbarring our way into it.

I don't feel like I read a lot admonishment (which would take forms like "by not suing you're complicit in harm to other women" or "if your story was really credible it would involve a lawyer"). I do feel like I read a lot of "you know, you could also..." or "this is a good example of why...".


> "if your story was really credible it would involve a lawyer"

Damned if you do, damned if you don't. "Aha, she's got a lawyer! She's making up this nonsense to try and get a fat cash payout from Uber!"


"Well actually" capital indeed. I must remember where I am :)

Admonishment was probably too strong on my part, but I read the lawyer comments as more, "You should..."


Personally, I'm certain she's lawyered up, and has all the screenshots she needs to defend against a defamation lawsuit. There's no way a smart person like her would write this without all her ducks in a row.


That's a good point, and it's perhaps insulting to assume otherwise given the available information at this point.


Maybe because it is more of a clear-cut case of sexism and workplace intimidation, than, say, ones about “watching your co-workers hula-hooping” (https://techcrunch.com/2014/03/15/julie-ann-horvath-describe...) or “making a joke about dongles”? (https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/03/how-dongle-jokes...)

Those cases invoke skepticism because they twist otherwise innocuous situations and try to blow them up into witch hunts where people lose their livelihood. No one should lose their job because an accusatory party happened to overhear them making a stupid juvenile dongle joke.

Susan's case on the other hand has clear, well-defined accusations of people acting in what sounds like unprofessional and sexist behavior to anyone with common sense. People should get fired if they ask their subordinates for sex multiple times. No wonder it (rightly) gets a lot of support.


The whole Julie Ann Horvath incident was way more than hula-hooping. Although, I think your underselling how things like that can create a deeply uncomfortable work environment for women.

I don't consider the dongle situation to be a story of institutional sexism at all, but one of a positive feedback loop of poor judgment and/or overreaction, by many of the people involved.

I would caution you from believing that anything less than a serious of incidents this meticulously documented shouldn't be taken seriously (e.g. Horvath's report). Most people are firstly concerned with being good at their jobs, not identifying the thread of sexist or harassing behavior underlying a bunch of incidents separated in time. Often, only in retrospect can the trend be seen. And by that time, it's difficult to find all the hard evidence.

Institutional sexism is rarely someone deciding to treat another person poorly, because they are a woman. More often, it's someone making a judgment call in a complex situation that turns out (due to their biases or lack of empathy) to exclude or demean women. The pattern of such things is what creates an unwelcoming and taxing environment. How many mental cycles must it take to cope with all of that bullshit? Most people's performance would suffer, leading to the conclusion that women just can't hack it. It's pretty incredible that the author thrived professionally, in the meantime.

Note that an environment of baseline hostility toward women may or may not be garnished with openly sexist behavior, as it was in this case.


How many mental cycles does it take to deal with any amount of bullshit? Claims of specific "institutional oppression" rightly deserve skepticism. It's like a Rorschach test; squint hard enough and you can make anything look like oppression. We all deal with a lot of bullshit at work, and in most cases, it's best just to accept that people are complicated and messy, but mostly well-intentioned, rather than stressing out over the "potentially discriminatory" institutional patterns.

Hula-hoops? Oppression because men may ogle. No hula-hoops, only video games and ping-pong? Oppression because the management isn't sensitive to the feminine interest in softer recreational activities, like expression through movement and dance. Either of these are plausible complaints.

Open-plan office? Great, creativity-boosting boon for employees that ensures everyone will build strong working relationships, and shows the employer's interest in fostering an open, collaborative environment where there are literally no barriers, physical or metaphorical, between teammates.

Or, wait, is it open-plan offices: Degrading, dystopian wage slave farm that ensures one manager can see all 50 monitors in the room at once and pounce at the first moment that someone switches to a Facebook tab, and a disrespectful mockery of a professional's need to concentrate on their important and serious work which could literally stop the company's cashflow if a minor mistake gets made in the wrong spot?

The point here is not to trivialize or to necessarily equate sexual harassment with other types of uncomfortable working situations, but to demonstrate that when what you admit is a "complex judgment call" is presented, flaws can usually be found no matter what decision is made. Judgment calls become complex rather than simple because there are substantial tradeoffs involved in all available options.

That's a lot different than having timestamped messages and strong documentation backing up explicit and clearly inappropriate advances from your immediate superiors. There's a lot less gray area to defend there.


It's the weekend. The pros are no more likely to take a busman's holiday than anyone else.


What scares me is that there is no evidence, only allegation. Yet people are jumping on the bandwagon, making sure to pillory anything they disagree with in connection to an alleged incident. Guess what? People lie. Until some proof is offered, you should treat the accuser with dignity but assume the story is false.


If Party A accuses Party B of misconduct and Party B claims that the accusation is false (explicitly or implicitly), then someone is lying. If you aim to be nobly impartial until compelling evidence is available, the logically appropriate response is not "assume the story is false" but "assume the truth of the story is unknown". There's no purely logical reason to treat one story or the other as the one that should be believed by default. (Mind you, you don't have to refuse to make any judgement at all before irrefutable evidence is available. I personally believe that there are better approaches.) In this case, I don't know whether Uber has given any sort of response (whether to affirm or deny any of this), but absence of a denial certainly can't be construed to make their case stronger.

I too often see a tendency for people to treat claims of wrongdoing more skeptically than counterclaims of innocence, especially where gender is involved. That makes me very, very uneasy.


Until you have proved something has happened, it must be assumed that it did not happen. There is no reason to assume something is true just because someone claims it happened. Especially when it is a claim that can severely damage reputations, livelihoods, and lives.


Treating someone as a liar, however tentatively, can also severely damage reputations, livelihoods, and lives. There is not a neutral option here. (Or at least, a neutral balance is very delicate and hard to find, and your approach is emphatically not.)

And I will point out that the course you advocate places those consequences on the party who, if truthful, has already suffered harm. That outcome is certainly not better than people assuming bad things, however tentatively, about the target of a false accusation would be.


There is also no reason to assume something is false just because someone claims it happened. It's irrational to assume ANYTHING about a claim, was the point. But okay, I'll start assuming everything is false. Starting with your comment.


Why would she expose herself to libel laws? Why would she risk her career? Is she not capable of describing her experience and be seen as a witness to her own treatment?


I have no problem with describing one's alleged experience. I take issue with treating it as the truth, despite providing no evidence. This is all unsubstantiated hearsay.


It's not hearsay, it's testimony. Hearsay would be Susan telling us what she heard from someone else.


I guess some of it would be hearsay, as some of her story involves what other engineers were telling her, but yeah, this is firsthand testimony, no doubt with plenty of screenshots/emails/etc to document.


Yeah, I definitely reserve more skepticism for those things she reported second hand, though they certainly still merit examination.


If taking a billion dollars from the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia says something about a company's stance regarding women's equality, what it says is not terribly inconsistent with Fowler's story.


That's an interesting angle that I had not considered. That money is such a weird thing from another viewpoint as well, it means that Uber doesn't have to perform at all for the next decade or so, they can basically wait out all of their competition. It removes every incentive to actually perform which might be just what it takes to kill them.


I hate to use the phrase 'it's only a billion dollars' but at the sort of scale it strives to operate, that's not a massive warchest without follow on investment: e.g. Delta Airlines turns over about $40 billion in revenue a year and a 2.5% subsidy would gobble up a billion. If the actual subsidies are in the double digits that billion starts to look more like a normal 12-24 month funding round [1].

If it dies, it will be via dependence on meat space. There's only so much of moving atoms that can be digitally replaced and the core business is a commodity: it could compete with taxis because rides between A and B are mostly fungible and being better than existing taxi service was not a very high bar and being better than standing in the rain waving your arm was not a high bar either.

I'm sure it's software engineering is really good. But over the long term, it can only provide marginal advantages to a business that boils down to personal services.

[1]: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-12-20/uber-s-lo...


Well, once they permanently replace the ongoing cost, they will be highly profitable.

https://www.wired.com/2016/10/ubers-self-driving-truck-makes...

This one is not Uber, but you get the idea.

https://arstechnica.com/cars/2017/02/gm-lyft-could-deploy-th...


>it means that Uber doesn't have to perform at all for the next decade or so

more like little over 1 year [0]. Originally wanted to say 2 years, didn't know loss climbed to $3B last year.

[0]https://techcrunch.com/2016/12/21/uber-losses-expected-to-hi...


I imagine that the real loss was higher, considering there was "revenue" in the form of selling UberChina.


I've always wondered what Uber is going to do when their self-driving cars can legally drive in Saudi Arabia, but women can't. Seems like they're going to run up against that pretty soon.


I would expect "enjoy the revenue from female customers wanting to be able to take a car to where they want".

Sometimes profit and social goals happen to align.



If anything, OP's subsequent employment by Stripe is a very strong endorsement for the workplace culture of the company.


I actually used Stripe as an example before I realized that's where she had moved to so consider that a double endorsement, it's not like I have any dog in that particular race but I know some people that work there and without fault they report working there is a dream come true.

The brothers have something good going there and I'll bet that when the dust settles Uber will be part of that dust and Stripe will have IPO'd or similar (possibly even this year).

This is how it's done:

https://stripe.com/code-of-conduct


I wish I shared your optimism that HR practices had anything to do with IPO pricing...


At some level they are linked.

Uber will have to learn to play within existing frameworks.

Key Nordic proverb: "Pissing in your pants keeps you warm only for so long". In other words, using your funds raised to make up for shortcomings elsewhere in the organization will sooner or later come to and end.


That's an excellent proverb, and the way things are going in my neck of the woods, I feel like I'm going to get a lot of mileage out of it.


Stripe seems to hire an unusual amount of really talented engineers who are also really good at explanatory writing. (Though this may just be an availability bias thing for me.)

Fowler is one. Julia Evans is another that comes to mind.

I wouldn't be surprised if they had amazing internal documentation for their engineers.


They have amazing external documentation. It was so good I [blogged about it](https://dev.clintonblackburn.com/2015/07/24/good-documentati...)! I have never had an easier experience integrating with a payment processor.


Their recent guide on incorporation and taxes for startups was the simplest take on legalese I'd seen


Etsy is another company with extraordinarily talented writers. Their engineering blog "CodeAsCraft"[0] is superb and I invariably learn something everytime I read it.

[0] https://codeascraft.com/


Is it? A person in need of a lifeboat will take one.

Also, the author repeatedly used the percentage of women engineers as an index of workplace quality/sanity. So we'd expect Stripe's to be much higher, right?

Is that the case?


Right, because moving from one market leading tech company to another, with a book deal and tech talks thrown in for good measure, is the definition of "needing a lifeboat" in software engineering.

It's not like she got a job working at the DMV or something.


Going from 26% to 6% of any particular description of employees that quickly is probably not a good sign for quality/sanity.

I'd feel the same way if, say, s/women/conservatives/ or s/women/$minority/.


I am surprised that you would include an active political choice with immutable personal characteristics. Some companies are purposefully political; it is why they hire lobbyists. They may also take positions, such as support of their own transgender employees or buying insurance that fully covers women's health care, that are objectionable to many conservatives. I could see things unrelated or even positive for business repelling conservatives.

The same is true of some other dynamics. I've seen an exodus of young men from a team because a new boss came in who didn't think sexual harassment was acceptable workplace behavior. The excuse was "the workplace isn't fun anymore", but before that it wasn't fun for people who didn't enjoy spending all of lunch talking about how to pick up chicks. Or for technical quality, if a company is successful the engineer who didn't want to write tests or get code reviews is going to rage-quit at all the "extra process" that keeps them from breaking the build on a Saturday night like they used to.

Sometimes when conflict emerges, a company has to take a side and whichever side is alienated is going to end up leaving. The question then is which side did the company come down on.


>Also, the author repeatedly used the percentage of women engineers as an index of workplace quality/sanity. So we'd expect Stripe's to be much higher, right?

Don't have the answer for you. But I would say the repeated lies by HR she stated in defending repeat offenders, and having the same reports of harassment by her female coworkers over the same managers speaks more to the quality/sanity of the place than percentage of women in the workplace.


Learnt that lesson the hard way - as an independent consultant working with local businesses, did some work with a seemingly successful guy who boasted about how he always got a good deal/complained about service and got money back etc. Surprise, surprise, a month later he did that to me too, including stupid petty things like trying to pay the invoice without the VAT.

What goes around comes around.

I still support our local taxi company and talk to the drivers who take me (typically to/from the airport). Many of them have had experiences with Uber and don't have good things to say. However their traditional business is struggling.


Over the years I've learned that most of the time people tell you they are going to rip you off before hand. Not flat out directly, but they'll provide deliberate warnings because it makes it makes it easier to rationalize what they are going to do. The best test for whether or not someone will pay me is whether or not they will write me a check up front. People who intend to pay are ok with it, people who don't intend to pay aren't.


The one comment that literally matches "this is unbelievable" isn't saying it literally.


I absolutely believe it but find it astonishing that a company can behave like this.

So, not sure what you're referring to but perhaps people are using unbelievable as a synonym for astonishing. ie. not literally.


Ok, thanks for pointing that out. Even so, I also don't find it astonishing. It's about as surprising as the sun rising tomorrow.


Well said. Those of us who have worked with folks in management at Uber or who have friends who have worked at Uber all know very well what Uber is like. This is no more shocking than discovering that Amazon is a brutal, highly political workplace. People in tech just don't want to admit that their little playground is a cesspool of discrimination, entitlement and bigotry. That's all.


I think the "this is unbelievable" comments are coming from people who have worked in the industry for a long time -- but not at Uber -- who are surprised that this sort of thing not only goes on, but that HR appears to be advocating the behavior through inaction.

At least from my anecdotal experience, I've never seen anything like this among the four companies and 20 years I've been in software development and engineering. Granted, the percentage of women who were in technical, non-management, positions[0] hovered around 20%. In those cases, the skillsets of the women ranged as much as it did the men and all of the folks I worked with treated each other, regardless of gender, respectfully and professionally.

I wouldn't imagine seeking a date with co-worker. What happens when you break up? Do you want to bring that to work with you ever day? At the companies I've worked for, I know of one incident where a person was let go for "having a crap-ton of porn on his work PC" that someone from security noticed when the proxy logs flagged his workstation. This individual was a VP, a "high performer" and was very well like. He was also out on his hide a few hours after his laptop was seized and inspected. This was with no reports from women even hinting that he'd acted inappropriately on the job. And we had nobody inspecting proxy logs looking for this sort of thing -- that guy in security who happened upon his workstation ended up being there because he was investigating a malfunction, but because of corporate agreements we'd all signed, he was obligated to report what he found[2].

I hate to say it, but this is the kind of behavior I'd expect out of teenagers, not adult men. And it's one of those things you usually don't have to tell people not to do. Though I have no experience with this specific kind of behavior, I've noticed that when people fail on morally obvious things, they're often failing on many other things and I would be worried if I were an investor about having my money tied up in a company that had this kind of a reputation -- what other laws does this corporate culture find acceptable to break? I'd be twice as concerned if this were my employer -- not just out of fear of being harassed, but out of fear that a company with these kinds of ethical lapses is often quickest to screw those who work for them (or take them down with them). No way.

[0] Perhaps my experience is unusual, but for 17 years the VP level individuals in my teams have been women, I've reported to a Director level employee who was a woman and I've had a woman for a manager on more than one occasion.

[1] Thus far, I know only of this account, which without additional data is as anecdotal as my comment, here, but based on others piling on, I am inclined to believe that there's a real problem here.

[2] Paraphrased, we were basically required to report everything even if we were not directly involved, but if I saw something this inappropriate, I wouldn't need a signed agreement to persuade me -- I had full confidence in the HR teams at the places I was at and knew it would be handled appropriately.


We don't have to look very hard to find examples of sexual harassment lawsuits that the four major tech companies have lost.

Anecdotally, I have been organizationally close (same manager, adjacent team) to serious misconduct and was completely oblivious to it, finding out about the wrongdoing years later.

It is likely that Uber is alone with its scope of HR incompetence and wrongdoing. Although their SRE is supposed to have been lifted straight from Google and Facebook, the sexual harassment cases from those organizations didn't involve nearly as much dishonesty and apathy by their Human Resources sections.


I've worked in the industry for 25 years. I'm not shocked. It's no surprise at all. The only people who are saying "it's unbelievable" are people who have worked VERY hard to not see disgusting bigotry and rampant unprofessionalism that is endemic in this industry.


I've got to disagree here, and again, I'm going off of personal experience at only four companies. On the one hand, of the four companies, three were well established, and none were startups -- however, in a strike against them as far as discrimination is concerned, the they were in telecom and performed layoffs once to twice a year of about 5-10% of staff (more during 2007-2008). The only blatant cases of discrimination I witnessed were two occasions where older employees were let go due to them being close to retirement age[0].

Accusing individuals of turning a blind eye to discrimination is a pretty strong charge. An equally strong charge would be to state that some individuals go out of their way to look for discrimination where none exists and call those individuals something akin to "snowflakes". To be clear: I don't, personally, believe either of these things, but I think it's important to play Devil's Advocate from time to time.

Another possibility is that people saying "it's unbelievable" do so because they, themselves, wouldn't dream of acting in this manner or being part of a team where this kind of behavior went on. And I think some people disregard "bigotry and rampant unprofessionalism" because human nature tends toward avoiding confrontation (or risking one's job by causing a problem for an influential manager). That last bit is the worst case because it causes the problem to be sanctioned through inaction, it damages the company, its shareholders, its customers and its employees[1], which causes a feedback loop making it even harder to stand up when something unethical is witnessed.

[0] This was done because the managers thought it was the best option for everyone -- the two guys were with the company a long time, would receive a very big severance package (this company had a great severance offering) and they were preventing another few employees from being let go who were younger with families. Unfortunately, I know that in one case, the individual let go was both a high performer and had no desire to retire at retirement age. It was ugly and I nearly left the company after it happened (I only stayed because they were being bought out and the new company was taking us over -- it was as good as getting a new job as the two places didn't resemble each other on anything but paper).

[1] And I get it -- I was personally told on one occasion by my boss that he "had just spent an hour convincing our VP that I should keep my job" because I pointed out a large license violation I had discovered and wasn't aware that the person responsible for that (unintentional) licensing oversight was in the room. In the end, though, I would have done it regardless and my actions resulted in that manager being forced to work with the vendor, avoided an audit and negotiation got us pennies on the dollar to become compliant, again.


Even if this wasn't Uber, it's totally believable.


I am struggling to think of something productive to contribute to this discussion, because this absolutely incensed me.

In lieu of anything else: Susan deserves to be commended for her bravery in writing this.


If an Uber recruiter contacts you, bring this up and tell them their nonfunctioning HR department makes working for their company a non starter.

If you work at Uber, quit, and/or contact the board and tell them that this behavior is unacceptable and the people responsible need to be fired. If the culture won't change, the CEO needs to be fired.

If you work in tech, bring up this article with your manager or CEO and tell them that this behavior is unacceptable, opens the company up to ridiculous amounts of lawsuit risk, will hurt recruiting, depress morale, and that you will quit if harassment complaints aren't taken seriously.


> If an Uber recruiter contacts you, bring this up and tell them their nonfunctioning HR department makes working for their company a non starter.

This. Companies don't change until there's a huge price to be paid for not changing. When top recruits start turning down Uber because of their sexist policies/politics, then Uber will be forced to change.


In addition, the only people left at Uber will be people who think this behavior is acceptable. In that case, it will only be a matter of time before there is a lawsuit.


Thinking about the attrition rate of female engineers, I wonder if there's a similar rate of male engineers who leave due to how badly their female colleagues are treated in addition to the other factors listed in this thread and Fowler's piece.

If so, that would imply that the engineering culture is being distilled into an evermore toxic workplace, since those who stay are those who make the place toxic or are simply people who try to work around it.

It would take an extremely focused and persistent effort on the part of upper management to change this trajectory before the company implodes, as I suspect is inevitable in the long run should my assumptions prove accurate.


I really doubt this. A lot of men are totally unaware of how women are treated, which fellow men on their team are harassers, or don't believe women when they report harassment. My evidence for this is every man in tech reacting with shock to this story, and every woman I know saying "yep, I have a story like this," or "I know many women with stories like this"


The behavior discussed in her story includes stuff that's not sexual harassment, though. A sizable chunk of it is about poisonous office politics, something pretty much everyone would be aware of and which most people dislike. So it's not hard to believe people with better options would leave, regardless of gender, leaving people who either like that sort of politics (some do) or don't have better options.


> My evidence for this is every man in tech reacting with shock to this story

You've interviewed us all, have you?

I don't find the accusations surprising or outside the realm of possibility at all.


An alternative (and I believe intended) reading of this line is

My evidence for this is every man in tech who is reacting with shock to this story

rather than

My evidence for this is that every man in tech is reacting with shock to this story


So you were also shocked by this story?

If not, I guess neither of us exist, because I (sadly) wasn't.

Edit: Originally said: So let's leave out the "every man" crap and focus on making the world a better place, please.

As grzm points out, I'm an idiot. Disregard the above sentence.

But still, people who wouldn't appreciate this crap definitely exist, and our quitting/refusing to be recruited would likely still make a point.


I think you're likely misreading the sentence: see

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13683594

Edit: minor wording change.


Thanks; edited original.


I would quit. I wouldn't want to see people treated that way.

I've seen a 100% male company (quite small, not 75-100 people) and seriously worried about how things would go when some women were hired. Bit rough at first but it worked out for them (luckily). In a small company a bad lawsuit or two could be a serious threat to the survival of the place.


Men can be mistreated and leave on their own, they don't need to have female colleagues suffer.

A lot of what is in this article is not even exclusive to women.

Culture has a long inertia, it replicates and grows by itself. So yes, toxic workplace become ever more toxic and no a toxic culture cannot be improved.


If you work at a company that already fires anyone who acts like that, and later use them during the on-boarding given to all new employees as real life examples of how you do NOT run a proper business... well, enjoy your workplace :D


Sure, definitely.

Where do I send the bills for my groceries, then? Would you prefer email or snailmail?


The people with the most leverage at Uber to make a difference would have their pick of companies to work for; as the OP notes, she had a job offer within a week. If you are actually an engineer at Uber, I bet recruiters are constantly emailing you about job offers.

Obviously, if you don't think you can easily get another job, stay.


There's effort, entropy, and uncertainty with changing jobs. My only point was that saying, "Why don't you just get another job?" is just a little dishonest.


No shit. A story like this makes me realize that even with the "problems" I think I have at work, that get me all riled up, I have it made in the shade with lemonade compared to this woman's experience at Uber.

I started reading the article with the view of "If it's really that bad, just quit. Burn that bridge with thermite, and never look back." I finished the article wishing there were more Susan J. Fowlers in the world.


Same here.

And you know; 100% of the women engineers I know have similar stories. 100%. That's insane.

These stories need to come out so the guilty companies and their toxic environments are exposed for all to see.

I'd encourage everyone here to pick up a copy of her O'Reilly book -- it's very good. Hopefully she gets all the income and none of it goes to Uber...


Even I do not have anything productive to contribute to this discussion, but just deleted the Uber app from my phone. Never going to use them again even if that means a lot of inconvenience for me.


By all indications, Uber has a toxic work culture that costs them both top talent and organizational velocity.

I'm a college senior at a well-regarded engineering school. My CS classmates - especially women - simply do not apply to Uber, in large part because of its reputation for internal misogyny and general assholery. Four classmates interned there last summer, and as far as I know none are interested in returning. A friend of mine was actually warned off by her software engineer father. I've heard stories from friends who've worked there that corroborate Susan's tales of infighting teams and inexplicable reorganizations due to high-level backstabbing. The one woman I know who works there wants out. Susan is a high-profile and credible source; hopefully her post takes Uber's work culture issues from "open secret" to "problem that has public consequences for the company".

The CEO should crack down and take serious steps towards addressing this problem - not just for PR, but because his company is seriously suffering as a result of these issues. Unfortunately for Uber, from what I've heard, Travis is part of the problem as far as Game-of-Thrones internal politics and backstabbing goes. His "move fast and break things" persona sounds like a poor model for subordinates. Between that and the company's relative external success, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for anything internal to get better any time soon.

Until it does, I simply hope that my acquaintances at Uber find somewhere less shitty to work.


Hijacking this top comment to provide some personal experiences.

I started as an engineer in the spring of 2014 and this was definitely the case there.

Top engineers were being poached from Google/FB and these people were trying to carve out territory in a quickly growing engineering team.

The misogynistic culture, in my mind, comes from most of the early employees being former frat bros. Culture was extremely heavy on the drinking; see "Work-cations" where most of the team would go to an exotic location which was half-hackathon/half boozefest. There were happy hours every week with open bar because all new employees would be flown to SF (no matter where home office was) for orientation.

Crazy, most ex-employees (even the early ones) acknowledge that the culture is bad but they got their $$$ so they won't have to work again for a long time, if ever.


   > Top engineers were being poached from Google/FB and these people
   > were trying to carve out territory in a quickly growing engineering 
   > team.
It is always a bit sad when one of the top characteristic of an engineer from organization X is their political ability to carve out an empire.

I'm a bit surprised she doesn't have at least one law firm trying to get her to be the lead claimant in a class action lawsuit. Seems like she did everything right and has a pretty sold case. Of course she may have signed that option away when she left.

Also, in California at least, your employer has to give you your full personnel record if you request it. She might ask them to do that.


I'm a bit surprised so many people want to give her advice. She's already taken a really bold step and written cogently and in a balanced way about her situation, the toxic culture at Uber, and made it clear she's moved on to a better place. Why talk about what she should be doing and hasn't done as if there is only one way to resolve this? Why not give thanks to the writer for writing this and putting up with all the drama it will cause in the hope of a better world.

Why not talk about how wrong Uber was in every way and at every level - allowing a manager to attempt to proposition new direct reports for sex on their first day, not immediately firing them for this, trying to suppress this when taken to HR, rewarding the perpetrator, killing her career there for vague reasons, let alone all the other dysfunction she mentioned in passing? Even just one of those points means a really toxic culture. There are little bits of men's behaviour in every large organisation which resemble this, why not talk about that and ways to make this better? There are so many ways this story can inspire us to do better.


I think you have incorrectly attributed ChuckMcM's comment as advice. He was just musing about his surprise that a law firm hasn't already contacted her considering the strength of her case, and having a thought experiment about the outcome.

In this case, it would greatly benefit the public good to litigate. Unfortunately, the risk of lawsuits is the single greatest motivator for U.S. companies to combat sexism and harassment in the workplace. We would hope that companies would recognize the inherent value of encouraging the growth of a class of employees so they can be productive, but this isn't the case in most U.S. companies.

I think it's unlikely that Susan would choose to litigate. She is motivated to design systems, write books, and advance infrastructure engineering. Her personal gain from a lawsuit would be slim (what would the damages even be? She probably has no employment gap, considering her excellent reputation in engineering).


I'm not a lawyer but I imagine in this case the damages would be puntive. It's less about how she was harmed and more about the fact that the company has rampant sexual harassment and a history of not handling complaints properly. A good way to teach them (and others who are contemplating doing the same) a lesson is to make them pay an outrageous amount of money.

Not saying Susan should be the one to sue them, but someone certainly should. Along with the bad publicity one or more lawsuits would definitely get them to clean up their HR practices.


I think we're both in agreement about the greater public good of the litigation. I don't understand punitive damages so I can't comment.

I'm uncomfortable with assigning responsibility to an individual to undertake a crusade when there is little upside and a large downside.


I think this is a good point.

The discussion here really highlights how people combine what they are reading with what they are thinking into a combined message.

I was reading her account and the GP comment from the uber throwaway and making observational comments about people who spend time on political maneuver versus doing excellent work. I've known a number people over my career who got promoted often and achieved great "success" but did so by manipulating the organization and not by doing anything particular noteworthy.

In my experience, that sort of behavior can really only be stopped top->down. There isn't any way that I have found to help someone see that they are incorrectly evaluating employee contribution from a position below there grade level. And like the author found, if the bad behavior continues above your manager, then that is a level of brokenness you can't fix. And as you point out she got out and was moved on.

I also phrased it as an observation, but I am sure that on reading her account there may be lawyers looking for a big payday (Uber is vulnerable) who will approach her. It's what lawyers do. Generally more established companies have a tighter rein on their illegal management practices to make it harder on the lawyers :-)

Uber was wrong, on every level, and that was status quo. And the cost of naming that wrong and speaking of it is high. It is sad that they are not unique in that wrongness.

There is only one way to make this better, and that is to tie this sort of behavior to a loss of money. There are many things we might advocate which impact Uber financially; One is to sue them, One is to give witness to their wrongness so that others will not work there, One is to boycott them as a customer or driver.

Sadly, there is no way to "fix" them because this appears to be cultural. That is the worst part for me, knowing about the rottenness in a company, knowing it "could" be addressed by a strong leader providing incentives for good behavior and disincentives for bad behavior, and knowing that no fixing will happen. That said if their competitors have a stronger (and better) culture, then they will be able to attract top talent in the space and dominate the market. We'll see if that works in this case.


Thanks for this comment - I agree with your points here. It is worth us all thinking about how to fix the broken culture, rather than thinking about what the author can do, she's done her part in a very brave way by writing this honest article.


Listing what she can/should/coulda/woulda/shoulda is one way to avoid looking in the mirror and all that. It is one reason victim blaming is popular: If it is the victim's fault, then other people don't have to wonder what they might do differently or get off their lazy duff and walk the walk instead of just engaging in smack talk.

I appreciate you making the comment. I don't imagine it will go over well.


> It is one reason victim blaming is popular: If it is their fault, then other people don't have to wonder what they might do differently or get off their lazy duff and walk the walk instead of just engaging in smack talk.

I think the true reason is a bit deeper: victim blaming means that bad events can be compartmentalized to be the victim's problem. So a person engaging in it doesn't have to emotionally deal with the potential problems of the bad event, or even how it could affect them, as they can just say that they would have dealt with it better. A rendition of the just-world hypothesis, really.

That being said, I don't know if I'd call "she should sue" victim-blaming, even though the reason is probably about the same.


Good comment, but:

That being said, I don't know if I'd call "she should sue" victim-blaming, even though the reason is probably about the same.

This reminds me of some of the BS I have seen where people insist a woman should prosecute her rapist. One of the problems with this line of reasoning is that it makes it the victim's responsibility to try to right this wrong. What if she just wants to put the whole damn thing behind her and not let it eat any more of her life instead of dragging the pain out longer?

It still hangs something on her instead of other people stepping up to bat.


Hmm, perhaps I misunderstand the term?

I thought victim blaming referred to specifically blaming the victim for the event itself as / before it happened. Not for what the victim did or didn't do afterwards. Unsolicited advice, in poor taste, but not victim blaming by the definition I'm aware of.

I think most people here asking to sue want to see Uber pay, and they don't really have any equivalent leverage against Uber. There's more victim blaming in the "you should have known how HR works / you should have left" comments.


Sorry if it wasn't perfectly clear: I didn't say that it was victim blaming, just that it is problematic in a way that is not much different from victim blaming. So defending the suggestion as not victim blaming is kind of not great in my book.


It's always worth considering that "she should sue" is actually meant as "she has a clear right to sue, and I would applaud her receiving an appropriate amount of compensation should she do so, because that was completely unacceptable".

I tend to frame the sentiment as "That's lawsuit worthy and if she desires to bring one I wish her good luck and good hunting" for clarity, but I find that often people use "should" conversationally to mean "thing I would love to see happen" rather than "thing I believe the object of the sentence is required to do".


Yeah, I am aware of all that. I appreciate you making an effort to make a clearer distinction -- "that's lawsuit-worthy -- but I am less thrilled with having it explained to me that it is on the victim (or sympathetic women, like myself) to be emotionally sensitive to the intent of random internet strangers sloppily using "should" instead of being backed up on the idea that a predominantly male discussion group really ought to be making more of an effort to frame things carefully when they discuss what some woman has endured at the hands of other men.


> This reminds me of some of the BS I have seen where people insist a woman should prosecute her rapist. One of the problems with this line of reasoning is that it makes it the victim's responsibility to try to right this wrong.

Simply put, that's the system we have. It's designed with the assumption that having adversaries argue according to rules in front of a judge is a good way to figure out what really happened.

It's not necessarily the best way to solve the kind of things it's used for, but we don't have an alternative.

> What if she just wants to put the whole damn thing behind her and not let it eat any more of her life instead of dragging the pain out longer?

I can certainly sympathize with that decision.


> This reminds me of some of the BS I have seen where people insist a woman should prosecute her rapist.

I was under the impression that criminal cases were pressed by the state, not any given individual.

The only thing the state may ask is testimony from the victim. If the victim is unwilling or unable to give that, then the case may just fall apart due to lack of evidence.


That's correct. In a case with a surviving victim, the victim is almost certainly going to take the stand. The 6th amendment to the constitution contains the confrontation clause[1] which says, "…in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right…to be confronted with the witnesses against him." If someone strikes or stabs or shoots you, and that person stands trial, you will be on the witness stand and you will be cross-examined.

Public support for the confrontation clause isn't popular these days, but I am very glad the courts have continued to uphold it. To quote Crawford v. Washington[2], "Dispensing with confrontation because testimony is obviously reliable is akin to dispensing with jury trial because the defendant is obviously guilty."

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confrontation_Clause

2. http://federalevidence.com/pdf/2007/13-SCt/Crawford_v._Washi...


> If someone strikes or stabs or shoots you, and that person stands trial, you will be on the witness stand and you will be cross-examined.

Not necessarily. If someone stabs or shoots you in a public place, in full view of 50 other witnesses and 4K recording devices, then your testimony is unnecessary.

That said... in the US most crimes don't go to court so I can't really say what a hypothetical 'open/shut' case will look like in a court trial, because in reality the offender will plea-bargin immediately.


Which puts the pressure on the victim. Very few prosecutors are willing or able to bring a case to trial without the support / testimony of the victim (who is often the only witness).


> Why not talk about how wrong Uber was in every way and at every level - allowing a manager to attempt to proposition new direct reports for sex on their first day, not immediately firing them for this, trying to suppress this when taken to HR, rewarding the perpetrator, killing her career there for vague reasons, let alone all the other dysfunction she mentioned in passing?

Some of these things are actually violations of law in California, and the advice I would give Susan would be to pursue legal action.


I'm confused by your comment. How does it fit with the parent comment? Your comment doesn't seem to make sense as either agreeing with the parent comment (as it nothing about giving advice) nor does it seem to contradict the parent comment (which isn't giving advice or giving Uber some kind of pass). Could you clarify?


We should be talking about the actions of uber and her manager, not what she should or could do. I don't think the author really needs commentary on what comes next, and if she wants it I'm sure she'll know who to ask. We could all usefully reflect on how to stop this happening though.

I hope that helps; if it doesn't perhaps consider why she wrote the article (I doubt it was to solicit comments on what her actions could be).


Personally everyone knows what Uber (and her manager) ought to have done and ought not to have done, and if there were any confusion, the article covered it in depth. I don't know what would be gained by restating it. OTOH, it seems at worst harmless and at best beneficial to offer advice on how to maximize her case against Uber, or to help others who find themselves in similar circumstances (especially those who may not be surrounded by subject-matter experts).


> why not talk about that and ways to make this better?

A class action law suit may be the best way to make this better.


My partner was in a somewhat similar position. When she spoke to a lawyer, the lawyer asked her two questions:

1 - did she ever want to work in X industry again / was she comfortable with being blacklisted, legal or not;

2 - was she comfortable with this being what she did with the next two years of her life

It's a harder decision to make than you think.

Not to mention the unrelenting wave of assholery that would be generated on sites like, well, HN towards any woman that dared do what you suggest.


Most lawsuits don't reach the court room and end with a non-disparagement agreement. Perhaps it was worth asking another lawyer?


This is correct according to the various employment attorneys who have spoken at various 'managing within the law' training sessions I've attended over the years. Sometimes you can not only sue the company but the individuals who were involved. That should be a disincentive to managers but sadly it doesn't seem to sink in.


Great, less competition will make her cheaper.

In the world of grown-up business, as opposed to SV bro startups, that's just one new business opportunity arising to poach talent!


Thank you for the context. I have to admit that this thought did cross my mind. I wish Uber would be forced to pay dearly for their treatment of Ms. Fowler, but I don't want Ms. Fowler to be the one that has to sweat to make that happen.


> It is always a bit sad when one of the top characteristic of an engineer from organization X is their political ability to carve out an empire.

When Organization X consistently scoops up the top graduates from the top schools, they end up with a glut of very smart engineers, most of whom are probably overqualified for their day-to-day work. Since brains and talent aren't distinguishing qualities, political cunning becomes the key differentiator.

> I'm a bit surprised she doesn't have at least one law firm trying to get her to be the lead claimant in a class action lawsuit.

Who's to say she doesn't? She just posted the article.


> I'm a bit surprised she doesn't have at least one law firm trying to get her to be the lead claimant in a class action lawsuit.

How do you know she doesn't?


"Culture was extremely heavy on the drinking;"

For me this is a red flag.

    Booze + programming == pissed programming
This leads to bad code also bad team dynamics. Ultimately this will reflect on the product and bottom line. For individuals this reads like a culture where the barrel is creating ^bad apples^. Not a good look on a resume.


We have a "whiskey club", and regularly go to the pub where I work.

We don't do it at lunchtime. We don't do it during the working day. 5:30pm on a Friday? Let's have a glass of whiskey together.

Somebody joining/leaving, or we haven't been out together for a while? Let's go to the pub after work one evening.

There is a #drinks channel in Slack where people who fancy a drink after work co-ordinate, and several of will grab each other once a week for a couple of pints.

That does not mean we are drunk when coding. As for team dynamics, it means we know each other better and bond more frequently. Not a problem, I think.

The downside is that for people who don't want to engage in this or can't (have to look after family, etc.), it can feel exclusionary, so we spend some time making sure we do things with those people too.


> As for team dynamics, it means we know each other better and bond more frequently. Not a problem, I think.

Except for the non-drinkers in your team. I suspect that they either

a) feel left out, because a non-drinker at a pub has a boring time, and has to keep justifying their empty glass

b) probably miss out on important decisions if a majority of the important people in a team are present, which is bad dynamics

c) maybe your team doesn't have any non-drinkers. What does that tell you in terms of diversity / inclusiveness?

I'm not pointing fingers at you specifically because you mention explicitly making plans around people who don't/won't drink, but i think there should be more awareness around this, especially since it can seep into the culture quite insidiously, and invisibly.


Some workplaces have sporting clubs that people participate in to grow closer to their coworkers. Yet if you don't like tenis, baseball, basketball, golf, or hiking then you are out of luck.

Every social activity will exclude people who don't like the activity by default. There's no real working around this.

Even if you just have a 'talking' club, you exclude people who aren't natural extroverts or find large group conversations to be maddening.

In essence, there's no way to be perfectly fair... so at best you can have different choices to try to be as inclusive as possible with limited time.


Absolutely true, also goes for video games, board games, or even going to movies or baseball games.


With rare exceptions, I'm a non-drinker. Nowhere in Europe have I ever had an issue ordering a coke instead of an alcoholic drink, even when hanging out with people getting completely shitfaced.

Is this seriously a thing in the US? Feeling like you have to drink if you're surrounded by people drinking? I keep hearing stories like that. Nobody is going to judge you for not consuming alcohol - if anyone does, they're certainly not people I'd want to hang out with regardless of whether drinks are involved.

It doesn't hurt not to give a fuck, once in a while.


It's not a problem for anyone other than the overly self-conscious, who are looking for reasons to explain their anxiety. Literally no one cares.


I believe I was rejected after a job interview because of not drinking.

Another boss I had any a different job told me he fired someone for not partying with everyone else. If you went to these parties and didn't drink, the boss would harass you all night.

I agree with you that many people are just self conscious, but it's not exclusively that way.


Both of your cases sound like shitty places to work.


I was once rejected from a job interview at a DC startup because I didn't order a beer when they took me to lunch.


This seems a reason so stupid to reject somebody that either a) they didn't like you but didn't want to tell you the real reason, but didn't care enough to think about a plausibly sounding fake one; or b) you dodged a major bullet as these people had seriously messed up priorities. I'd bet on a) but can't exclude b) completely of course.


Even if that is what they said, do you honestly believe that was the real reason?


Beyond the slightest doubt.


Well, it's safe to say you dodged a bullet then :)


Interesting. What do you mean by self-conscious ?


https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/01/26/how-to-be-... for examples.

The tl;dr is that people who are insecure will attempt to rationalize their feelings, and this frequently includes feelings of judgement and persecution from others where none exists.


It's not that people will judge you IME, but that it's really fucking boring.


What's boring about it?

Unless being drunk is your idea of fun (in which case it seems doubtful you'd be a non-drinker), I cannot understand how drinking liquid A at a party is any more boring than liquid B.


As a person who does not necessarily enjoy drinking (nor does so very regularly), I would say that being sober around people who are drunk is objectively less enjoyable than being drunk around drunk people.

In fact a graph of my enjoyment as a non-drinker (in my experience) would probably be inverse to a graph of the enjoyment of the people getting progressively more shit-faced.


Drink soda water w/ bitters. Looks like a drink, tastes good, and satisfies anyone actually drinking.

I drink regularly; but every now and then I'll go a week or month without drinking. I'm currently in the middle of one of these periods; but I've still gone out to happy hour or events that involved drinking every day since it's started. I manage to have just as much fun sober drinking soda + bitters.


Slightly OT, but do you have a recommendation for bitters other than Angostura? I like it, but I'd like to diversify my home cabinet.


Peychaud is probably the second biggest brand. Since I drink this at bars, it really depends on what they have on hand. Most good bars will have a selection of 5-10+ different bitters. I like grapefruit bitters; I've also had really good spicy chili bitters. Many like orange bitters. Just ask the bartender for recs, they usually love chatting about this stuff.

The best part of this drink is that they rarely charge me anything for it. I'll usually tip a couple bucks per drink, and everybody ends up happy!


I'll give Peychaud a look. Thanks for the rec.


Fee Brothers make some decent bitters, I have an Aztec Chocolate one that's really good with soda or in drinks.


I'll check them out. Thanks.


> satisfies anyone actually drinking.

If your culture is one where that's necessary then the entire management chain should be fired.


Whatever you choose to do, some subset of the team will end up being left out. Some of my team occasionally go out for a drink+meal. Usually when some remote workers are in town for the day, and we go out after work. Yes, it excludes people with families/other commitments. But lots of other activities would exclude exactly the same people; you can't force the whole team to be sociable after work hours.

We do these things:

1) We don't make any decisions when team members are missing; they have to be done during work hours when everyone is able to participate 2) There's no obligation to drink (why would there be?); several of the team don't drink, and there is no pressure to do so, they get soft drinks/tea/coffee/whatever they like

As someone who is very shy and introverted, it's one of the few times I actually go out socially, and it's a time to unwind and have a chat with your coworkers and associated friends/partners/family. I don't think doing this has any negative impact upon the rest of the team, so long as you don't do any serious discussion and decision making which excludes others.


I'd also like to point out that this kinda does leave out the women. I'm at an age where most of my friends are getting married or having babies.

If you're pregnant, this basically means that you can't be a part of the team's social gatherings for at least 9 months straight.


It's ok to get a coke or water at a bar.


I can no longer drink, due to medical issues. I'd still go out with my team for the bonding, and probably just leave early every time. I really like how the Chef Community Summit has drinking and dry events, like Game Night. Making inclusivity a goal is fun for everyone!


I once received a bottle of wine as a Christmas bonus from the founders of the small startup I worked at. I was the only person on the the who didn't drink and was pretty offended. Especially since it was well known that I didn't drink since this company celebrated "beer thirty" every Friday.


>was pretty offended

You were offended by a gift? Just say thanks and give it away or throw it away.

The vast majority of company gifts are useless to many people. Most people can cloth themselves, buy drinks for themselves, buy bags for themselves, etc and have no need for whatever crap the company is getting them as a sign of appreciation.

Unless they demanded you chug the wine in front of them, you really should not have offended yourself this way.


> You were offended by a gift?

If I give an observant Jew a kilo of bacon as a gift, why shouldn't they be offended by my being an arsehole?

Same thing.


Jew here. I wouldn't be offended. I'd thank the person, then find someone who could use it.

And if the person knew I kept kosher but still offered the bacon, I would laugh it off and then donate it.

Being easily-offendable is not a virtue. Being gracious is.


If the gift was specifically chosen for the individual, yeah, I can see being offended. In my experience, once companies reach a certain size, gifts are purchased and given in a one-size-fits-all manner. Inconsiderate, perhaps, but likely not intended to offend.


It was a team of 7. Including the two founders.


If you work for a company that has "reached a certain size", you should be aware that you'll have groups of people that make certain one-size-fits-all gifts inappropriate. Like pork products or alcohol in any country with a non-trivial number of Jews and Muslims.


Well known you never drank or well known you didn't drink at work?


Well-known that I didn't drink at all.


There is very little good that can happen when a company serves or provides mind-altering drugs to its employees. That includes alcohol.


And also coffee of course. And sugary drinks. And chocolate[1] (won't spoil the link but the first phrase mentions "opioids" - like heroin, you know). I'd suggest just give out distilled water. Preferably without any container, so to not contribute to the pollution.

[1] http://www.ehow.com/how-does_5132052_chocolate-affect-person...


A lot of good can happen, from a pleasant meal with wine to a fantastic night that the participants will never forget.


"That does not mean we are drunk when coding. As for team dynamics, it means we know each other better and bond more frequently. Not a problem, I think. The downside is that for people who don't want to engage in this or can't (have to look after family, etc.), it can feel exclusionary, so we spend some time making sure we do things with those people too."

Sounds like a more balanced view of what I've seen at some companies. Implies grown-ups are in charge.


>"As for team dynamics, it means we know each other better and bond more frequently"

Is drinking actually bonding though?


Very much so! Not talking shit-faced, but just normal drinking. It's one of the fastest ways to get to know a person, a lot of people naturally let their guard down, and it provides a casual atmosphere to get to know each other.

It also provides a shared experience that is an easy conversation starter when meeting sober later on "hey, thanks for last night! Where did you end up going after.." etc.

Obviously YMMW, in EU/Denmark it's a very common way to "crash course" people on each other when you suddenly find yourself in a new environment with nobody you know (university, new work). Then again, I'd say EU drinking is a lot more mature than the US one. We usually get introduced to it a lot earlier in life, and have a gentler intro curve rather than going from zero-100 real quick, when entering college or the likes.


Definitely. Alcohol is a social grease. Facilitates having fun, kills off stress temporarily. All conductive to bonding, even if not strictly necessary.


I guess we have different definitions of bonding then, because that just sounds like regular drinking to me. In my opinion a bond is forged through some meaningful connection or meaningful shared experience. I just don't find knocking pints back to be meaningful experience. Its a bond that lasts until the pub closes. I say this as someone who drinks as well.


Alcohol does not create a meaningful bonding experience by itself (unless you're out tasting some very rare and special beverage). It matters what you're doing while drinking. Personally, I find hours-long conversations over beers to be quite good at building rapport with people.


This is my point, if the drinking doesn't matter so much as the "what you're doing" why does booze need to be involved at all?

"hours-long conversations over beers" sounds like getting wasted to me or at at very least tipsy.


> This is my point, if the drinking doesn't matter so much as the "what you're doing" why does booze need to be involved at all?

It doesn't. But it can be, because - besides the "social grease" benefits it confers, which I mentioned before - why not?


We have a pro-drinking culture at my company due to the nature of the business and I haven't found that it's causing any problems. It's generally done outside of work or for specific events, and I've never felt unsafe on any gathering where a lot of drinking was going on.

This is a red herring, if anything.

I think there's a difference between a culture where people drink a lot vs a culture where people get black out drunk and irresponsible with it, though, and maybe Uber is more like the latter.


>I've never felt unsafe on any gathering where a lot of drinking was going on.

Are you a woman?

I am a good coder with a bad drinking habit who has worked at companies that were ok with drinking on site. While they handled it well and while I love an excuse to get together over beers and discuss coding, it's definitely a smell. Black out drunk has nothing to do with it. Hell, it would be preferable if people just passed out. The problem is all the folks who don't pass out but all of a sudden think this is a good time to declare their love for a coworker's body.


> Are you a woman?

Yes.

> The problem is all the folks who don't pass out but all of a sudden think this is a good time to declare their love for a coworker's body.

The problem is if they say something like that, the target is clearly uncomfortable, and then nobody else cares. Banning alcohol isn't going to fix something like that.


"We have a pro-drinking culture at my company due to the nature of the business and I haven't found that it's causing any problems."

Anecdotal.

If drinking is done outside work/events this isn't what is being described in the article. What about the personal who a) don't drink or b) harassed by those who do? Drinking at work tells me the place isn't interested in performance or their customers.


> Anecdotal.

Sure, but I'm not entirely sure what else you expect. Isn't your statement also anecdotal?

> If drinking is done outside work/events this isn't what is being described in the article.

Sorry, what article? It's not mentioned in the main OP, and the person a few parents up is talking about what sounds very much like events or after work happy hours. I can absolutely see how that can turn bad, I'm just saying it doesn't have to.


Are you really supporting drinking at work? Tell me about the great experiences through the eyes of other people.

"talking about what sounds very much like events or after work happy hours"

The number of engineers bleeding from uber suggests, drinking isn't ^the problem^ but one part of a bigger culture problem. Do you work at Uber?


> Are you really supporting drinking at work?

Yup. 100%. Because I'm an adult and I and my coworkers know how to drink responsibly and not make a fool of ourselves and keep things relatively professional.

It's not like I'm taking shots of vodka at the top of every hour - it's maybe having a beer or two at the end of Thursday and Friday, or having a boozy lunch every now and then to celebrate a success or birthday or someone leaving.


I think projektir is talking about how a team-drinks-together-outside-of-work culture can still be healthy.

Their "maybe Uber is more like the latter" description of an unhealthy culture I think makes it obvious they don't work at Uber.


"I think projector is talking about how a team-drinks-together-outside-of-work culture can still be healthy."

@mst fair enough point.


>Are you really supporting drinking at work?

We have beer on tap at work. If I'm in the office late, having an occasional beer at 6pm or so seems perfectly reasonable.

Getting hammered is obviously way out of line but one beer is hardly the same thing.


>We have a pro-drinking culture at my company due to the nature of the business

Do tell what business this is, because unless the industry is alcohol production, I'm having a hard time believing this is an instrinc quality of an industry and not just a "boys will be boys" excuse.


Alcohol use isn't an intrinsic quality of the legal industry but it might as well be.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4736291/

The following excerpt is the first sentence of the conclusion.

"Attorneys experience problematic drinking that is hazardous, harmful, or otherwise consistent with alcohol use disorders at a higher rate than other professional populations."


This morbid fact is actually taught in law school. Something like 10% of attorneys abuse substances, multiple times over the national average. To demonstrate the scope of the problem: a phone number for an assistance hotline is placed in bold on all Texas state bar cards.


> We have a pro-drinking culture at my company due to the nature of the business

what? what possible nature of business are you in that makes drinking more (or less) acceptable.

There is no such thing. at work, you work. if you want to get drunk, you aren't working.


I think you are looking at it too narrowly. Drinking has an important social function in many cultures, western culture among them but by no means alone. Having good social interaction between coworkers is important. Of course, one has to be cognizant of the fact that not everybody drinks and not to exclude people that are not - by making sure drinking is not the only way people can interact socially. But having a round of beers once in a while with coworkers, among other things, is not that bad.

Of course, all that is about social drinking, not getting completely shitfaced to the point one loses control. That is never good.


> There is no such thing.

Works at a bar or brewery? Wine related startup? Sales?


Agreed. I know some folks who worked in the alcohol industry and drinking on the job was expected.


none of those are any more pro drinking on the job culture than any other job.

you still have work to do, and you probably still have colleagues whose time is valuable that aren't as big on drinking as you think they are.

drinking and having fun is great. at my company, if i wanted us all to drink, everyone got the afternoon off and we went out.


He did said that the drinking was done outside of work hours.


he said the "nature of the business" made it more pro drinking. but thats not accurate. people's decisions might make for a more pro-drinking atmosphere, but a business can't.


Sales strikes me as as just perpetuating old habits. If a salesman has to get me drunk to make a sale, he's pitching a shitty product and he knows it.

The fermentation industries on the other hand are more legit.


Ever worked in hospitality? I can assure you that there are workplaces out there where drinking on the job is expected.


Just because there's drinking at work, doesn't mean they drink while programming.

I've worked at plenty of places with a social drinking culture and never could we be bothered to actually code and drink at the same time. Maybe we might have a boozy friday lunch every now and then, but usually retros and 'meetings' like that followed

Also, I think the statement "extremely heavy on the drinking" is so subjective and up to personal interpretation.


I have to be honest, I know a lot of people who claim that they can write really good code if they've been drinking.

I just absolutely do not understand how that is even possible. If I have ONE beer, it throws off my ability to write good code, or hold all of the concepts in my head.

One of the weekly coworking meetups I go to always ends at a brewery (there is a brewery next door to the hackerspace where it is held), and while it is certainly a lot of fun being there brainstorming things, I don't understand how anybody gets actual code written after drinking.


I've found I'm markedly better at two specific types of programming activities while mildly drunk (the "mildly" part being quite crucial, for me this means two beers or a couple of slowly sipped glasses of whiskey). One is getting a large amount of boring mindless boilerplate out of the way quickly because the alcohol helps me not get too distracted from sheer boredom. The other is re-architecting high level design after getting stuck on a flawed approach - it seems easier to devise and consider more "out there" ideas without getting too bogged down in implementation details prematurely.

Obviously, that's just my personal experience and while I'm quite confident in my sample size, I wouldn't generalize it to anyone else. YMMV.


There are certain types of code which I can unequivocally write better after a few drinks. It's honestly mostly low-complexity drudge work which needs to get done but when sober I can't power through it as fast due to (a) boredom and (b) overanalysis of simple tasks.

This certainly isn't all the code I write (far from it) and it's not for everyone, but it's definitely true for me. That's why I don't think saying alcohol and code can never mix is right, but I agree that it shouldn't be a daily occurrence or the central aspect of company culture. I don't think an optional, after-work happy hour on occasion is such a bad thing though.


There is something called the Ballmer Peak, which has even been demonstrated in one study. Up to a point, the theory goes, creative work benefits from mild intoxication. Beyond that point, productivity goes out the window. For me, I believe that point is around two drinks. For you, it could be teaspoons. Either way, I wouldn't generally drink before the end of the work day.

Personally, I find coding is hardest when you're blocked or stumped. Sometimes it helps to turn off the inner critic and experiment with code in a way that might feel unproductive during normal work hours. How I approach a problem outside of work is my business as long as the solution is solid.

This should go without saying, but everyone's physiology is different. While most people get drowsy from pseudoeffedrine, it makes me hyper. That's why even if one treatment works for most people, it might not work for you.


I'll add that alcohol starts as an upper. It gives you a buzz that makes you feel good and want to do stuff. That's obviously beneficial if you can focus it on a work-related task. Several people here corroborated that hypotheses by saying they do. I've done it, too, in many situations.


> There is something called the Ballmer Peak

Wait, we're citing XKCD comics now as if they are peer-reviewed scientific journals?


There's actually one peer-reviewed study in a psychology journal. Granted, it's only one data point and might not be applicable directly to coding. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/can-alcohol-make-men-smarter-stu...


> I know a lot of people who claim that they can write really good code if they've been drinking.

i know a lot of people who say they drive better if they've been drinking too. Doesn't mean it's accurate.


Alcohol definitely blunts fast reflexes. If it also hinders coding, it's not for the same reason. If I had to guess, a little could fix anxiety and perfectionism, while a lot will leave you too incoherent to make something work at all.


> If I had to guess, a little could fix anxiety and perfectionism

This is exactly what happens to me, so I sometimes will code after a bottle of beer or a glass of whiskey. But it has to be little - more alcohol and I start losing focus.


For me, it can be a matter of actually doing it. I often suffer from analysis paralysis, so being a little tipsy means that I will actually write the thing. It'll be terrible, but it'll get done, and then sober me can go back and clean it up.

Or I'll go to far, write it, and it'll be unusable.


I used to do this sometimes in university. Haven't done it since entering the workforce, but they say sleep deprivation results in similar performance to being drunk. Not proud of it but I've found myself cornered into nightmare sleep deprived coding marathons by analysis paralysis / procrastination a number of times over the last few years. Alcohol might be preferable.


Alcohol increases confidence in one's abilities.

Everyone has some skill they insist they are "better at" when drunk.


Back in university days I often wrote assignments while tipsy and then edited them when sober. Cider was just perfect for silencing the inner critic to get some thoughts to paper.


Well, there you have me. My secret better-when-drunk talent is writing poetry and first messages on OkCupid.

These are only weakly connected.


"Hold my beer!"

"What?! Are you crazy?!"

"Don't worry, I got this."

Goes on to write vanilla JS.


From what I understand, there's a substantial body of research indicating that a slight suppression of the prefrontal cortex can reduce the sorts of inhibitive filters that constrain creative thought. Too much, obviously, and you impair your cognitive ability. Too little, and self-doubt and over-analysis rules.

Anecdotally, I've noticed that I'm significantly more fluent in my third language when I've had a drink or two. I get many, many more compliments. When I'm totally sober, I tend to trip up more and overthink the grammar.

There are lots of ways to reduce a hyperactive prefrontal cortex, including training (practicing art, meditating, etc.), but alcohol is by far the cheapest, quickest, and easiest.


My best results at pool always come between pint two and pint four.

I do not in any way shape or form endorse doing the same thing with writing production code.


Without a doubt, I am better at dancing (ok, less awful), if I have a drink or two ;)


I sometimes code after drinking. Not often, because I'm obviously sharper when completely sober. But when I'm very stressed, my cognitive potential is significantly reduced. Taking the edge off with a single beer results in a great increase of productivity then.

Also, if you think people can't get actual, working code written when shitfaced, then I guess you haven't met the demoscene crowd ;).


Clearly you haven't heard of the Balmer Peak


So that's Uber's problem. They hired Google/FB engineers when they should've been hiring MS experts for Ballmer Peak calibration. /s


They likely dont tackle work of significant complexity


This may be the case. I generally say I can't code worth a damn if I've had a beer or two, because my ability to really focus goes way down. But I've also had the experience of getting a bit buzzed and absolutely plowing through a whole bunch of easy-to-write code and enjoying it quite a bit, whereas it was otherwise kind of dull work.


>I just absolutely do not understand how that is even possible. If I have ONE beer, it throws off my ability to write good code, or hold all of the concepts in my head.

There are times when a problem is intractable and I get frustrated through thinking too much about an issue. Alcohol, like caffeine, has its place. I want to stress that I'm not talking about getting hammered at the office, or even mildly drunk, I'm talking about the fact that for some people, a single beer after many hours of work can be helpful in calming them down enough to focus on the whole problem again.

Alcohol can certainly have performance-enhancing effects: comically, the first Olympic disqualification for doping wasn't for steroid use or anything similar - it was for a man drinking "two beers" before his shooting match to calm himself down enough to operate at peak levels.


I can do exploratory coding when drinking, but I won't waste my time or an employers trying to write production code while drinking. As you note, it just doesn't work.


i code better after a few drinks - i end up focusing more on the forest rather than the trees.


Drinking at work, per se, is not inherently a bad thing. It really depends on culture. It depends on whether it's responsible drinking, social drinking, or it's irresponsible, Bing drinking. There are cultures where people have a beer or two or wine glass during lunch and these people are not typically misbehaved louts. But there is a responsible culture around the drinking.


I don't think having a drinking culture means drinking while programming. Quite the opposite actually.


"I don't think having a drinking culture means drinking while programming."

What is the union of work, drinking culture and SRE (the job the article refers)?


Why is this getting down voted? Am I missing something in bootload's post? Seems pretty reasonable to me. Don't get me wrong, I like to drink, but drinking and programming don't mix well for me at least. I need my brain cells working, not partying, when I'm trying to write code. Maybe that's my age showing.


Probably because it's conflating drinking and misogyny.

Drinking and programming surely don't mix well. However, a culture that involves, or even promotes, drinking and partying doesn't have to be misogynistic. I've worked in companies that held parties several times per week, with plenty of booze, and they were nothing like what was depicted in TFA.


"it's conflating drinking and misogyny."

Good point @metafunctor, didn't even think of that.


Because it's telling people something that might be true and makes them uncomfortable.


"Why is this getting down voted? Am I missing something in boatload's post?"

@luckeydude, it's a sort of reaction test for brogrammers who work in toxic environments. I can't think of any job (not after hours) where alcohol improves your performance and output.


... ahem, the Balmer Peak disagrees:

https://xkcd.com/323/


duty calls hey?

https://www.xkcd.com/386/


Ha! Guilty!


"Workcation" is an incredible idea, as is letting employees work remotely for x weeks/ months per year from wherever they want. Even though it's not vacation-vacation it's still a revitalizing, memory forming experience, and if you want a happy motivated work force, I think it's a great idea.

That and a sound proof studio with piano on premise would be enough to make me quit my job.

That said Uber's been on my douchebag radar at least since their execs bragged about threatening journalists. Hopefully your acquaintances already sold their shares on secondary markets because losing ~3 billion a year would worry me if I was expecting to get rich from them.


The booze thing gets exaggerated at many places. It is usually the marketing/HR/business dev/sales teams that indulge in that culture. The engineering team is usually much more constrained in their alcohol consumption, although the media groups them with the frat boys from sales.


I don''t agree with this at all. This certainly hasn't been my experience. Enthusiastic appreciation of craft beer and Scotch are very much a part of tech startup culture.


Try working for a Civil engineering company :-) I no longer drink snakebite and black at lunch :-)


i don't know many BD/sales people who contribute to hackathons...

seems like the person above you was speaking specifically about engineers.


I went to visit the instagram office on the fb main campus and saw a huge liquor exhibition.


There are tons of bars at FB. My experience was that people would only go on the fortnightly drinking event, and then it was mostly grabbing an hors dourve and then retiring back to their desk after a single bottle of that. It's pantomime of a drinking culture.


Longtime friend was there in 2011 iirc when they were still "Ubercab" and was cut bc he was "not a culture fit". Aka quiet Russian hacker types not wanted in the frat brotherhood.


>"Crazy, most ex-employees (even the early ones) acknowledge that the culture is bad but they got their $$$ so they won't have to work again for a long time, if ever."

Can you explain why they don't have to work again? How did they become wealthy? Those options aren't worth anything if the company doesn't IPO.


Can you elaborate more on the misogyny that was part of the culture?

So far you've only identified that they like drinking, traveling and were part of the Greek social system in university.

What I'm looking for are instances of demeaning women, discounting their achievements, systemic disapproval for the words of women, favours being handed out on the basis of gender, solicitation of sexual favours in non-equal power relationships, or if no examples can be provided then at least people stating that they are 'in favour' of such, or are lax in enforcing rules against such.

I don't mean this as an attack of any sort (the article gives examples after all). I simply want to know more.


Did you not read the article? Literally has an example of everything you are referring to.


The person I'm responding to actually worked at Uber, so they can potentially give more information than what the article contains.

What do you have against talking to other witnesses 'of the crime' so to speak?


My bad, I have nothing against talking to other witnesses of the crime and wasn't paying attention and didn't know the person you were talking to was an Uber employee and had additional context to provide.

I just thought you were being a jerk and didn't read the article. Oops.


Saying that they "poached" engineers make it look like they are property of a company and can't move looking for better opportunities.


I don't like that word either, but it seems to be the standard term.


"Hired" would work just as well here.


Uber recruiters once emails about 100 engineers in my company the same email...except they managed to swap around the first/last names on all of them.


Most recruiters are comically bad at targeting -- apparently there isn't enough downside to just carpet-bombing as many e-mail addresses as they can find -- but this does not mean that recruiting is inherently wrong.


The funny bit was the swapped names, it's like they had a spreadsheet but shifted a column down. Didn't double check the names against emails so I assume it was automated.


Just curious, what happens to employees who don't drink?


They dehidrate and crumble.


Did any of you folks talk about the enormously unethical ways you treat drivers? Those folks who are mostly poorer than you who do the actual work that provides value?

I find it laughable to hear Uber engineers cry about how unfairly Kalanick treats them.

Self-awareness 0.


this is almost on the same level of stupidity as "All lives matter".


The real problem in Uber's engineering orgs is that Uber hired too many people for too few real projects. From what I learned from my friends in Uber, many teams had largely overlapping responsibilities, and therefore created bogus projects to justify their existence. Their standard MO is picking a missing feature in a service, and then creating a new system that implemented that feature.

It might be okay if all the talents that Uber hired could work together to build truly great software, but hell no, their management created this weird cut-throat culture by enforcing stack ranking with forced curve down to each team of first-line managers. It's hard to imagine that a team with fewer than 10 people had to name an engineer who "didn't meet expectation". Yet that was exactly what happened in Uber. They also doted out disproportional amount of bonus to a few top performers. Naturally, people's expectation was distorted, and chaos ensued.


This is a really interesting observation and something I think doesn't factor into most people's calculus of company culture and execution.

I worked an early employee at a YC startup that was developing a hardware device and I think really ran into similar issues.

There were significant delays with shipping the device which meant that all the teams which had been built up to support its launch had _nothing_ to do for months. People in a "Customer Success" department with no customers. Developer evangelists with nothing to evangelize. Support departments twiddling their thumbs and the worst was the sales and marketing groups which devolved into a Lord of the Flies type environment where they tried latching onto any and every project they could just to justify their existence.

Timing really is everything.


I have literally never seen stack ranking mentioned in any context but horror stories and toxic company culture. What on earth possesses people to keep using it?


Most companies operate on the myth that the people responsible for doing work are interchangeable cogs that can be eliminated and replaced by a new doer with little to no impact to how the company functions.

So if you have enough traumatic brain damage to buy that line, stack ranking makes a ton of sense.


I had this exact same conversation with a manager who seemed suprised when I told him people are not interchangeable cogs. He said that some people may be quicker at a particular technology / domain / whatever, or quicker to ramp up, or do slightly better work, but smart engineers can and do learn anything needed and do work that's good enough after a ramp-up that's short enough. Beyond that, he says, there are minor differences he doesn't worry about as a manager.

I didn't know how to respond to that.


This is largely a natural difference in perspective.

The typical interaction between manager & engineer is that a manager tells an employee what to do, and the employee does it. From the manager's perspective, any employee that's reasonably competent will do: success is binary, either you did the assigned task satisfactorily or you didn't.

From the engineer's perspective, if you're good you considered a lot of alternative ways of solving the problem and finally settled on the best. It seems ridiculous that all employees could be interchangeable, because it's a pretty good bet that some engineers did not consider some of the alternative solutions you did. But remember that the whole reason the manager hired you was so that he didn't need to think about the details. All of those alternative solutions are outside of his conscious awareness; he's condensed his mental model of the problem to a binary "is this good enough to ship?", which frees up mental space for him to think about other stuff. Among those engineers that you think of as "not good enough", there are some who may not have thought of the brilliant solution that you came up with but still have code that is "good enough to ship" in the manager's estimation, and those are the irritating folks on your team who IYNSHO always produce shitty code but stay on the team because they have your manager's political favor. And then there are the folks who both you and your manager agree are too shitty to get the job done, and they're fired.

Who's right? Well, both of you, and neither of you. It's fairly likely that you're overestimating the quality requirements for the job, which is why a number of your shitty coworkers still have jobs. It's also fairly likely that your manager does not have complete visibility into all the long-term consequences of all the code being produced, which is why whole teams occasionally just catastrophically fail.

But it's worth remembering that every time you enter a transaction, you're having your work reduced to a pass/fail grade. It's the fundamental bargain you make when you take a job, and it also is the fundamental bargain you make when you sell a product (entrepreneurs are not exempt from this, and it's a major cause of startup failure among technical founders...including, quite possibly, mine). The advantage of producing better work is that it qualifies you for more different opportunities - which may or may not be relevant, depending on whether you take advantage of those opportunities.


> But it's worth remembering that every time you enter a transaction, you're having your work reduced to a pass/fail grade.

This is true as an employee and as a contractor and as a business. The nice thing about transacting as one of the latter two is there is no pretention of the transaction being anything other than a binary one.


> ... it's a major cause of startup failure among technical founders...including, quite possibly, mine

Now that you've brought it up, is a postmortem of your startup written up somewhere?


There's a postmortem of my first startup's failure (pre-Google) up here:

http://diffle-history.blogspot.com/

I'm still working on the 2nd (or 5th, or 11th, or ~50th, depending on how you count)...not exactly ready to declare it a failure, just, well, a whole lot of pivots.


It's sort of true but a very one-dimensional view on an individuals contributions which is a bit worrying coming from a people manager. I think its funny people go around lionizing individual technical skill and at the same time insist that people are interchangeable.

In my experience most programming jobs don't really require deep domain expertise or share it by osmosis. Ideally a smart, dedicated person that gets a 40 hour a week crash course from experts in the field should get up to speed reasonably quickly.

In the absence of experts there exists a whole slew of technology that democratizes hard fields like game creation and machine learning. You can commit all sorts of sins and still end up with a well functioning product. Partly resting on technology developed as an enabler and partly resting on the sheer amount of available compute.

IMO people are far more easily replaced in terms of making an individual code contribution than they are as members of a team and it's the latter that is significantly more important. Good teams are multipliers for their members. Replacing a team member in a well functioning team is a super risky prospect. Yet we live in a world of frequent re-orgs, teams smooshed together haphazardly and overvaluing individual technical skill.

I don't see that changing anytime soon as it all sort of works and there is an endemic lack of interest.


Outside of truly unique skills, it's basically true - engineers are interchangeable with sufficient time to ramp up.

I learned this lesson pretty early in my career when most senior engineer on the team left. I and everyone else freaked out because he was the only one on the team who fully understood how everything works. But you know who was not freaked out? My manager. And he was right, we did not even miss deadlines. In two month everything was back to normal with other people filling his shoes.

Obviously you can't replace Principal engineer with fresh grad and expect success but most of the work done is not that unique or hard.


>Outside of truly unique skills, it's basically true - engineers are interchangeable with sufficient time to ramp up.

That qualification at the end makes it false.

If I have to give someone 1 year to learn all of the minute details of the behavior of TCP across the various operating systems clients use, the behavior of packet re-ordering in LAG algorithms, convergence times of BGP, etc, then they are most definitely not interchangeable with someone who does know these things.

Any manager who thinks this way is incompetent and will impose massive opportunity costs on the company by not fighting for raises for existing good employees under the guise that they can be easily replaced.


Everything's a matter of degree. So maybe it takes longer or shorter depending on how big the shoes are. But that bundle of knowledge you cited seems learnable in a year.


> I learned this lesson pretty early in my career when most senior engineer on the team left. I and everyone else freaked out because he was the only one on the team who fully understood how everything works. But you know who was not freaked out? My manager. And he was right, we did not even miss deadlines. In two month everything was back to normal with other people filling his shoes.

Have you ever looked around the room and asked yourself "gee, why do we have so many coworkers on this project?" Or said "isn't it nuts that there are some weeks when I can measure my productive output in a handful of hours?"

The current vogue in management is cramming teams into an open floor office and micromanaging scrum points; these measures are introduced because they demoralize and _average_ output, thus introducing slack into the system. That's not a bug -- that's a feature! When someone important leaves the workers can be motivated or "motivated" to increase their output until the proper amount of slack is reintroduced from a hire.


" I don't doubt that has been true on all the teams you've managed. My experience differs significantly, and there's a lot of data which indicates my experiences may have been more representative. Caveat Emptor, of course


Can you share that data?

"My experience differs significantly" might sound like "I can't pick up new technologies and work on them". What did you have in mind?


It might also mean "I can make things work in a way that none of the other people on my team can do, and if I leave, they're gonna be boned."


Management is interesting because you can be a terrible manager yet still have a successful career at it.

A lot of competent management practices seem counter-intuitive if you've never been exposed to them. Most managers I know have have never even read a book on the subject. Management is often the blind leading the blind. Most likely this kind of environment will scare away any good managers, so the cycle continues.

So, unfortunately, it shouldn't be surprising that these counter-productive practices continue.

That said, reports like this never cease to amaze me.


For a long time it was, "successful company x uses stack ranking, and we want to be successful, so we use stack ranking."

Microsoft were often cited. You'll note that their renaissance coincides with their elimination of stack ranking.


Because you have to do it on some level? How do you choose who to let go when for whatever reason you have to cut 10% of your staff?


There's a substantial difference between "using stack ranking" and "using employee evaluations".


It means you can hire dumber managers.


I realized Uber was in pretty bad shape 2 years ago when the company i was at was trying to hire one of their VPs of Engineering. Not only did they have many VPs of Engineering, they had multiple VPs of Engineering in his specific discipline. It seemed like people were literally only there to get a title and a piece of the kingdom.

Which is funny because my experience at Uber was EXACTLY the same. 3 years ago one of the heads of their department emailed me and asked me to come in and give a talk to their managers as the team wasn't doing so well. After I did this, I asked the VP if they were hiring at my level (I was a director/senior manager at the time) and she said yes. When I came to interview it was clear that I was interviewing for the job of one of the people who were interviewing me. Everyone seemed to love me except for this person, who told me they don't hire managers and that I would have to report to him. He was very junior to me and seemed to only want to keep his title/piece of the kingdom. It was obvious I didn't want to be a part of that, so I declined the offer and not only was the person gone a few weeks later, they were gone from their next job a few months after that. There's some serious political stuff going on at Uber.


Woman accuses Uber of systemic misogyny, but, no, "the real problem" is poor project management? So, systemic misogyny not a real problem for you?


It sounds to me like the cutthroat system OP describes would cause the rise of the sort of people who would perpetuate systemic misogyny.

If by "the real problem" they meant "the root cause" then their theory does appear to fit the facts. I personally suspect it was "both" rather than "one caused the other" but have insufficient data to go beyond "suspect".


There is a difference between misogyny and sexual occurrences. If OP had been a male, she would have had as bad, if not worse experience.


That doesn't explain the bizarre jacket drama, or reports from other female coworkers.


The jacket drama had nothing to do with gender really and she was making a big deal out of something trivial. I can imagine the scenario is like "ok we're too cheap to create custom jackets for everyone so we will order the jacket size that fits the majority and the minority can try to fit in it". If the gender ratio was the other way around, there would be a similar situation.

The response to other reports are standard. Whether it is a homosexual boss or a female boss, the company will seek to protect itself.


Sure, and we could save money by only have women's restrooms on every other floor, or not at all since we can certainly save money by not hiring women at all. Its just economic sense: we know that its easier to find men, so lets just optimize for men. Then there's all that diversity training. And don't forget women create tension at the office because they are pretty and their women parts distract the men who can't be expected to control themselves.

If you think that any of this is trivial, you are part of the problem.


Your argument isn't relevant for the situation and is very black and white. Wearing male sized team gear is a trivial matter. There are obviously other cases where accounting for every minority is important but this is not one of them.


I do get that it's inconvenient but it's a huge slap in the face to tell a sizeable percentage of your workforce that no, you can't get them a jacket that almost everyone else now has. They could've at least given them something of equivalent value. Even if it might not be sexist, it's a dick move.


This is true of most big companies. Internally, there are at least three competing versions of what outsiders would consider the same project.


I think it's worth pointing out that this kind of male dominated culture doesn't just put off female engineers but male engineers too. As a male I've worked in environments with a high male to female ratio and it makes for a stifling homogeneous type of culture. I've never experienced the kind of sexist culture described at Uber but I imagine that must feel even worse as a male employee. I definitely see few women as a warning sign when interviewing.


I don't know what you mean by "even worse as a male employee", but I suspect you've drastically misspoken; you might want to fix that.


'spuz is familiar with male-dominated environments and finds them stifling. 'spuz is unfamiliar with a place as bad as what is described in the article and speculates that he would like that less.


Yes that's what I meant. Definitely did not mean to say it would be worse as a male than as a female so sorry if there was confusion.


I think he may have meant "worse even as a male employee" or something to that effect.


I totally feel the same way too (edit: but almost certainly not worse than how it feels for women). Having worked in both mixed and segregated teams, I much prefer having a good mix. It feels much more natural and normal.


Usually in these cases, these kind of company politics trickle down from the top, so it's unlikely the CEO does not know or has any interest in intervening. All the companies I worked at that had weird or toxic environments showed that kind of environment throughout most of their structure. A single arsehole in an otherwise great company is usually pushed out sooner than later. If however you notice there are mostly arseholes in your management structure, chances are this goes all the way to the top...


Yes. Culture is CEO's responsibility. Period.


The story got picked up by the Verge, and there's a response from Uber's CEO...

http://www.theverge.com/2017/2/19/14664474/uber-sexism-alleg...


The fact that the story got the traction it did means that the response couldn't have possibly been anything other than what it was (disgust and a promise to look into it). Even if the CEO was directly responsible for this culture the response would be the same. I don't think it's possible to extract anything meaningful from it whatsoever at this point.


He did box himself in a bit with "...will be fired". At least boxed into firing somebody. Not at all saying his outrage is genuine, but initial corporate responses don't usually go that far.


I don't know if that really counts as 'boxed in'. The behaviour Susan described as widespread is absolutely unacceptable and in any sane company would be grounds for instant dismissal. If the CEO is acting in good faith then he wouldn't hesitate to act on any cases found - the fact that they have a new head of HR might indicate that a purge has already begun.


You appear to be reading something into my comment that I didn't mean, or say. The behavior described is absolutely appalling. All I'm saying is that the CEO's initial statement about it goes farther than usual...these are usually carefully crafted to convey sympathy but avoid liability or commitment to action. Usually words like "appropriate action" and not words like "fired".

I noted it solely because it's unusual.


Typical Travis. Reacting too late, and pretending to care only when a situation threatens revenue.




Once a culture exists, it is very, very difficult to change, even (especially) if you get a new CEO or an acquisition, etc.

It is true that if you are going to _attempt_ to change a culture, it must be motivated from top-down. However, placing that responsibility on the CEO alone is misunderstanding of how culture works.

It's a little akin to saying that culture is the President's responsibility. No, it's everyone's responsibility, and if you want to change it, the influential people in your org (country) must lead and reinforce that change.

The best you can say is that the founder(s) laid the groundwork for the culture. As with anything, changing the foundation later is extremely difficult.

That's what the research says, anyhow. I studied this briefly during my undergrad.


Yes. I've found it proportionally harder to change anything the bigger a group gets.

After a certain size the only way to make a change stick is get rid of people that disagree. Or, you can wait for pressure to wear those people down over... A period of years.

If Ubers culture is really this toxic the only way to fix it would be replacement of a fair amount of leadship in the company.


> It's a little akin to saying that culture is the President's responsibility. No, it's everyone's responsibility, and if you want to change it, the influential people in your org (country) must lead and reinforce that change.

To a point, but when HR gets involved and does not help, that IMHO is often due to the upper leadership being a big part of the problem. I've seen HR blow off inappropriate behavior when the CEO does or is okay with it.


>Once a culture exists, it is very, very difficult to change, even (especially) if you get a new CEO or an acquisition, etc.

clearly Stalin missed the memo


Anecdotally speaking, I've noticed that Uber has become a dirty word among my friends. For example, someone using Uber will generally just say that they're calling a car rather than naming the service. Lyft doesn't have the same stigma. It should be concerning to management that the company's ethos is repelling customers.

Edit: Management should be far more concerned that Uber is allegedly an environment that systematically enables sexual harassment and discrimination against women.


Isn't that due to the perception that they broke the recent anti-Trump taxi strike, rather than their internal work culture?


In the bay area at least a lot of us know at least one or two Uber engineers, and Uber has has an awful reputation around here for a lot longer than the month or so since that strike occurred. As a result of that (plus talking to drivers who work for both services and have strong preferences for Lyft) means that most of my friends were quietly boycotting Uber for years at this point.

I have one friend who worked at Uber and had years of experience working at another tech company beforehand. Uber basically refused to promote her, even going to far as to hire people significantly junior to her into those senior positions. In one case one of the people who was hired blatantly lied on their resume about their past experience, got caught out for it, and was still hired above her.

Even outside of the bay area Uber has taken many reputation hits for their stupid behavior. The whole incident where they were planning on digging up dirt on a reporter to ruin her character shows a huge lack of ethics at the top of the company. The "god mode" application and research into "one night stands" shows they have no respect for privacy.


I also hated the permissions increase they asked for about a month ago. They want to know my location for up to five minutes after I've finished taking a ride with their app? F--- that, uninstalled immediately.


> the perception that they broke the recent anti-Trump taxi strike

Something, it's worth noting, no less true of Lyft. And I think it's a little weird to be demanding owners of infrastructure lock out workers "in support of a strike". That whole reaction was absurd.

This article gives me substantially more pause.


I believe they're referring to the fact that Uber took specific action to promote itself by canceling surge pricing at JFK during the strike, not that it did anything passively through inaction.

Lyft did not negate surge pricing that day, AFAIK.


There's an argument that that's economically incoherent - a strike is about restricting supply, and surge is about increasing supply. Turning off surge does not work against the strike.

But that's actually immaterial: surge was turned off a half hour after the strike ended.


Lyft kept operating, Uber reacted to the strike by fixing low prices ensuring good will with desperate customers.


That's not the effect of turning off incentives that get more driver to go tot he area. Instead Ubers actions made it so that an increase in demand was not followed up with an increased amount of available drivers at the airport. It doesn't help you if prices are low if there are no cars available.

This was in my opinion a very appropriate way to respect the strike without forcing drivers to not make money unless they chose to do so themselves.


I've had this argument several times already, I'll sum it up one last time:

Lyft operating as normal: "Fuck this strike, making me pay tons of money bc of surge pricing"

Uber operating without surge: "OMG Uber my savior!!!!! / (can't actually find a cab bc of lack of availability) Whatever, not their fault, it's the stupid strike after all"

It was a calculated cynical ploy like literally everything else Uber does. I have no patience with them, particularly in a thread discussing sexual harassment within. Feel free to spin it as "a very appropriate way to respect the strike" or whatever.


Except Uber did not disable surge until a half-hour after the strike ended.


Yeah, it seems to me that optimal treatment of a strike would be something like: 1) cap surge (maybe to the typical value for the given time/area), 2) notify drivers when a request is from an affected area, 3) exclude cancellations of those rides from the drivers' metrics.

The biggest concern is that this puts Uber in the position of determining what is and isn't "legitimately a strike".


Except if you look at the timeline, surge was turned off some time after the strike ended.


Among my peer group (Denver) it's been the same. It has alot more to do with what we hear from drivers about the respective companies. For whatever reason drivers are happy to shill for Lyft and are often almost hostile towards Uber. At some point you just get the feeling that Uber isn't what we really wanna be supporting.

I should note: my peer group isn't particularly tech oriented.


Same experience for me. Drivers all have stories of how Uber has screwed them over, but have nothing but positive things to say about Lyft.


The few drivers I've spoken to say the Lyft app is simply way more reliable, for a start.


This predates #DeleteUber, and it's not only limited to the Bay Area. I've also observed this in Seattle, NYC, DC, Chicago, and to a lesser extent in LA.

The perception is closely tied to what people hear from drivers, constant negative media coverage, and being recognized as the epitome of a douchey tech company. Those three things combine to make using Uber distinctly un-cool in the eyes of many users. (Note that folks will use it anyway, but not talk about it.)


Anecdotally, the perception among my acquaintances is that they treat their drivers less well than Lyft does.


I don't think there is any stigma associated with Uber in Chicago. A lot of people will even say "I'm calling an Uber" even when they're using Lyft (name brand effect).


Definitely true. Case study in "any publicity is good publicity" -- they're always in the news as the assholes, but the market reality is it's a better service than waving your hand and maybe having a cab stop where the first thing the guy says is "meter is broken, cash only".

The services are more or less identical, but I always feel like I'm in the minority when I tell friends I'm calling a lyft.


I've noticed this. But tempting as it is to #DeleteUber, am I not mostly just hurting local taxi drivers who keep 75% of the revenue?


Not if you use Lyft.


Unfortunately, Lyft doesn't operate in the UK where I live.


But if you #DeleteUber won't your money be going to the taxi drivers? I'm not sure I understood your question.


They're using the term 'taxi drivers' to refer to the Uber drivers, not to local licensed taxi operators.


In the UK, Uber cars are local licenced private hire vehicles with the big "Pre-booked fares only" sticker on the front doors. You have to be licensed to drive for Uber[0].

0: https://www.uber.com/en-GB/drive/requirements/


> My CS classmates - especially women - simply do not apply to Uber,

The sad thing is why do men want to apply there after what is know about it? I wouldn't want to be near any company that treats any of their employees like that.


>The sad thing is why do men want to apply there after what is know about it?

Some students aren't privileged enough to graduate debt-free. Getting into any of these top compensating packages can mean being literally years less time being in debt.


When you are a new grad, you are more willing to put up with stupid nonsense for a year. Puts great experience on the resume and opens more door than previously before which sets up nicely for your 2nd job out of college. This is true for companies like Amazon.


This is true. Also a lot of grads just think, "I'm not a woman/minority therefore it doesn't affect me if I work there". Others think it sucks but will do it anyway because they want to get a big name on the resume and will take anything they can get.


A friend of mine worked there for less of a year, turns out he didn't realise they had a shitty reputation before joining...


Why do men end-up in dangerous yet good paying jobs? Because testosterone. Most young men are more willing to work a shit job if they can get good money than most women who value quality of life.


If we are going to go that route and using testosterone, I posit having more "testosterone" means standing up for what's right even if it means not getting the highest paying position.

> work a shit job

Right working as a developer at Uber with a high paying 6 figure job is now called a "shit job". I remember when collecting trash and mining was considered a "shit job", I guess we are from different generations...


> I posit having more "testosterone" means standing up for what's right even if it means not getting the highest paying position.

I've lived a long time with very low T. So I don't posit: I experienced how my decision process changed when getting back to normal. I just have to stop some meds and go back down to enjoy less impulsivity and a lot more security based decision making.

> Right working as a developer at Uber with a high paying 6 figure job is now called a "shit job".

Shittier than a simple 9-5 job in some corporation where you can have a good work-life balance, less stress bu less money.

> I remember when collecting trash and mining was considered a "shit job"

They still are. And still have a high percentage of men.


ditto, Uber's job postings on our internal school board are avoided like the plague.


The CEO is the problem. The fish stinks from the head.


Uber employee here.

This was a disheartening story to read to say the least. I hope that she sues as her case is abundantly clear and the response by HR and the management chain was absolutely unacceptable. If what happened is true, they should be held accountable.

Unfortunately, from my perspective, Uber has a track record of lack of accountability when it comes to leadership/managers. Pretty much everyone I know at Uber believes that Josh Mohrer [1] and Emil Michael [2] should have been fired. It's probably fair to say both are generally regarded as being high performers, but what they did was extremely damaging to the reputation of the company and the fact they weren't held accountable only worsens that reputation.

I think that generally Uber is a positive influence in the world. It has created work opportunities for millions essentially out of thin air has fundamentally changed how people think about transportation in cities for the better. Uber is certainly disruptive and its methods and behavior have been brash at times which has often resulted in a disproportionate amount of scrutiny, both deserved (comments and actions targeting journalists, sexism) and otherwise ("support" of Trump, #deleteuber, and surge price "gouging"). For me, Uber is still a place filled with many talented people working on interesting, challenging problems. But a story like this is a tough pill to swallow.

[1] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-11-25/colleague...

[2] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-11-19/uber-said...


I mean this in the nicest way possible, so please don't take this as anything personally directed at you, but: any employee of Uber that feels strongly about this should find another company to work at. If you're working in tech, in the current employment market in the Bay Area, finding another job is not hard. Not easy, both in the sense that leaving a job can be scary, and that interviews can be draining - but doable.

There are other companies out there that solve interesting, challenging problems and don't have this toxic culture. There are other companies with talented people. And if enough of your coworkers disagree with Uber's culture, policies, etc., then the talented, moral people that you work with at Uber may even come with you.

The only way Uber will ever pay attention is if it affects their bottom line. Employees leaving, or people turning down offers is, person-for-person, one of the most impactful ways to do this.


That comes across as a variant of "blaming the victim." Telling an internet stranger to sacrifice himself to some higher cause is not really a noble act. Maybe he can do more good by trying to change the company from the inside. Or maybe he just needs the job and doesn't need to be a hero.


I don't understand this line of thinking. If a company or it's management sucks, then leave. It's not a sacrifice, it's not being a hero. It's in your own best interest. It's also like being a conscious consumer by not buying stuff from shit companies: You can be a conscious employee by not working for shit companies.

I don't see any reason to try to changing a shitty company. It makes more sense to join a great company and help them grow.


Maybe he can do more good by trying to change the company from the inside

What's the success rate of this? Keep in mind that their HR department does not have the capacity to recognize repeated instances of sexual harrassment, so someone on the inside I guess will want to transfer to HR first, in order to help there, then maybe get promoted into upper management? After that they can demote themselves to driver training.

I guess Ruby on Rails really can do anything.


Finding "a job" may not be hard if you're not looking for top companies. Finding a place with comparable pay/equity/benefits to your current gig? Not easy, even in the Bay Area.


So don't swallow it! Spit it back out at them. Uber is entirely dependent on the goodwill of its engineers. They're irreplaceable. Uber's financial situation is such that they're absolutely required to execute. They cannot afford organized employee protests and will cave to them like an overripe grape trying to hold up a cinderblock. People like you could be running the table there. Why not hold them to account?

What's the worst thing that happens? It doesn't work out and you eventually switch jobs. But the best case outcome? You get to work on exciting, important problems for a company that is accountable to its team and their prevailing beliefs and principles. That sounds pretty awesome to me.


Golden handcuffs are called handcuffs for a reason.


They're not handcuffs, involuntary servitude is illegal.

'Golden handcuffs' means you care more about your future payout than whatever missbehavior/illegality/immorality you're overlooking.

Also believing that same missbehavior won't cause the contract to be worthless by the time you get to collect.


Someone will reply with the exact citation, but there's the story of that psychologist or economist or jaded physicist who goes to a fancy bougie party, dressed like a million bucks, and goes up to a pretty lady in a fancy ballgown. "Would you sleep with me for a million bucks?"

Intrigued by his presence and directness, the lady raises her eyebrows and says "go on..."

"Would you sleep with me for a hundred bucks?"

"No! Who do you think I am?!"

"I know who you are, we're just engaged in market price-discovery."

------

I don't know if the person you were responding to was intentionally implying Ms. Fowler probably had a unicorn's worth of money on the table for the typical 1-year cliff or was just making a dark commentary about the reality of the industry we work in (internet postings suck for conveying subtleties of language), but I will say I know people who joined/stayed at a place they weren't really happy with because the offer matched or exceeded their BATNA price.

I think we should have that self-reflective commentary about just how much money actually matters in relation to our ideals of "disruption" and "making the world a better place" (would you realistically take a 40k offer to do something truly altruistic after a few years of a SF salary?). Whether that's on-topic here, that's the are-the-downvotes-warranted question here.


It was meant to be dark commentary. I don't judge people who subjugate themselves to toxic work environments too harshly. I think they are usually behaving optimally given their livelihood/personal wealth is on the line.

FWIW, I think it was brave of Ms. Fowler to write this (most probably stay silent for fear of retribution).


I haven't downvoted a single person in this entire conversation.

I have no idea what her compensation package looks like, it doesn't really matter to the point I'm making.

My point was simply this: if you're waiting for your payout, you're keeping your mouth shut by not walking out. If you have some sort of serious ethical disagreement with your employer, you have to weigh how much you care about that to how much you will benefit from your future stock package.

If you say everything they're doing is incredibly evil and they need to be stopped, but you're waiting around for your $12 million payday, we figured out your price.

You can walk away from things with multiple zeros on the end. I've seen people do it. You might end up happier in the end. All depends on the situation.

The name "golden handcuffs" seems to imply that someone doesn't have a choice in the matter. They do. If you find yourself in one of the situations, don't forget that's an option.


I think we agree on everything except

> The name "golden handcuffs" seems to imply that someone doesn't have a choice in the matter.

"Golden handcuffs" to me is a beautiful phrase. It implies a fragile, beautiful piece of jewelry that is only superficially binding. To me, it's a euphemism for a personality test of do you chose ideals or sufficiently-high-enough material comfort.


Fools gold, pretty soon.


This. I would be ashamed to have Uber on my resume for much longer after this story ran, and will think twice when interviewing a candidate who does.


Come on... "You're super smart, competent at the job, and are a good fit culturally here. BUT, you worked at Company X 5 years ago, and they did something unethical, so we're not going to hire you!" - said no hiring manager ever.


People can have reasons to stay at their current jobs. The author of the article did, even.


So basically, your price for overlooking systemic misogyny is "working with talented people on interesting problems"? Is uber the only place where you can work with talented people on interesting problems? On ride-sharing?

These assholes can't get rich without you. Someone is going to win in this space. Why would you help it be them?


> I think that generally Uber is a positive influence in the world

I'm pretty sure you can replace Uber in that sentence with "ride sharing".


The personal and professional cost of bringing a lawsuit normally means it makes no sense to bring a case even if you would have a good chance of winning. You really need to be prepared to make personal sacrifice in order to try to change things by the lawsuit for it even to be worth considering.


In case anyone isn't sure why the original interaction is harassment: relationships within a reporting chain are generally prohibited, for both legal, ethical, and practical reasons. Sex becoming part of the effective job description crosses both legal and ethical lines, and team effectiveness is hindered when people wonder whether someone is getting special treatment because they're sleeping with the boss.

A manager propositioned a new employee on her first day on his team -- asking not just for a date but for sex. That's way over the line.

Also, this isn't just a gendered thing -- Google the story of Keith Rabois resigning as COO of Square.


Tech workers (across all disciplines) need to unionize to combat this kind of thing. As has been pointed out below, HR that is staffed and incentivized by the company management only serves the interests of the management. A union is the only structure that can actually win demands for workers by organizing workers to withhold their labor.

It's not a panacea, and there are several historical examples of union leadership betraying the trust of workers and neglecting the demands of the most marginalized members (such as the UAW in 1941), but a union correctly structured and rooted in worker solidarity is the only proven way to fight management on these kinds of issues.


I'm of the opinion that the average software engineer in the USA is already overpaid and underworked with excellent benefits and low incentive to unionize.

I'm simplifying it a bit but if you don't like your job, just grab a copy of Cracking the Coding Interview and apply to big companies. The big companies pay very well, have good benefits and interview everyone because of the need for a high head count


First of all, it should be all tech workers that unionize, not just software engineers. And you should talk to some of your fellow workers and ask if they all think they're being fairly compensated. Even aside from the issue of salary, tech workers are rarely given a fair stake in ownership in the company, and their equity grants often come with lots of clauses to deprive them from what little stake they have.

I suggest you seek out other opinions if you believe tech workers are under-worked. Perhaps this is the case at your job, but the majority of tech workers I know and have worked with are tired of having to put in hours on nights, over the weekends, etc. They're tired of "unlimited vacation" policies not actually guaranteeing them any time to take a vacation. I've had a boss prevent me from leaving at 10PM once before. I mean its not exactly a new realization that many of the most trendy perks for tech companies are ruses to get workers to stay extra hours at the office, that tech companies pursuing the youngest workers often leads to a culture where there's little differentiation between work and company time, etc.

Not to mention that tech workers are often asked to do dubiously ethical things by management. We're asked to automate away the positions of other employees, asked to be lax on security or privacy standards, etc.

Whether or not you believe there are any demands to make, I kind of find it bizarre to suggest that workplace democracy is something tech workers shouldn't demand.


> And you should talk to some of your fellow workers and ask if they all think they're being fairly compensated. Even aside from the issue of salary, tech workers are rarely given a fair stake in ownership in the company, and their equity grants often come with lots of clauses to deprive them from what little stake they have.

Who decides what is fair? You? Tech workers? Speaking about fairness as though it's objective or straight-forward isn't doing anyone any favors. Speaking generally, if employees aren't getting a fair deal, they should look for better jobs. If they can't find better jobs, they're getting a fair deal. There are certainly anti-competitive exceptions, but nothing posted so far suggests we're in such exceptional territory.


> If they can't find better jobs, they're getting a fair deal.

In an idealized market, yes. But given incidents like this, it seems like some employees must be being treated for more fairly than others -- which suggests there's no fairness at all.


I was speaking about fairness across the economy, not fairness within the company. For every Uber there are a dozen companies that actively seek out female employees for diversity purposes. I'm not aware of any data that suggest gender discrimination in the United States (and no, the wage gap is not an example of discrimination, as almost all of it is known to be caused by differing aggregate priorities between the sexes).


The difference between our points of view seems to be the degree to which we regards Uber as an outlier. I don't; it's one of many companies with this very different "fairness"; so I don't think we can take the market at face value.


Perhaps. I'd love more data on the subject. The data closest data I'm familiar with pertain to fair compensation between genders (not necessarily sexual harassment); and these data suggest that all but 4% of the wage cap can be explained by differing priorities between the gender (women prefer safer work with more flexibility rather than a high salary); the other 4% could be attributable to discrimination, misogynistic conditions, or other choice-related variables for which the studies didn't control. If so many companies were as bad as this article describes, I would expect that 4% number to be much larger (there are other explanations, but they don't seem very plausible to me). At any rate, we probably need better data (or maybe the data exist, but I'm not aware of them?).


Flexibility in job position is a matter of industry -- since one can not take a skill everywhere -- so looking at data that is across all industries won't speak to how fair (or not) the market is with regards to a particular role/salary/conditions combo.


> Who decides what is fair? You? Tech workers? Speaking about fairness as though it's objective or straight-forward isn't doing anyone any favors.

The beauty of a union is there doesn't have to be an objective definition. A union gives you a democratic voice to advocate for what you think is fair. Without organized labor power, your voice is completely ignorable.

> Speaking generally, if employees aren't getting a fair deal, they should look for better jobs. If they can't find better jobs, they're getting a fair deal. There are certainly anti-competitive exceptions, but nothing posted so far suggests we're in such exceptional territory.

This is a completely naive understanding of what finding a job is like. Leaving a job can be a strike against a person in the hiring process, not to mention it consumes a lot of time, leaves someone uncompensated and without benefits during the process, etc. This also assumes engineer competency is something we can effectively gauge in the hiring process or otherwise (just search "hiring" on hacker news to get the general sentiment among engineers about how good we are at this).

Imagine if this was the suggestion given to factory workers and coal miners and the early 20th century (not that I think the worker conditions are comparable, but its illustrative of how naive it is to believe that market forces are sufficient for providing fair compensation). This is a marginalist's definition of "fair" that doesn't jive with any real human person's.

The real question is why you are so fervantly against having a democratic voice in the workplace.


How is it a beauty? Stupid decision made by 1000 people is better than by one? At least if I make stupid decision I am to blame and I can fix it. If 1000 people make it, I have 1/1000 of infuence (in fact even less if I am not eloquent or persuasive) and can't change anything. Talk about ignorable. I certainly don't need a "democracy" to take my decisions for me. There's a place for it as we can't each personally decide about national defence or building interstate highway, but I can certainly talk to my boss.


As an individual you have virtualy zero chance of effecting any change - I have how ever got several thousand people a better pension at British Telecom (I was the secretary for one of the larger BT union branches)


My experience suggests the opposite - I've successfully effected change of my personal conditions several times, without help of any unions. So did many other people I know personally.

Of course, it is natural for union officials to see themselves as benevolent godlike figures distributing goods to the plebes. But this particular plebe is doing just fine without you and would like to continue as long as possible without any unions.

And BTW guess what I found as looking up BT pensions on Google?

https://www.ft.com/content/5505d45e-ac29-11e6-ba7d-76378e4fe... BT has second-worst funded pension scheme in the world

Are you sure you've told the members of your union about that? Who would be left holding the bag when this thing blows up? Would it be you, or would it be those thousands of people who got unfunded pension promises? Or would it be UK taxpayers who would be forced to pay for it?


Sounds like unions are a creaky old institution that's ripe for an update. If only there was an industry that goes around innovating things.


Ah Lies dam lies and Pension valuations - the current pension valuation rules are designed by accountants to make it easy for companies to shut them down.

On one valuation the BTPS is in surpluss

Oh and I am an activist not a full timer ;-)


How about this pack of lies? http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-02-28/ny-teamsters-pensio...

I'm sure these people were very happy with their union reps, and their union reps were very proud of it. Until it turned out their pensions are unfunded. And now the taxpayers have to pay their pensions.


I didn't study the BT issue, but I read a bunch about how California did their pension valuations, and it's a circus. They basically just assume the fund would earn what they want, and project based on that. And needless to say, they assume they're market geniuses. And when it becomes dangerously underfunded, they just screw the newcomers - basically make a Ponzi scheme out of it by making new contributions finance the gaps for the old-timers and have new member to accept much worse conditions then the old ones.


> The beauty of a union is there doesn't have to be an objective definition. A union gives you a democratic voice to advocate for what you think is fair. Without organized labor power, your voice is completely ignorable.

This is silly; non-union employees have a democratic voice and the ability to advocate for "what they think is fair", and their voices aren't completely ignorable or else everyone would make minimum wage.

Perhaps there is some gross advantage to collective bargaining, but unions (in the U.S. at least) seem to discourage productivity, competition, and common sense while fostering corruption. These costs drive employers toward automation or outsourcing, thereby eliminating the very jobs they purport to protect. In my view, the cost of unionizing is too high for all but the most extreme circumstances.

> This is a completely naive understanding of what finding a job is like. Leaving a job can be a strike against a person in the hiring process, not to mention it consumes a lot of time, leaves someone uncompensated and without benefits during the process, etc. This also assumes engineer competency is something we can effectively gauge in the hiring process or otherwise (just search "hiring" on hacker news to get the general sentiment among engineers about how good we are at this).

You're conflating efficiency with fairness. Also, there's no need for an employee to quit before beginning to look for another job.

> Imagine if this was the suggestion given to factory workers and coal miners and the early 20th century (not that I think the worker conditions are comparable, but its illustrative of how naive it is to believe that market forces are sufficient for providing fair compensation). This is a marginalist's definition of "fair" that doesn't jive with any real human person's.

See my previous statement about exceptional circumstances, and take care not to confuse a depressed economy with unfair allocation of resources (although both a shrunken economy and anti-competitive practices contributed to poor conditions during the Great Depression). Maybe market forces alone aren't enough to guarantee fair distribution, but your analogy doesn't demonstrate as much.

> The real question is why you are so fervantly against having a democratic voice in the workplace.

This isn't my position, so I'm not sure how to answer your question... It sounds like you're conflating unionization with "having a democratic voice in the workplace"?


Unions originated as a way to commoditise labor. It has since grown into a way to keep out freelance competitors, and to force employers into doing things (both of which I don't agree with). In terms of commoditsing labor, tech is a very skill specific profession with no cookie cutter employee to sell, which makes it a bad candidate for unions.


This notion that there is a wide distribution in engineer competency has come under a lot of criticism for many reasons (not the least of which being that its often used as a cover for discrimination on the basis of gender): https://lwn.net/Articles/641779/ If you believe there to be such a wide distribution in talent and that salaries at your company are commensurately paid, I suggest you ask your employer if they will disclose every employee's salary and the justification for them.

Even if this we take this for granted, its completely untrue that all unions commoditize a trade by flattening pay. There are plenty of unions that have chosen not to put standardized salaries in contracts or have advocated tiered salary agreements or merit pay. Whether or not these are good things, they are things that unions have done and should dispel with the notion that unions are inflexible towards these concerns by workers.

As for your concern that unions "force employers to do things", well I suggest you consider all of the ways your employer can coerce you to do things and whether you actually have a mutualistic relationship. Many workers don't feel that they do.


Rock stars don't need unions.


Sounds like someone hasn't heard of the American Federation of Musicians.


Those aren't rock stars...


Or the RIAA, even the mega crops of the industry have a union.


> Or the RIAA, even the mega crops of the industry have a union.

...which hardly can be said to be acting in the best interests of either small-time musicians or big stars.

The RIAA actively seeks to withhold royalties from musicians and intentionally makes it very difficult to collect them. A number of big-name stars sued them over this some years back, unsuccessfully.


No, but they act in the best interests of their members.


No, but they do need industry-savy managers and agents working for them to ensure they get the best deal.


Yes, they have their own union. Which is the opposite of a union.


It doesn't really matter what unions become in certain cases, does it?

Unions were reinforced by the NLRA to enable workers to bargain collectively. That can mean a lot of things

A union for software engineers is a blank slate. It hasn't been done before. It could be anything someone makes of it.


That's... not true. I was in a unionized software development shop at L3 communications in Camden. It was... different. Having a published document showing how the "top performers" were going to get a 3.5% raise this year while the average people would only get 2.5% was odd. Counting my hours (including signing out for lunch and getting management approval for overtime) was very different. Getting paid overtime was nice!

The problem is that if I had stayed there for thirty years, I would have been pretty much guaranteed to make good money. By changing jobs a couple times, I made that same money in 2. So... people who are capable of getting better jobs and willing to risk change simply left, while people looking for stability or who had trouble getting jobs simply stayed. This didn't lead to the type of environment that I enjoyed working in. Your mileage may vary.


Camden, in the UK? Thanks for sharing your experience. Any sort of unionized IT environment in the U.S. is an absolute rarity, if such things exist at all. I don't deny that unions would add an additional layer of complexity and will have unintended drawbacks. But if there were union shops in tech, then at least there will be options for tech workers to choose between stability and rapid growth. Certainly providing the former will help in addressing the ageism in Silicon Valley.


> I'm of the opinion that the average software engineer in the USA is already overpaid and underworked with excellent benefits and low incentive to unionize.

I happen to agree that, relative to other industries, we're overpaid and get to live pretty lavishly for the little sacrifice that working on building systems with code entails.

That said, when you look at the value we generate for the people we work for, and remember how we are necessary to their wealth generation, I think it's worth having a conversation about organizing.


I don't think the value you generate actually matters in regards to compensation though. What matters is how easy you are to replace.


It does, because value generated helps with your best alternative to negotiated agreement. Specifically, there's more money floating around trying to woo freelancers, technical cofounders, etc.

Also, it sets their BATNA as well - how much value they miss out on while working on replacing you.


> Also, it sets their BATNA as well - how much value they miss out on while working on replacing you.

Ah I never thought about that.

I don't really get what you mean with respect to more money to get freelancers and such. Isn't the compensation of freelancers directly related to how much they would have to pay employees anyway? After all, I can only assume that if it's significantly cheaper to hire an employee, they would do so.

I would have thought too that freelancers have some special skillsets, which make them less easy to find, and thus less replaceable as well, but I don't have any data to back that up.


It matters. The floor is how easy you are to replace. The ceiling is the marginal value that you provide to the company. Considering how incredibly high that marginal value is, there is a lot of upward pressure at the top of the scale.


Doctors, lawyers, professional athletes, and leading Hollywood actors and actresses might all be overpaid relative to other professions, and yet they all have professional organizations, even unions, representing them. What makes software engineers so exceptional?


What do we, collectively, as tech workers want?


Well, for instance, some amount of power to bargain for better treatment and basic protections, like say a healthy/safe workplace where you don't have to worry about being harassed by a superior and then ignored by HR.

Right now, companies like Uber can treat workers poorly -- apparently at a policy/organizational level even -- because the only thing they feel they have to fear is a bit of bad PR. No one has these workers' backs. HR is concerned with protecting the company. And the workers likely don't have the time, money nor stamina to fight a huge corporation with a lawsuit.

That's why workers need to band together to look out for one another. The deck is already stacked against them.


More equity?


Pilots too.


> Doctors, ... might all be overpaid relative to other professions, and yet they... have professional organizations, even unions, representing them

Doctors do not have professional organizations or unions representing them.

The AMA is frequently mis-cited by people not familiar with the industry as a union, but it's not one at all. Only 25% of doctors are members of the AMA (most of them only because they require licenses to CPT codes, which the AMA has a monopoly over) and the AMA does not advocate for physicians' interests.

In no meaningful sense does the AMA "represent" doctors at large.


That's just in the US though. There's a whole world out there that is not the United States.

The British Medical Association certainly claims to be a trade union.

https://www.bma.org.uk/about-us/bma-as-a-trade-union

And they have engaged in collective action - e.g. the junior doctors strike.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/sep/01/what-you-nee...


The AMA doesn't advocate for physician interests? How so?

As a student member of the AMA, I can attest that they aren't the most effective organization, but they do plenty to further physician interests.

I think what you're likely getting at is how heterogenous physician interests are considering each specialty.


> The AMA doesn't advocate for physician interests? How so?

The AMA sometimes does things that align with doctors' interests, but only incidentally. It's allegiance is to itself as an institution, not to doctors, and it will further its own interests over doctors' every time the two collide.

As one example listed upthread, they advocate increasing the supply of physicians to lower physician salaries, which is directly against doctors' interests but in line with their own. Similarly, their stranglehold over CPT codes undeniably harms physicians and places them under even more control of payers' interests, but because it provides the AMA with a monopoly stream of revenue, the AMA clutches to it.

> I think what you're likely getting at is how heterogenous physician interests are considering each specialty.

I wasn't, but incidentally, that's the exact problem that unions do have. The leadership has the incentive to throw minority group interests under the bus in order to appease the majority of its membership. Closed shops (the AMA would not be one) are the most ruthless, because the only alternative their members have is to find employment in another industry altogether.


I agree that in its current state, the AMA does not do a whole lot for physicians. However, I would argue that if more physicians took an active interest in policies that benefitted all specialties, the AMA wouldn't be this shell of an organization that benefitted themselves more than others.

That being said, maybe sticking with state organizations might be a more fruitful endeavor.

Additionally, while physicians are a heterogenous bunch, there are many issues that almost all physicians agree with. Use the AMA to collectively lobby for those, and stick to the specialty organizations to push for more individual issues.


> Additionally, while physicians are a heterogenous bunch, there are many issues that almost all physicians agree with.

Physicians seem to have collectively decided that there aren't enough of those to justify the drawbacks of unionizing.


The Apple / Google / Adobe / Intel etc antipoaching lawsuit seems to indicate otherwise.

https://www.cnet.com/news/apple-google-others-settle-anti-po...


I think the average software engineer is underpaid relative to the value that they deliver to a company and the economy in general. Relative to other professions, sure. But I think that if a tech company makes enough to (in one instance) pay out dividends, they have spare cash to raise wages or provide bonuses to those that generated the value in the first place.


Agreed, I think relatively high compensation is something engineers can get caught up on when discussing the idea of unionizing (though its worth noting that we're paid salaries closer to electricians and plumbers than we are to specialist doctors, not that this is really apples to apples in terms of education required).

Even though we earn good wages, its relatively easy to see that workers are not often reaping the benefits of surplus value and have no ability to weigh in on determinations of how that value is allocated. More importantly, the advantages of a union are not limited to being able to negotiate a better salary, there are lots of workplace conditions that can be pretty oppressive in the tech industry, and unions offer the ability to improve all of them.


>I think the average software engineer is underpaid relative to the value that they deliver to a company and the economy in general.

People see the sticker price of things and do some napkin math, but I'd be willing to bet in most cases, if that employee were to make the product on their own (with no help or resources or existing customers), they would not be able to make the same amount of money because they would have to face "new company" risks and statistics. That is pretty bleak.


"I'm of the opinion that the average software engineer in the USA is already overpaid and underworked"

Given how much money these companies make directly off of our work, and given the prevalence of death marches across the industry, I cannot take this position seriously.


Underworked - with all the unpaid OT going on and they aren ot overpaid when compared to other professions


Great idea. Go work at a company like, say, Uber?


And easily switch to similar prestigious company like Stripe.


That speaks to me. After salary negotiations, HR within companies has never done anything for me when I approached them.

They seemed to be there only to defend the boss and register me as a complainer. It took me several jobs and this post to learn that.


> HR within companies has never done anything for me when I approached them....

The thing you need to keep in mind about HR is this: they aren't there to help you, to have your back. They're there to protect the company from you. Incidental to that, they've traditionally managed the benefits the company is either required or chooses to give you, and acts as a place for you to take concerns such as sexual harassment. But even in those cases, their duty is to the company, not to any individual employee.


Yep. And I think it takes a while for that to sink in for young people. They are more idealistic and assume that things are set up to be beneficial to everyone. They aren't. HR is there to make sure there is no blowback on the company and they do a lot of shitty things to make that true.


How does one protect oneself in cases of sexual impropriety then? This seems like a pretty dangerous flaw. To be completely honest I've always felt that HR has been the "police" of the workplace, there to keep issues like this from getting out of control (as it most certainly did in the case of OP). Now I feel much more exposed...


HR's role is to advise management on how to adhere to labor law. Often times they also handle record keeping for legal purposes, including reporting of sexual harassment. But they're not there to protect you. They're there to protect management from itself.

> How does one protect oneself in cases of sexual impropriety then?

Document, document, document. Not because you're going to sue, but because this is rarely a 1-off situation and when the class action comes around you will be prepared with ammunition.


Bosses who harass employees and a culture that encourage such things present a much larger risk to the company than a single employee's complaints, so in a well-functioning company their incentives align with policing these issues. But it's still worth keeping in mind that their incentives are not your incentives, and if they have given up on keeping the company culture healthy, their interests will be oppossed to yours.


Document everything then lawyer up. I noticed the OP never mentioned contacting a lawyer, which is a total "wow" after reading the story.


This is true, but I think you've overstating HR's loyalty to other individuals in the company.

When an employees places a complaint against another employee, neither of those parties is "the company", even when one is in management. If the subject of the complaint is breaking laws, HR (who has the company's back) is rightfully incentivized to show that person the door. That person is a liability, and the company will have to pay if it is sued for that individual's behavior.

If you're running the HR to mediate a personal fight, sure, there's a decent chance they'll side with the person with more organizational clout. But if you're bringing to light evidence of legal wrongdoing, HR is _absolutely_ supposed to be on your side. The company needs to know that, and protecting the company looks like firing the offending party.


> When an employees places a complaint against another employee, neither of those parties is "the company", even when one is in management. If the subject of the complaint is breaking laws, HR (who has the company's back) is rightfully incentivized to show that person the door.

Which is exactly what happens... When the harasser is not a 'Top performer' in a culture that claims to reward meritocracy.


I believe there are some good HR groups out there who truly do look out for the long term interests of their companies.

I think what's good for me, if I'm a hard worker, is also good for the company.

Certainly I'm my best advocate. Even a union couldn't do everything for me.


The best way I've heard it discussed is that too many people focus on the wrong word in HR. It's not Human Resources, it's Human Resources. Understanding that seems to be the critical step in getting HR and understanding why they are the way they are.


Every time I hear advice along these lines (which is precisely every single time anyone talks about HR), I always wonder what these HR people are taught in school. I think they have Human Resources related majors in school right? And I'm assuming a good amount of the people in HR have studied that, so then is this what they learn in school? To treat employees like shit and lie to them? I'm really curious.


HR has been fine with me.

Arranging the paperwork to ensign then arranging the paperwork to resign.

Forwarding some more paperwork for taxes, HMRC, benefits, pension and various things that pop up at times.

Arranging interviews, candidates feedback loop, on-site events, university recruiting events, some conferences, offers, etc...

Maybe I just have better than you guys.


I am utterly persuaded at this point that the software industry workers need a union.

Software engineering hiring practices are profoundly flawed; this is something a union could address at an industry level. It's also deeply problematic for me to take home $fat_paycheck when, say, $sales_guy two tables over is paid minimum wage + commission (disclaimer: I have no knowledge of this occurring at my current company; it happened to a sales guy I know, however). A company of people work together, and should share in the returns as they cover each other's deficiencies.

I'm comfortable asserting that while there are issues with traditional unions, it's possible to improve and make better organizations.


>A company of people work together, and should share in the returns as they cover each other's deficiencies.

This is not an economically rational way to behave, so it's not sustainable for a company to do this and keep talent for high market-value positions. People are compensated based on the minimum required to get them to join and stay at the company, so their compensation is going to be driven by the market value of people with their skills.

Very small companies may be able to afford to pay every employee the cost of a principle software engineer (or whatever the highest position they have is), but this falls apart extremely quickly if the company needs lots of customer support positions or lots of sales people. They end up having to cut compensation to all of the high-end positions and subsequently lose anyone good enough to get jobs that pay market rate.

The majority of companies don't have the profit margins to throw away an extra $100,000 or whatever it takes per employee annually to pay everyone the top position market rate.

>It's also deeply problematic for me to take home $fat_paycheck

What do you say to people that spend years of their life getting advanced degrees in math/physics/CS/whatever that make them experts in the subject matter the company is working on? "That sounds hard, here's the same paycheck as the undergrad working next to you who knows almost nothing in the field."


You're jumping to conclusions I didn't advocate for...

There's no reason one person who contributes one thing gets to scrape by and one person who contributes another gets to live like a prince. Sales pay the bills of SW devs; SW devs make what Sales sells. Both should be comfortably compensated.


Tech workers (across all disciplines) need to unionize to combat this kind of thing.

First they need articulable set of goals, based on a sound principled base. With such a base, to unionize or not is an implementation detail. But a union without guiding principles would be exactly the morally bankrupt negotiation tool unions are often accused of being. A union should never be more important to the unionized than the ideals it implements. Because if it ever is, the workers no longer control the union, the union controls the workers.

To that point, I have yet to see "tech" at large, or even software engineers seriously discuss principles for the purpose of a principled professional life. I hear complaints about individual things that are negative on the face have moralistic reasoning applied after the fact. But no guiding vision.

Just like we assume the people in movies poop [0] even though we never see it, an "obviously" unacceptable thing happening leads to have conversations resting on unspoken assumptions that someone solved what a professional environment is off-screen. If we want demands for what a work environment should be like to be taken seriously, we have to figure it out. Upfront, on-screen, and to create something people can believe in.

to combat this kind of thing

fight management on these kinds of issues.

Can you articulate what the KIND of issues are? The category can easily be labeled with synonyms for "bad" and easily have things like a misogynistic work environment placed within the category, but WHAT IS the category. What are the defining lines?

If every developer took the time to figure out what they believe in, or adopted the (e.g.) ACM Code to their professional life, it might not even take a union.

[0] http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/NobodyPoops


> It's not a panacea, and there are several historical examples of union leadership betraying the trust of workers and neglecting the demands of the most marginalized members (such as the UAW in 1941), but a union correctly structured and rooted in worker solidarity is the only proven way to fight management on these kinds of issues.

Thats why the IWW exists, and they desperately need members. They refuse to cooperate with big business and government, and are based on decentralized worker solidarity and principles of direct action, not the capture of state power. If a union derives its power from the state, it is easily corrupted and subverted.

https://iww.org/unions/dept500/iu560

https://techcrunch.com/2012/11/01/want-to-unionize-developer...


Good god... I just Google'd the IWW. Their website looks, at a glance, like a militant extreme left group. From the hard white-and-red on black colour scheme through to a photo of two people in fatigues carrying AK-style weapons next to an advert for a highly politically charged event.

If they want more members, they might want to tone down the "militant" imagery. I'm uncomfortable being associated with that.


The IWW has a long history, and pioneered the American labour movement, being practically the first union to admit women and blacks. It has not been a stranger to government repression in this period, and is decidedly anti government and view all political solutions with distrust. Instead they advocate for direct action. If you don't have anti-authoritarian/anarchist leanings, you probably won't fit in with the philosophy of the IWW.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everett_massacre

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wesley_Everest

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulsa_Outrage

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/27/us/27hill.html?_r=0


Love the wobblies, and from what I understand they've organized one of the few existing tech workers unions, the IWW 560. Definitely very interested in organizing with them.


The problem is that workers don't have leverage like they used to due to globalization and a general labor surplus. We need to think of something that would work better than a union.


Software developers have incredible leverage right now, perhaps more than any cohort of employees in the country, and while most don't have salary to organize around, there are plenty of other practices --- transparency and liquidity of equity compensation being a great example --- that generate a broad base of support across the whole industry.

People hear the term "union" and they think "shop rules" and "union contract salary". There's no reason that's what has to happen. Substitute "professional association" for "union" and you've got all the degrees of freedom you could want for us all to profit from organization without over-complicating our work lives.


> People hear the term "union" and they think "shop rules" and "union contract salary".

The problem is that a significant number of the people who push "unions" (especially on places like HN) are actually trying to push for those things. Just look in this thread to find people arguing over whether there actually are large differences in developer performance.

If people want a professional association (I do!) let's call it that and avoid all this union talk. Think lawyers, not factories.


Hi, I assume you're talking about me (the person above expressing some skepticism about the 10x programmer thing). I'm actually open to be proven wrong, but I'm not sure that makes much of a difference in terms of how compensation is justified in the real world (again, ask your employer to provide justification for salaries if you think 10x programmers exist and they are paid as such). Whether or not I'm right, I'm one person with one vote in a union.

A professional association by contrast does not work to help workers in a workplace dispute. It is fundamentally an advocacy group for the profession itself and works to advance it by creating professional standards, lobbying, offering education and certification, etc. The AMA for example, does not engage in collective bargaining with the management of a hospital and has no legal right to compel such a thing under the NLRA. The AMA does however lobby politicians and puts its people on medical boards to limit the supply of doctors. Furthermore a professional organization works at the level of a single profession and doesn't organize workplaces in strikes, which is the major power of a union.

Unions can aggregate under federations that often resemble and provide the same function as professional associations, but a professional association provides almost none of the benefits of a union.


> I'm actually open to be proven wrong, but I'm not sure that makes much of a difference in terms of how compensation is justified in the real world (again, ask your employer to provide justification for salaries if you think 10x programmers exist and they are paid as such).

I've had a fairly thorough knowledge of salaries at many companies I've worked for (currently the founder of my own company) and I'm not sure what your point is. There was absolutely a large variation in salary and it clearly correlated with two factors: performance and negotiation ability. Why exactly do you think employers pay some engineers so much money? Out of the goodness of their hearts? It's due to measurable impact and differences. I've been places where I was producing more than the rest of the team in half the hours (I was in school at the time).

Your arguments about collective bargaining are precisely why I don't want a union. I sure as hell don't want you (or anyone else) bargaining for me or being tied to any generic salary formula. It's hard for me to imagine that if things were done democratically most engineers would vote for me to make what I do.


"It's hard for me to imagine that if things were done democratically most engineers would vote for me to make what I do." It sounds like you feel the current system works out very well for a few elite performers, in a way that the majority of workers would not be comfortable with if they had a say in the matter. I'm curious, how do you see the tension/balance between what benefits the majority of engineers vs. what benefits a small number of elite performers such as yourself?


I come down firmly on the side of meritocracy. If you're contributing a lot more value, you deserve to be compensated more. I've spent a decade honing my abilities and it's reflected in my skill level. It'd be unfair if that skill weren't reflected in my salary.

In fact, if anything I think top developers are underpaid in most of the industry. Outside certain organizations and areas, it's hard to break $200k as a developer—even when a senior developer can easily be 2x as effective as a new grad making $100k.

Also, to be clear, the current system is better for probably the whole upper half of engineers. It's not just elite performers who would see cuts if we moved to salary formulas. The problem I see is that humans have a well-documented tendency to hurt themselves if it means they can "punish" others as well: I can people voting for a $100k mandatory salary (while they're making $110k) just to spite me for making $200k.


Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I'm confident that well-organized engineers working together could very substantially grow the percentage of company revenues that go to engineers, which would benefit both upper and lower tier performers by growing the pie. As for the way workers might punitively divide up that larger pie, it sounds like knucklesandwhich is more knowledgeable than me about craft unions and the ways they try to mitigate against that. Presumably high-performing engineers would be a powerful bloc within such an organizing effort/union, and could advocate effectively for their interests.


Listen I think the meritocracy fetishization of SV is dumb and unjustifiable (again, if you really think this, propose a measurement or set of measurements that adequately explains salary and can be justified as representing "skill"), but standardizing pay is ultimately not a major interest of mine in forming a union.

You seem to believe there are separate stratifications of tech workers that do not have shared interests. Even though I pretty strongly disagree, you're in luck, a union is still what you want. You want a craft union that recognizes something like "senior engineers" as a collective bargaining unit. As long as you can justify that you constitute a real unit with a shared "community of interest" to the NLRB, you can still collectively bargain only with other senior engineers.


> The AMA for example, does not engage in collective bargaining with the management of a hospital and has no legal right to compel such a thing under the NLRA. The AMA does however lobby politicians and puts its people on medical boards to limit the supply of doctors.

This is a common misconception.

The AMA does not limit the supply of doctors. The AAMC (used to) limit the supply of doctors, but (a) they have been trying for the last 10+ years to increase that, and (b) the actual number of practicing physicians is bottlenecked by funding for residency positions, which is funded by Medicare, not the AMA or AAMC. The AMA has actually lobbied to increase funding for GME, which would increase the supply of practicing physicians.

The AMA does not represent doctors in any meaningful sense - only 25% of physicians belong to the AMA, and only because membership is required for licensing the CPT codes that those doctors need for billing. The AMA does not consistently advocate for physicians' best interests, and in the last couple of decades, it has actually consistently sided against physicians' best interests.


The AMA _did_ lobby (I should have clarified that they no longer do this) to restrict medicare funding for residency: http://www.nytimes.com/1997/03/01/us/doctors-assert-there-ar...

http://www.nytimes.com/1986/06/29/business/curbing-the-suppl...

At one point the AMA had about 75% of American doctors as members but has declined for various reasons (growth of specialty professional associations, change of employment in which many doctors have gone from private practices to hospitals which has accompanied a change in political objectives, etc.). The AMA probably does still serve as a professional association in the interest of some segment of doctors, but I take your point that it definitely don't work for doctors writ large. This is actually a good example of why professional associations can be inadequate, because they fundamentally are limited to advocacy for a profession instead of working for gains for a workplace.


> The AMA _did_ lobby (I should have clarified that they no longer do this) to restrict medicare funding for residency

...twenty years ago, when we had the opposite problem. It still wasn't some act motivated by the desire to benefit doctors, even if that's the PR spin they used.

> At one point the AMA had about 75% of American doctors as members but has declined for various reasons (growth of specialty professional associations, change of employment in which many doctors have gone from private practices to hospitals which has accompanied a change in political objectives, etc.)

The move away from private practices was not the driving force behind the declining membership of the AMA. Quite bluntly, doctors stopped joining (unless they were forced to) because they did not support the AMA or its objectives. Why pay money to an organization that fights for causes you oppose?

Of course, this is only possible because (most) doctors are not required to be AMA members or pay membership fees if they choose not to, which is not true of people in most unions.

> The AMA probably does still serve as a professional association in the interest of some segment of doctors,

It does - it acts in the interest of the subset of doctors who are serving in administrative roles and are no longer practicing medicine full-time. That is to say, they advocate the interests of hospitals and payers, not practicing physicians.

> This is actually a good example of why professional associations can be inadequate,

It's not that they're "inadequate". It's that, in this case, they are literally fighting against the interests of the group they are (allegedly) advocating.

So really, the AMA is an argument against either professional associations or unions - doctors are unhappy with the AMA, and you certainly don't see them, by and large, advocating unionization in their practices en masse.


Sounds like American doctors need a real union, then.


> A professional association by contrast does not work to help workers in a workplace dispute.

Some don't. Some do.

I am currently a member of one that does, up to and including litigating a case is appropriate.


Sure, this will often happen if litigation can set some precedent that benefits the profession as a whole. For example the AMA will take up cases that can challenge legal precedent on malpractice damages limits. Sometimes these disputes can be with management, but generally these kind of interventions are done as part of professional advocacy.

However a professional association is effectively limited in what it can do in a labor dispute because management has no obligation to collectively bargain with them, hence this is not really the purpose of professional associations.


I don't think shop rules are a good idea, or contractually mandated pay scales. I'm not interested in getting into the heads of every single person talking about unionization. It sounds like we agree, and should move on.


So what organising principles should a software developer union have?

It's easy to say they could be anything we want it to be, but I'm not sure there's a real consensus on any particular principle.

Lots of people who talk about unions seem to value privacy protections for consumers, but there are clearly software developers writing this software who have a different view.

Ubers reputation has been trash for almost as long as Uber has existed, I feel like most people are there to get rich, do you expect those people to go on strike for a grievance that doesn't affect them?


Without a fair equity package, none of those employees are going to get any kind of payout from an exit. And given the number of fundraising rounds Uber has undergone: https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/uber/funding-rounds and their difficulty in actually turning a profit: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-08-25/uber-lose... it seems a little questionable that anyone from the rank-and-file is going to get rich at Uber.

A union is what gives you the ability confront management about these kinds of things.


There are a lot of labor practices that most software developers would agree on changing: unpaid overtime, unreasonable on-call requirements, lack of transparency in equity compensation, unreasonably short windows for exercising vested stock options after leaving the company.


Thanks to the Fair Labor Standards Act, anyone who is a software engineer is exempt from overtime pay as long as they make at least $455/week on a salary basis.[1] Hint, I don't know any software engineers making less than $23660/yr.

It's a heinously stupid regulation, and it's one which was lobbied for heavily by the tech industry to reduce labor costs. But that is the federal law of the US currently, which means yes you can be required to perform unpaid overtime.

[1]: https://www.dol.gov/whd/overtime/fs17e_computer.pdf


Not sure if you're agreeing or disagreeing with the person above, but just to clarify: the FLSA doesn't prevent tech workers from collectively bargaining to gain paid overtime as a condition of employment, it just determines the highest wage at which salaried workers are required by law to be paid overtime (which I agree is stupid, and should be a benefit all workers receive).


Note that you can cease to be exempt if your employer begins treating you as if you were hourly and not salaried --- for instance, docking your pay in small increments, for instance because you went on strike for half a day.


Yes, I'm aware. That's why I pointed it out as something that a union could change.


There is aprofesssional association, but I don't think many non-academics see it as such: the ACM, http://www.acm.org/about-acm/about-the-acm-organization


> Software developers have incredible leverage right now, perhaps more than any cohort of employees in the country

Hah hah, very cute. A trivial proof that this claim is false: H-1B.

Indentured H-1B visa workers have absolutely zero leverage. American software developers are constantly reminded that if they don't behave and do what they're told that their jobs will be outsourced or they'll be replaced by H-1B workers. I say this as an ex-H-1B holder, who left the US six years ago for Australia (where I'm now a citizen).

Young American programmers will do well to read Norman Matloff's blog at https://normsaysno.wordpress.com/ where he exhaustively documents the abuse of American IT workers and ask themselves how they plan to make a living after the age of 40.


This does not square even a little bit with the software employment market I'm familiar with, not only in California but in the Midwest.

If you believe that H1-B employees are abused in software development shops, that's all the more reason to organize.


I think we're getting a bit of a "you see a trunk, I see a tail" view of a very large elephant here.

Think of the most scutwork of scutwork programming jobs in the industry, or even quasi-programming quasi-IT jobs like, I don't know, Sharepoint administrator at a regional insurance carrier or line programmer at a university (where most projects are "execute a SQL query to get a list of students in a particular course then, and this is the hard part, display it on a web page"). Tata doesn't simply manufacture billions of dollars in services revenue; actual companies pay them actual money to outsource work. Actual companies also pay actual money for Tata to send 6k engineers at $75k apiece to the US. That's like half-a-Google worth of engineers; add in Infosys and you approach a full Google, except at something like 30 cents on the dollar.

AppAmaGooBookSoft consume the H1B program in an entirely different fashion and Tata is more-or-less orthogonal to the startup world. You can fashion a career in software which never touches the ecosystem that Tata is a part of. You can also fashion a career in software which never touches AppAmaGooBookSoft, startups, or software development shops. These two worlds are separated by a titanic gulf in conditions and expectations, and transferring between them is difficult, for much the same reasons as transferring between social classes is difficult. This does not mean that either of the two worlds does not factually exist.

You might never have been explicitly threatened with "We can trivially replace you with cheaper foreign labor." You might not even know anyone who has been, depending on who you generally hang out with. I have been in the room when that threat was made, and (because life is hilarious!) I was the literal face of the threat.


I acknowledge that there are portions of the industry dominated by outsourced/offshore workers.

What I don't acknowledge is that the parts of the industry that aren't offshored are suddenly going to become offshored as a reaction to labor organization. The idea that strikers will be replaced with H1-Bs is a hollow threat.


Guest workers aren't a reason not to organize though, they're just a reason it might be more difficult to organize certain shops (though not impossible, take a look at the FLOC who has been able to organize thousands of guest workers).


> If you believe that H1-B employees are abused...

Of course that would never happen. All American business executives and outsourcing agencies only act with unimpeachable integrity and the highest ethical standards.

(Wait, what is the original subject of this thread again...)

I repeat, for all American programmers under the age of 35, read https://normsaysno.wordpress.com/ to see how your careers are being systematically undermined by your own industry and political leaders. Then make alternative career plans for when you're 40+. You'll thank me later.


> Then make alternative career plans for when you're 40+.

Your alternative careers plans can and should be the possibility of retirement.

It is extremely possible as a software engineer to save enough to retire by the time you're 35.


It's only leverage because software developers have no solidarity. So yes, an individual can be threatened by this, but in reality the US government only grants 65 000 H-1Bs per year; Such a threat could be made easily irrelevant by even a modicum of organizing.


What? It's literally your right to vote to join a union. If a majority of coworkers vote for one, you've got a union. Look up the National Labor Relations Act.


Not only is this true, but the NLRA also bars employer retaliation against concerted actions by employees both to organize and also to take actions in protest of work conditions. It's a huge exception to at-will employment.

I had no idea about any of this stuff until I started talking to the Tech Solidarity people. I'd always thought the reason nobody goes on strike is that you'd simply be fired for doing so. But, no! That was dumb of me! Striking --- really, most forms of employee protest against working conditions --- is protected federally.

I'm particularly interested in how these laws interact with the employment laws for salaried workers. In addition to it being unlawful (in most cases) to fire an employee for striking, it's also (usually) legally risky to dock a salaried employee's pay.


While technically true, the enforcement is up to the Department of Labor. Do you honestly believe that Puzder (now Acosta) is really going to enforce these rules? It's the whole reason they were chosen for the position in the first place.


No, enforcement is not up to the Department of Labor. If you're terminated for organizing and protesting against working conditions, your recourse includes the courts.

People should, of course, talk to labor lawyer before organizing. Tech Solidarity is working with several now, and collecting employment contracts from the best-known tech companies in order to provide standardized organizing advice.


Really? Alright I'll bite. They only promulgate the regulations that are enforced. And if you're being pedantic enough to insist it's the DoJ, then my point still stands under one led by Sessions.


Check out the statutes. The 8(a)(1) unfair labor practices have liquidated damages associated with them. You can sue in civil court over them.

Again, talk to a lawyer. I think you're going to find that you are not in fact required to convince the Trump administration of your rights.


> the NLRA also bars employer retaliation against concerted actions by employees both to organize and also to take actions in protest of work conditions.

I also learned about this from the Tech Solidarity people. The key here though is that actions are only protected if they're taken collectively by multiple employees. A single employee protesting can still be fired without recourse.


This is all totally true.

It is also totally true that you are not squeaky clean in your employment (never been late once? Never missed a deadline?), and that your performance management targets are set by the people against whom you are protesting. You can be performance managed out of a position in months, even if your right to protest is protected and you are literally a Saint in the workplace.

I'm not saying it's right, just that I've seen it done. There is always a way to remove "difficult" employees regardless of protection laws.


So, I believe this, but what gives me comfort here is having seen companies try to performance-manage people out (for legit reasons!) and fail because of protected-class problems. As soon as you can credibly allege retaliation, your case gets 100x more expensive to dispose of. In two companies, one of which I had a senior role at at the time, I've seen the companies cave and pay out to make them go away.


This is all totally true.

It is also totally true that you are not squeaky clean in your employment (never been late once? Never missed a deadline?), and that your performance management targets are set by the people against whom you are protesting. You can be performance managed out of a position in months, even if your right to protest is protected and you are literally a Saint in the workplace.

I'm not saying it's right, just that it's true.


Wait a minute, wait a minute: if I just decide I'm not going to work anymore, they can't fire me if I say it's because I'm protesting for higher wages? And they have to keep paying me?


Google "protected concerted action" and spend $75 on a consult with a labor law attorney. Some catches:

1. The protest has to involve more than one team member, and depending on circumstances that other person possibly can't be a manager.

2. The protest has to be defensibly about some kind of working conditions issue. You need a concrete, defensible ask.

3. You can in fact have your pay docked for not working, though you (probably) can't be fired. But remember, you're an FLSA exempt employee (if you're a developer), so you can make it difficult for them to dock your pay, too.

I probably wouldn't make the protest about higher wages.


Ehh, when my previous workplace was voting to unionize I wasn't able to vote because I was a remote worker, and didn't have the disposable income to fly in and vote... being disenfranchised is a drag.


Yes but in this particular instance Uber recruits heavily in the Bay Area. If all workers in the Silicon Valley office refused to work and discouraged others to work for Uber it could be quite effective.


It's either unionize or a class action lawsuit. Silicon Valley tends to prefer the latter.

Many IT roles already fall under collective bargaining units (CBU), particularly in the public sector.

If stories like Susan's become common, and there is blatant gender discrimination, then the Government will have no choice but to acknowledge a private-sector CBU and Union.


Right on brother (sister?)! Most in the industry are believing the management story and working their asses off for a dream that's rarely realized. And when it is, they don't see nearly the payout their more business savvy peers do. The model might be closer to doctors and lawyers than auto workers, but it's clear to me that industry wide solidarity could result in great standard of living and working condition improvements.


Are there any real efforts around this? A quick Google search doesn't show anything obvious.

I'm also curious if there are any historical examples of "white collar" workers unionizing.


There's plenty of currently existing unions for professional trade workers. The SEIU, IFPTE, CWA, IBEW, etc. are American unions which represent scientists, engineers, legal assistants, technicians, physicists, nurses, etc. Largely these careers have low union density (as a result of poor uptake of unions throughout the US), but there are plenty of countries (for example many Nordic countries) where its much more common to see these professions unionized.

If you're interested in learning more about how to do this, I suggest you look into one of the following orgs:

- Tech Workers Coalition (https://techworkerscoalition.org/) based in the Bay Area who holds a monthly organizing meeting in SF

- Tech Solidarity (https://techsolidarity.org), which has been holding meetings in a bunch of metropolitan areas for educating tech workers about organizing


The Director's Guild, Writer's Guild, and Screen Actors Guild, along with the various professional athlete unions, would be good examples of how it could be done.


Good luck. I'll never join. I know what you guys want (because enough of you have stated it on HN): no more H1Bs and to make sure I never find a job again because I'm a foreigner. I'll scab that union till kingdom come.


Actually I'd prefer if my country would just naturalize you instead of running you through an exploitative guest worker program that hedges your visa status on continued employment. I have absolutely no desire to prevent you from getting a job (and I'd like the union to have a spot for you and ensure you share in the benefits we create by collectively bargaining).


Sure, you might. But any such union will have a large number of disaffected people and as HN has shown, a large number of these people blame H1B workers.

Their problem is that this visa exists. My problem is getting naturalised. Our incentives are not aligned and they've made that clear.

I want no part of it and I will actively participate in union busting to the greatest of my ability for this reason.

I don't think you can achieve greater than 2% penetration amongst employed engineers and I know that your system will threaten the 1.7% of engineers who are H1B workers. I think I'm in a reasonable position here and I'm not about to weaken myself. And I think everyone else is going to work through the same calculus.

Sorry, it's not you. It's who are likely going to be your comrades.


No comrades of mine would see guest workers or immigrants as a threat. I wouldn't join a union that didn't stick up for all workers, regardless of their citizenship status.

Maybe we have different perspectives on how popular the anti-immigrant position is in tech (and how many neo-reactionary/dark enlightenment dipshits there are), I guess I'd just ask that you keep an open mind about this and make a decision if and when workers approach you to join a union. I certainly wouldn't knock you for opposing a group that doesn't have your interests at heart, but the union I want to form would take solidarity seriously and would explicitly go to bat for women, people of color, lgbtqia people, disabled people, and immigrants.


Very well. Fair enough.

I would advise any other immigrant reading that if they are approached by union representatives to demand a clause guaranteeing permanent residence reform and removal of the 7% limit before any anti-H1B action is taken. In the absence of this clause, all Indian and Chinese workers (at the least, and everyone probably) are placing themselves at risk of deportation.

Refusal to add such a clause or delay in doing so is evidence of actively undermining your interests.


> No comrades of mine

Ouch. Was that choice of word deliberate?


The parent comment used that word choice.


I think if this post teaches us anything, it's that the system works very well, at least for well-performing software engineers. In this case, Susan found a better job with a different company where she presumably won't have to face the same levels of confusion and mistreatment. Unionization seems to come with its own cultural (and procedural) baggage, so I'm wary of invoking needlessly.


Suffers in kafkaesque work environment for a year... gets new job. The system works!


I don't understand how anyone could be unsure about that being harassment. It's about as clear-cut as you can get.

He should have been fired the day that surfaced. If someone who worked for me ever did something like that, they'd be out the door pronto. It speaks volumes that he wasn't, to the point which I am irrationally tempted to doubt the veracity of her claims.

Don't proposition anyone in your reporting chain. Don't flirt with them. Don't do anything with them. It's really not that complicated. If you are attracted to someone who works for you (it happens), do the adult thing and ignore it.


It's hard to just ignore feelings. You'll have biases. It'll show. (Eventually.)

Talk to HR (or your boss), get them (or you) a new team/manager.

Or if the feelings go away, then great, crisis averted, but it's rarely that simple.


That's not always possible (especially in a small startup) and I'd argue it's not fair to force them to change teams.

I also disagree with the notion that it'll show eventually. Usually if you consciously suppress them they'll go away pretty quickly.


  > do the adult thing and ignore it.
While it probably the best advice it does sound a bit like pope's advice for the gay people: it is ok, if you do not act on it. Being unhappy is just an adult thing, I guess.


I am shocked, how is possible to get away with this toxic company culture.


Because they're "high performers".

Screw Uber. Just delete that app and never use it.


I'd like the think that eventually karma will catch up with Uber. Hard to think of a single positive thing to say about the company.


Here's my positive thing. Taking a cab to the airport from my house in Cambridge, MA runs about $42 before tip, so call it $48 or so.

An UberX costs $24.30 right now and UberPool costs $14.30 right now. Additionally, I can summon the ride more easily and get better feedback about the arrival time, giving me more confidence/less anxiety that I'll have a problem getting to the airport on time.

As a consumer, by reducing my cost by 50-70% while providing a marginally better service, I can readily find one thing positive to say about the company.


That 50-70% is a loss leader for Uber. Did you read the post of their financials? They are hemorrhaging money.

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2016/11/can-uber-ever-deliver...


"Uber passengers were paying only 41% of the actual cost of their trips; Uber was using these massive subsidies to undercut the fares and provide more capacity than the competitors who had to cover 100% of their costs out of passenger fares." Is either mathematically incorrect or extremely misleading. You can't take Uber's cut of passengers payments (~18%) and then divide by Uber's costs to say "passengers were paying only 41% of the actual cost of their trips", as the bulk of the cost of the trip goes directly to the driver. If you take this into account the rider is actually covering about 80% of the total cost of the trip, with Uber subsidizing about 20% of the cost on average, which includes their massive infrastructure building and expansion efforts. This means that even break-even Uber at a 25% higher cost, or a 20% profit margin Uber at a 50% higher cost, is still cheaper (and more convenient and enjoyable) than a taxi.


Uber's biggest investor is Saudi Arabia's Sovereign Wealth Fund.[1] They don't have a problem with the company keeping women in their place. It may even be viewed as a plus, influencing an American company to adopt Saudi values.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/02/technology/uber-investmen...


Do you believe the behavior described in the piece is a result of Saudi investment? Your comment leans in that direction, which is quite an insinuation if that's not what you actually believe to be the case. If so, I'd like to know more about what leads you to believe it is, or is even likely. It seems to me that much more prosaic explanations are likely.


My reading is that their belief is that Saudi investors wouldn't care about such behaviour or consider it marginally positive, as a contrast with non-Saudi investors who might reconsider doing a deal given such information.


I think this sentence is implying something much stronger than that:

It may even be viewed as a plus, influencing an American company to adopt Saudi values.


I'm unsure what difference you see between "a plus" and "marginally positive" except I'm specifically pointing out it's probably a secondary consideration to profit.


Interesting take. The operative word for me is influencing. Thanks for pointing out in detail where you where getting your reading.


Investors pull the strings. The behavior isn't the result of an investment, but failing to implement procedures after the fact to stop future incidents definitely can be. Not through action, but through inaction.

Meaning, more ethical investors (also known as: Board Members) might say "We need to do something about this."


I suspect even the most misogynistic investor will balk at the poor publicity like OP's story, and especially at the stack of harassment lawsuits that are sure to be in the pipeline if all these employees grievances are accurate.


how the fuck did Saudia Arabia investors make it into a conversation about SF company culture..


Saudi Arabia is keeping Uber alive. Without that $3.5 billion cash investment from last summer, Uber would be in serious financial trouble now. They wouldn't have been able to get the $2 billion loan that followed, and would have had to raise rates to stop the cash burn. That would have stopped their growth and cut their market share.


and none of that makes any difference to company culture. if it was toxic without money it wil be toxic with money.


To assume there is a disconnect between a company and the investors that fund it is pretty naive. For starters, major investors almost always get board seats, which means they have a direct say in managing the company. Besides that, there are numerous articles that discuss how taking VC money has ruined many companies - Zenefits is the most popular recent example.


VC momey doesnt ruin anything. shitty managers do.

any investor or board member whonis aware of the type of activity mentioned by OP would shut it down fast. their first responsibility is to protect the company, especially one about to go public, and that doesn't happen when you're getting sued repeatedly for hostile work environment and/or sexual harassment.


VC's main goal is for their investments to grow and grow fast. They know most of their companies will fail, and they don't want to waste their time on the companies that will only net them a modest return when they can focus more of their efforts on the company that will net them a 20x return. It's actually in a VC's best interest for you to either be a rocket ship or for you to fail completely, as mathematically it's the best use of their time for maximizing profits.

VC's aren't trying for all of their portfolio companies to be profitable - they're trying to fund 1 company that is going to be uber profitable. There's a saying from the dot com investment days - you either invested in Google or you didn't.


Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund isn't a VC. They're a late stage buy-and-hold investor.


In which case, isn't taking Uber and forcing them to eat that 50-70%, the ethical thing to do?


The 50% that you are forcing Uber to pay is 100% that is denied to Lyft, and additional pressure on drivers to keep the Uber app open and the Lyft app closed.


To be sure, ethical consumer choices are a luxury and consequently you'll have to pay extra to make them.

If your only concern is the sticker price, then that is a ethical choice that you're certainly entitled to make, but that also necessarily involves a choice not to account for what goes into that sticker price (parallels with e.g. Walmart), and thus is a pretty limited principle. Possibly limited to the degree that it is actually merely self-serving.


Uber can afford to subsidize your ride for the next 10 years or so. That doesn't mean it's long term viable, it just means that they're pumping money from one pot to another until the first one is empty and won't be refilled.

They've raised over $10B...


I'm willing to take a discount on cabs for ten years. That it's not sustainable does not make it not a net positive to me. (I don't think any of my money is in that $10BB they raised.)


That line of thinking seems to miss a lot of the negative externalities [0] of a hypothetical world in which Uber is dominant.

Just to take one example, Uber doesn't pay the same taxes as taxi companies. Localities will be losing out collectively on a lot of revenue. Aren't you affected if your city has to raise taxes to compensate?

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Externality#Negative


If the city is smart, they'll fill that hole by taxing Uber and other such services. If they're stupid then there's no end to the ways they can cause me to suffer.


They may not be able to. Many cities are subject to state laws about what can and cannot be taxed.


I am overwhelmingly likely to save more on car services in the next 10 years than I am to pay in increased local taxes, leaving Uber/Lyft a net economic positive for me, even after considering that most of my Uber rides are expense-able to my company.

Uber is proving that car service is not a natural monopoly. If the dominant provider is taking too many liberties with pricing, someone else will come in to right the market.

I didn't intend to start a massive defense of Uber subthread, but to say there's no single thing positive about Uber I thought was a substantial overstatement.


> Uber is proving that car service is not a natural monopoly. If the dominant provider is taking too many liberties with pricing, someone else will come in to right the market.

This is complete nonsense. Car services have never been a monopoly, natural or otherwise; in every major city there have always been multiple car services. Uber's valuation is premised almost completely on the hope/expectation that they can become a monopoly and start exploiting their market position to the detriment of everyone.

Seriously, check out the Naked Capitalism series linked above. It lays out in great detail why Uber is not in any way an example of someone "coming in to right the market". They're wronging the market.


?? I said they're not a monopoly and you seem to violently argue against my text saying that they're not a monopoly. You've convinced me: I agree that they're not a monopoly.

Uber is losing money, believing they can make it up later somehow (presumably self-driving cars, possibly by taking a cut of a substantial percentage of the car service rides).

That's participating in the market, not wronging it, IMO.


No, they believe they can be a monopoly. There's no other way they can be profitable.


So.... You agree that the taxi market is NOT a monopoly?

As soon as Uber tries to become a monopoly, and raise prices, then Taxi cabs can start right back up again, and take back the market with lower prices.

Or ANOTHER VC company can come in, and subsidize prices, and knock Uber out.

As soon as Uber attempts to exploit the market, they are dead.


Wait until no one else is in the market. Then have fun with your positive thing/thinking :)


I don't see that happening. There's no natural monopoly here and almost no barriers to entry. The moment Uber tries to leverage being the only one left, someone new will undercut them.


This is basically like saying "I don't see why someone couldn't just build a Youtube alternative. There's no barrier to entry, basically. You can just buy as many hard drives as you need if Youtube acts up!"

Except the twenty gazillion dollars you need to get started anyway, and the fifty ga-jillion dollar incumbent you're stacked against who already, again, has leveraged their death grip on the market -- which is presumably why you were becoming a competitor at all, right? To fight that?


Why would you need twenty gazillion dollars? It's a business you can enter with a cell phone, a car, and a license. If you really want a smartphone app, you're looking at maybe six figures to build it and some pennies per active user per month to keep it running.

The comparison with YouTube doesn't work, because videos are not fungible. If there's a video you want to see, and that video is on YouTube, your choice is to use YouTube or not see it. If there's a place you want to go, you can use any transportation service that covers the area.

I'm having trouble thinking of a good comparison, because there aren't many markets that are this easy to enter. Maybe house cleaning would fit. If Homejoy had taken off, would there be any fear of it abusing a monopoly position, when anyone can trivially enter the market and compete on their level?


There will be a natural monopoly (or rather, a natural oligopoly) once the car makers all have their own autonomous carsharing fleets and sell cars only with an EULA that forbids ridesharing. The entry barrier for car manufacturing is way higher.


>sell cars only with an EULA that forbids ridesharing.

It'd probably be leases, rather than sales - selling property gives the buyer more rights, which would make that sort of EULA problematic. Might be able to side-step it by a combination of forbidding commercial ride-sharing in order to keep the self-driving system up to date along with requiring up-to-date self-driving software to be road-legal.


Ok, but a lot of companies are working on self driving cars.

If one company refuses to sell self driving cars to consumers/upstart ride sharing companies, then that means that ANOTHER self driving car company can makes 10s of billions of dollars by ignoring this rule.

Do you really think that not a single one of the multitude of self driving car companies would break the collusion agreement, if there is 10s of billions of dollars on the line?


i think you are right about the barriers to entry, but uber will have tremendous resources to kill/acquire any upstart. any prospective competitor is going to have to be very well-financed to deal with uber's ability to price them out of the market.


You could say the same about lyft, seemingly minus the illegal and immoral behavior, though they might get away with the same behavior due to not being in the spotlight as much as Uber


Sure. Being able to say a positive thing about Jane does not diminish the positive thing that I say about Susan.


Are there any Uber competitors in your city?


It should cost them employment talent, which should be a factor against them versus other employers with less toxic work cultures, all else being equal.


They are used to break the laws, it's called disruption, I think.


As someone who was truly frustrated with the taxi system for years, to the degree of refusing to use them hardly at all, I don't mind so much Uber breaking outdated laws (I do believe some kind of taxi commission is warranted in general) so much as the results of their business model: replacing one mafia with another. That a secondary effect is to flood the streets with even more batshit-awful drivers is proof that they aren't disrupting anything but taxi management and not hacks[1] in general.

1. http://answergirlnet.blogspot.com/2007/07/why-are-taxi-cabs-...


It could even be worded like this: Given most taxis across the world provide a dodgy service and hijack fees way above official metered levels (or hijack meters or add luggage fees or spend 20 minutes negociating the fare after you've made them aware you're in a hurry for a flight) to the point that most middle-class doesn't use them, ... is replacing this mafia with a batshit-awful company still a progress?

As long as the middle-class now can afford taxis on a regular basis, and the offer of drivers is in an all-time high, with better control of driver and passenger identities, then it's an economical plus for the society. Of course there's Lyft and Grab too.


Naturally, in some places the taxi service is 1000x worse than what I ever complained about, so in those places I can see the up-front pricing for Uber to be a little bit more of a revolutionary improvement.

I think overall the experience of taking a taxi is not going to change that much, but there's going to be a big repricing when Uber runs out of loss-leader. I imagine the dream is for inflation to absorb most of that by the time the axe falls, but uber/lyft/taxi pricing across the board will have to find an equilibrium. Or differentiators.


Disruption doesn't necessarily imply illegal activity.


In fact many current industries engage in illegal activities. Most often cartel behavior and price fixing.

Generally this behavior is not curbed already because it's hard to prove price fixing without having concrete information about the communication. Technically you don't need to have communication, but it's hard.

Sometimes all you need is one new vendor to enter the market place and not play by the old rules.


But Uber does.


Then that's the point that should be made, not some vague innuendo about an aspect of entrepreneurism in general.


probably because "Brilliant Jerks" are tolerated


Yup. There was the article a couple days ago about how employers should avoid the "brilliant jerks", and everyone in the comments was saying how they'd rather have the "brilliant jerk" than someone who was nice and mediocre (despite the fact that isn't the choice at all; there are plenty of people who are talented and not asshats). Well, when you make that decision, this is the kind of workplace you get.


There is no pressure to change when they can continue to get billion-dollar handouts from Saudi billionaires no matter what happens.


> In case anyone isn't sure why the original interaction is harassment

Is there anyone that thought a manager asking their subordinate for sex isn't harassment?


Strictly speaking asking a subordinate for sex is not always a harassment (but very frequently is).


What are the scenarios where it is and isn't harassment?

I have not knowledge or experience in this area, so to me it looks you'd either have to use very vulgar language, do it repeatedly after being told it is unwanted or basically have negative intention. Else it's just an odd thing to do at workplace.

Note, I am asking this as genuinely curious foreigner from very un-PC culture. Not trying to be annoying or anything like that.


Appreciate your politeness in a such controversial topic.

Apparently, when the both persons are already in a romantic relationship, or are spouses (which can happen in a family business) it's not harassment. Thus, whether such offer is harassment or not is based on a subjective judgement of each party, rather than some hard-coded rule. In the case described by the author it was clearly harassment because one party perceived it so.

Even when it's not harassment and wanted by both parties, it still can be undesirable from a professional ethics perspective as it can affect morale of other employees. So it leaves very few cases when it's acceptable, but they do exist.


For the same reason that police can't ethically solicit sex from someone they've pulled over for a traffic violation: There's a power imbalance that unfairly biases the propositioner over the victim.

Even if the boss asks politely, the subordinate knows that their job -- and likely their financial stability -- ultimately depends on making the boss happy...


The fact that this harassment came from a reporting chain or not is irrelevant, no employee should have to undergo that kind of behaviour if it wasn't consented to in the first place.


Are people legitimately needing clarification on this?


it is interesting that sex is the hot button. in general we special case sex in the US. While I dont mean to say sexual harrasment isnt a real problem, its interesting to me more philosophically that propositioning for sex is ultra problematic but propostioning for a platonic relationship is less so, or drinking, or anything else beyond strict job fulfillment labor. its obviously a problem when a power dynamic is abused but I would argue there is a weird puritanical nature to seeing a sexual proposition as preposterous but an unwanted platonic advance as largely benign


I would say that if the manager asked her out on a platonic date on her first week, that would be almost as wildly inappropriate.


My experience at a former company was that the management would plan a group happy hour and there was a ton of pressure to participate. This in particular hurt those that had families or other priorities and advantaged those that were younger and more willing to drink. I was young and willing enough to go along with drinking but personally felt this was more a requirement since so much in the way of promotions and getting put on the best projects was who you knew on top of technical competency. I will say the dynamic is different when its a one on one socializing vs team outings but in general I think its quite complex. There is no doubt that what happened is wrong, kept happening and constitutes sexual harassment, but its weird to me that sexual harassment so overwhelmingly gets attention when the cultural problems with orgs like this are so much deeper.


Not just sex, but sex in an "open relationship," presumably as "backup booty." It's hard for me to understand why she didn't immediately start trying to GTFO, but instead stuck around for a year and tried to make things work. Save transcripts and screenshots, find a new job, then sue at leisure.


You really can't think of a reason why someone would want to stay at a company like Uber? Salary? Stock options? Career path? Career security? Coworkers? The early belief that HR would help correct this? She did end up leaving the company after trying to fix it. Your not understanding why she stayed for so long is part of the problem.


> Salary? Stock options?

Are they really so much above typical Bay Area rates?

> Career path? Career security?

Plenty of people are still hiring in the current bubble, and she's an SRE, not an auto specialist or something.

> Coworkers?

Like the one who dropped his pants?

> The early belief that HR would help correct this?

Of which she was quickly disabused.


I think the downvotes might be from people who want to be super careful about victim-blaming.

But I agree with you that we should be training people to detect bullshit early on and to just get the fuck out in those situations. Labeling her actions as rational and healthy is probably not helpful either.


You both should sit this one out. Talk to your women engineer friends to get a better understanding of the situation.


This isn't a sports match. What's wrong with what I said?


Her actions are rational; she followed the relevant protocols, policies and laws, just as a machine would.

Ask some women about this post, and listen to what they tell you. Don't argue, just absorb.


Yes, of course her actions were rational as she followed protocol. But then they became irrational when she decided to stay, even after she found out that nothing would be done about the harassment, after she found out how backwards and stupid the Uber's policies are.


If it helps, try pretending that she was treated this way because she was black. Would she still be "irrational" to want to stay in a job and earn a good wage without harassment and degradation?

Would I have quit? You bet. But you have to understand that my freedom to do so is conditioned by a few assumptions:

1) I have the financial freedom to quit.

2) Working conditions are appreciably better at competing companies.

3) I'm able to land another job with comparable pay.

4) Quitting won't have negative repercussions on my future career.

Can you say, unequivocally, that all these conditions (and more) are met for her? I can't. Nobody knows that but Susan.

I understand you don't mean to, but you're coming awfully close to blaming the victim. Her quitting would have done nothing to change the environment except to reinforce the culture further, and we have no window into her personal reasons for staying. The point that everyone in this subthread keeps harping on is that they are not at all relevant. Period.

That she stayed is completely immaterial. That's -- legally -- her choice. The fact that, by choosing to stay employed, she was subjected to repeated sexual harassment and misogyny is as deplorable as it is illegal.


It seems you're speaking to whether her staying has potentially positive outcomes for others. My read of the comments upthread is that they're viewing the events through the lense of what's good for her personally and immediately. Which, as an aside, I suspect is how most Americans view conflicts with management of any stripe.

My read of this is that most on this thread would say that it would be commendatory for her to stay and fight for change, but 100% ethical for her either to stay in her situation hoping for improvement or leave for a better place to be, and that in her shoes they would opt for the latter.

To me this would not meet the plain language meaning of 'blaming the victim', but I recognize that plain language is not always so plain. I would like to better understand if it is victim blaming and, if not, if there are ways you know of to communicate the distinction being drawn above well. If it is, could you highlight what makes it so? Obviously it is not your responsibility to help me learn to communicate, but I would appreciate it if you did.

And just to make sure it's clear: the behavior of the other employees mentioned is illegal and unbelievably unethical, and I am not in any way condoning or making excuses for it.


smhost said that her actions became "irrational when she decided to stay" after her initial interactions with HR turned out so badly. My point was that we have no idea why she stayed, nor is it even remotely relevant.

People who say "Well I would have left" when they hear a story of abuse are missing the point entirely. By focusing on what they would have done in the victim's place, they're re-framing the event as somehow the victim's choice and thus, at least partially the victim's fault.

That is a form of victim blaming. Full stop.

Focus on the abuse. Leave the victim out of it. Without context, you can't know what you'd do in the same situation. As I noted, if I -- a white, well-to-do male with no debts and no professional entanglements -- suffered that type of abuse, I would have left. But that's irrelevant, because she's not me. To say that she should have left, or that she was "irrational" for not doing so is to make a mountain of assumptions about her situation.

As noted in TFA, she was young, on a sponsored scholarship, and in the middle of writing a book. To switch jobs immediately could have had lasting career implications, cost her an education, and ruined her ability to finish the book. Surely those considerations weighed on her decision to stick it out.

Without insight into her personal affairs, we can't know how much pressure she felt to stay in the job in spite of the abusive environment. Ultimately, whether she left or not is totally immaterial.


Hmm. Thanks for taking the time to respond, but I'm still not clear on this. It's possible I'm beyond help.

I can see how the statement that it was irrational of her to stay makes potentially invalid assumptions. It seems appropriate to me to asterisk that with something like "if my boss did this to me I'd leave", which I suppose is how I was reading the earlier statements anyways.

Having said that, the amended statement seems innocuous to me and could be read positively ("I wouldn't be as tough as she is in this situation"). Reading the rest of your response it seems this kind of what-if is the core of the issue to you. Is that correct?


You're really twisting the GP's words there. Converting a sentence condemning her for being "irrational" into one claiming "I wouldn't be as tough as she is in this situation" is a mighty big leap. Even as you amended it ("if my boss did this to me..."), it's still irrelevant and focuses on the victim's behavior after the harassment, not the act itself.

Now, if what you want to say is "I wouldn't be as tough as she is...", then simply go for it. It's still irrelevant, but can at least be construed as supportive to the victim.

The original statement -- that she was "irrational" for staying -- cannot, and is wildly inappropriate.


> By focusing on what they would have done in the victim's place, they're re-framing the event as somehow the victim's choice and thus, at least partially the victim's fault. That is a form of victim blaming. Full stop.

I think I understand what you're saying, but that's a pretty extreme stance and one that I don't agree with. You seem to be saying that a person's actions and decisions can not possibly have any effect on the situation, simply because the situation is undesirable and because the person is a victim. That view removes any notion of agency in the person in question. It removes the acknowledgement of free will and offends the dignity of the individual as an architect of their life. It's a kind of extreme infantilization.

Now, before you're led to believe that I'm advocating some kind of honor killing of adulterers, let me assure you that I absolutely am not. I find that extreme to be completely abhorrent and void of reason. From my vantage point, I believe that I'm standing precisely in the middle of the two extremes, being careful not to fall into the trap of either view.


Nope. You're the one leaping to extremes. I'm saying it's blaming the victim. A crime took place, and she was its victim. To question her reaction after the crime is, literally, blaming her for any remaining harassment. You can call it "acknowledging her free will" all you like.

Now, some victims share more of the blame for their situation than others. But without any insight into their reasons for tolerating abuse, it's presumptuous to assume someone has total agency to change their circumstances. She did some calculus and concluded that the costs to leave were steeper than staying.

That was her choice but, as I've said a half dozen times already, it's completely irrelevant. If I'm mugged, it's no less a crime if I also happen to be black or gay or in the "wrong" part of town. Regardless of her reasons for staying, what happened was wrong, and no person should be forced to make the choice she did.


If you actually read what I said, you'd realize that you're arguing against something that you made up in your head. At this point, there's no reason for me to believe that you will even bother trying to understand my point of view, but I'll give it one last go.

If you're mugged, the crime is a crime by the very definition of a crime. Since you seem to think that I'm an idiot, I'll point out that the victim's identity doesn't play into the definition of a crime. The mugger deserves to be punished according to the laws that we've agreed on as a society, and this is true whether you're a purple Martian or a lizard person.

But none of that has anything to do with the fact that it was your actions that brought you into the situation. Only you have the power to be where you are. Whether you were ignorant of there being a mugger down the street is irrelevant to the fact that it was you who walked there. It's not an extreme statement, upon hearing that you were mugged, to suggest that you avoid that street from now on, to try a different route, and be more vigilant in the future. It's not an extreme thing to say that it's unwise to go down the same street again.

You're twisting my words into making it sound as if I'm saying that a mugging never occurred, or that mugging is not a crime.


Because she shouldn't have to get the fuck out. I don't understand why that is hard to understand.


Of course she shouldn't have to get the fuck out. Of course Uber shouldn't have such shitty policies. You're reading things that aren't there.


> It's hard for me to understand why she didn't immediately start trying to GTFO, but instead stuck around for a year and tried to make things work.

Some possibilities:

- Because she's loyal to her co-workers

- Maybe still not jaded enough to jump ship at the first reason

- quite possibly didn't have another job lined up to jump ship to

A year isn't all that long, and if things had been turned around who knows she might still be working there today. Obviously they have not, things have gone rapidly downhill so she made the right choice in abandoning Uber but you really can't fault someone for trying to fix things before they give up.


Or maybe she has endured sexist bullshit for her entire career, and she is used to having to brush some of it off in order to follow her chosen career path.


I guess I don't have that kind of loyalty to brand-new co-workers. She seems like she had the reputation and skills to land an interchangeable SRE position with good pay. My boss immediately propositioning me as a secondary member of an "open relationship" is creepy enough to outweigh a whole lot of loyalty and/or money. It's commendable to try to fix a dysfunctional work environment, but if the boss essentially drops his pants in front of you and is not fired, things are probably broken beyond repair.


Some companies also require repayment of signing bonuses/relocation if the employee leaves within a year. So that gives people incentive to try and make the best of things even if they would have otherwise left.


There is certainly something to see there.

There were multiple articles on HN relating to the Uber offers and contracts, which showed they gave terrible conditions and dangerous traps.

By the way, she said in the article that she was doing a CS degree, sponsored by Uber, and they retracted the grant at the last minute.


A year is a typical vesting schedule for stock options though.


I read nothing about options in the article, did she mention those somewhere else?


I didn't either, but I mean, that's a very typical reason for people leaving near 1 year after a startup. And I'm almost certain Uber is offering some kind of equity package to engineers.


Sure, but until there is a liquid market that's worth $0. Who will you sell your newly vested shares to?


It's not worth $0. At least not according to the IRS. But you're right, it's certainly a big gamble, although every year people rumor that Uber is going to go public.


Or you sell them on the secondary market, depending on the rules for the stock.


Can't you hold on to the shares even after you leave? Why would you have to sell your shares when they are newly vested? Especially if you chose to have 40% deducted right away.


> I was enrolled in a Stanford CS graduate program, sponsored by Uber, and Uber only sponsored employees who had high performance scores. Under both of my official performance reviews and scores, I qualified for the program, but after this sneaky new negative score I was no longer eligible.

She had sponsorship in a graduate program at a great school. Eventually this was allegedly ruined in a retroactive performance review change. It seems like it was roughly a few weeks after that when she left.


On top of that Uber appears to be a huge addition to her relatively short (public)work history. Now she's at Stripe. Hard to fault the logic of sticking things out if they weren't getting too crazy.

People are always having to weigh risk and adversity against reward. This is why the power dynamic between superiors and subordinates is such a huge factor in company HR policies and it's taken so seriously; from corporate US to the military. The situations that can arise can be quite complicated and messy.


Much though the dude was a terrible person (and fireable for doing that at work) please don't assume that all open relationships are similarly unethical. It doesn't need scare quotes any more than being gay does.


From TFA: "I was enrolled in a Stanford CS graduate program, sponsored by Uber, and Uber only sponsored employees who had high performance scores."


> The HR rep began the meeting by asking me if I had noticed that I was the common theme in all of the reports I had been making

That's such a meaningless thing for an HR person to ask someone, that it clearly only serves to be patronising and hopefully stop them bringing problems up. I mean, how could you as an HR staffer possibly justify your inaction with an argument like that?

"We didn't act on any of their complaints, as we noticed that in all the cases of harassment that they reported, they were the victim in all of them!"


HR serves to protect the company, you have to think in HR's shoes. If the complainant goes away and finds another job the problem is solved. Most harassment cases tend not to end up in court, usually the aggrieved party quits.


  "HR serves to protect the company"
That point comes up every time a bad-HR related post is placed here. However, isn't it very short sighted to consider silencing/removing the accusers a protection of the company. This results in a bad culture and bad PR about that culture in developer circles. Won't the reduced diversity and all that comes with it have bad effect on the company long term?


It isn't short-sighted, because a discrimination lawsuit has unbounded liability and gets widely reported on. Words are temporary and can be whitewashed, whereas few companies can afford an admission of guilt.

In a reputable company, HR will pass the message higher up (probably off the record), and a manager will look at the evidence and make a good judgment. In this case, the evidence is clear, the manager should have been fired, and the employee given a sincere (but not in writing) apology and compensation.

Note that HR is a legal role. HR will never advise an employee to consider filing a lawsuit against the company, but instead dissuade the employee by saying that there isn't good evidence, it was an honest mistake, he has a family to feed, try to work with someone else. The saying exists because advice from HR is not in the employee's best interest.


> isn't it very short sighted to consider silencing/removing the accusers a protection of the company.

Yes. It's also human psychology. See the church sex abuse scandals. The morality that people claim to have is less important than protecting the group.

The same thing applies to HR. The HR person who shuts down an accuser is doing it in order to protect their position in the hierarchy, and to protect the people in the hierarchy that they know. The fact that it's illegal, and can very well destroy the company is completely irrelevant.

In these cases, short-term focus is more important than long term goals.


It may be short-sighted, but, frankly, most people and organizations in the world act in most contexts in short-sighted pursuit of their goals. Foolish, sure, and unethical in the case of HR departments, but nonetheless, the behavior one can expect from them.


Plus the lawsuits that should be brought... except that bringing a lawsuit on a sexual harassment case results in even more of the same shit in court, plus potential employers hearing about it.


Most people don't publicly post something due to a fear of a lawsuit.


The best thing HR can do to protect the company is to take prompt, effective action in cases of sexual harassment. If they fail to do that they expose the company to lawsuits. In this case Uber would clearly lose. Sometimes companies need to be taken to court to be reminded of their obligations. For the sake of the women still there and any women who may be considering going there, I sincerely hope this goes to court. I expect the punitive damages to be in the tens of millions of dollars, perhaps that would be a sufficient reminder.


> HR serves to protect the company, you have to think in HR's shoes. If the complainant goes away and finds another job the problem is solved.

While it's true HR is there for protect the company it's false to say that if a complainant just "goes away" that the problem is solved. HR also has to ensure the company keeps a good culture, avoids lawsuits and stays a great place to work for the majority to ensure talent is not only attracted but kept.

Thinking about ignoring or making complaints just go away isn't protecting the company. It's literally harming the company and its employees.


No, no, it's leadership that sets the culture. HR is merely the arm of the leadership.


I agree; HR is very much a part of how that culture shapes when bad apples are discovered.


> HR serves to protect the company, you have to think in HR's shoes. If the complainant goes away and finds another job the problem is solved.

Not if they go on to write a blog post that reaches the top of HN.


HR serves to protect the company, you have to think in HR's shoes.

HR, done ethically and applied consistently, protects both the company and the employees. It makes clear what is acceptable, and what isn't. And it makes clear what is expected of each employee in general.


I complained to HR that it was 16 degrees one day and 26 the next when the air conditioning was being awful and was actually told "first you complain it's too cold, and now you complain it's too hot". Duh, because it was too cold and then it was too hot. You get some classy responses when people don't want to deal with stuff.


I laughed out loud at this one--that's some first-class ass-backwards reasoning...


Is anyone versed enough in common HR practices to actually explain this behavior? It seems much more likely that this is some perverse instantiation of an aggressive incentive to the HR team that actual incompetence. Is Uber rewarding HR for minimizing actions taken?



The parent comment may seem a bit flippant, but the underlying question is a good one - why do talented, non-toxic people seek employment with companies that are well known to have such terrible culture?

I'm not in the Valley, so all the information I have about Uber's culture is through popular media, but ever since I first heart the company's name it was linked to scandal, poor ethics and/or misogyny.

Talented software developers are a privileged bunch, especially on the West Coast U.S. we are sought after and can pick and choose employers. Why would anyone choose Uber, especially a talented woman?

Do SW devs just not realize how much power and choice they have? Or do people really just choose to work for unethical businesses because they expect a good paycheck? If it's the latter, what does that say about their own personal ethics?

To be clear, I don't honestly believe the majority of Uber's staff are bad people. But that leaves me genuinely baffled as to what they are doing there in the first place.


> Do SW devs just not realize how much power and choice they have? Or do people really just choose to work for unethical businesses because they expect a good paycheck?

I used to work for a company that mistreated me (no, they didn't pay me well either). Getting out felt like getting out of an abusive relationship, and I stayed as long as I did for the same reasons people stay in abusive relationships: I thought I was worthless and that no other company would hire me.

Before that company, I had been unemployed for two years thanks to the combination of the financial crisis and my own lack of experience. When I interviewed with them, I was ready to end it if I didn't get an offer because my extended unemployment had just run out. Thankfully, I got the offer, and I wound up working there for 2.75 years before I got out.

I believed that I had to stick with them because they gave me an offer when I was broke, desperate, and suicidal. As the problems kept piling up and piling up, I stayed because I was too afraid to put myself out there because I felt like I was a worthless person and deserved a company that would treat me like the worthless person I am.

Eventually, things got so bad that I applied to several companies at once in a fit of rage, and one of them got back to me with a coding test, then a phone interview, then an in-person interview, and finally an offer, at which point I had the pleasure of putting my notice on my boss's desk.

It's been over two years since I got out, and I'm glad for it. The company I jumped ship to ended up not working out in the long run -- a little over a year in, I got caught up in a layoff that took out 1/3 of the company -- but I eventually landed at my current job, which is by far and above the best company I've worked for, and I'm really glad I'm here and not still stuck at that abusive place.


Thank you for sharing your experience, it's enlightening. I'm glad you're in a better place now.


I wonder whether it's bad everywhere so staying made sense. Also you have to remember that HR don't like gaps on the resume or lots of short hops, they also don't want a "trouble maker". I didn't know of ubers reputation until late last year, maybe it's not as pervasive as it feels to you.


I honestly wonder how people here would react if a blog posts like this came out about a company that hasn’t necessarily been in the news for this many past bad behavior. Would we still condemn that company or would we blame the victim, as is the case usually?


We've seen that with Github[1]. The debate on HN was much more lively and less one-sided[2], in that there were many more people trying to excuse what Github was doing or bring into question Horvath's story. Whether that's a good thing or not...

[1] https://techcrunch.com/2014/03/15/julie-ann-horvath-describe... [2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7408055


Was the first thing I thought about when I read this article.


In São Paulo, where I live, taxi apps appeared a couple of years before Uber entering the market. It took the market by storm, so every single cab had to be in at least one the two major apps (Easytaxi and 99taxi). It was easy, fast and safe to call a cab anytime. But it was still expensive.

Uber came with its black cars. No one bothered. But Uber came with UberX and then Uber pool. It was a revolution, 50% cheaper. It exploded. The taxi market was/is dominated by corruption, with its medallions monopoly. Capitalism worked.

But capitalism dont stop working when Uber is winning. Now the taxi apps, specially the rebranded 99, that was the clear winner in the taxi apps fight raised hundreds of millions with the chinese and is ready to fight Uber. They now have regular taxi, a 30% discount taxi (that usually matches Uber price) and a Uber-like service with common people cars, all in the same app.

My social network mostly went back to using taxi, now that the price matches, because SP is not an easy city to transit. Uber drivers rely 100% on Waze/Google Maps. This ofyen leads to errors. Taxi drivers who drive around for years, sometimes decades are more reliable.

My point being: I dont believe in karma, but capitalism is a bitch. If you are that arrogant to mismanage that bad your resources when you are winning, when the market forces strike back, you wont be strong enough to stand on your feet.


We are seeing the exact same thing here in Australia. An app called GoCatch which was a taxis-only app for around 5 years but moved into the ride share market last year. It used to be very difficult to get one of their cars in Sydney, but now I can get one most times I try. Many people seem to like the idea of a locally-owned company versus the tax-dodging (in their eyes) juggernaut from overseas.


So GoCatch works well now? I must give it another go. There is very little price difference between Taxi's and Uber here, and recently the Taxi companies have changed their tune from "it's all so unfair" to "we can and will adapt and compete". Interesting times ...


Yeah I'd say it's significantly better than it was 6 months ago. It's my go-to every time now. Very occasionally still get a driver that isn't great (no different to Uber) but I just rate them and move along. I do still have an active Uber account but to be honest I guess I fall into the category of trying to support the local guys, so I aim to exclusively use GC and just use Uber when I'm in a bind (ie. no GC private cars or taxis around)


Just loaded up GoCatch for the first time in Melbourne (Flemington) there are taxis around for me, but no private cars.

Will give it a shot next time I actually need to go somewhere by Taxi.


GoCatch seemed to me to be a response to pretty terrible taxi dispatch.

Slowly, at least where I live, the dispatches for companies are being merged and centralised, often to places far away.

One of the cab companies here has moved away from the Windows Mobile (?) based terminal to just issuing a phone/tablet with an app that looks like it's from about 2001, but the drivers seem to like it.


My take? Uber and Lyft themselves are a response to pretty terrible taxi dispatch. (And, in certain parts of the US, to policies like medallions that impose a supply cap on taxicabs.) Most places I know of that have a free-ish market for cab rides (Israel, Australia, etc.) have local cab-hailing apps with similar interfaces to Uber that have outcompeted it in the local market.


Ignoring all the bad press they've gotten lately, this is a major issue in their business model.

I just don't see why the cab business should present an opportunity that requires a landgrab on a global scale.

Something like Facebook, sure. You need to be the social network with everyone on it.

A cab company? It doesn't sound like it matters whether it's Uber or some local competitor. Internet is going to be cheap most places, so anyone arriving anywhere can just download the local app as needed.


And international travelers are not that big of a customer base. There is no barrier to entry in this market. This is why laws like 'medallions' (and following corruption) were created in the first place to protect the monopoly and interests of the first cab drivers.

This monopoly has led to a mix of expensive prices, poor service and unsafe conditions (with every place having its own local flavor of its mix - in SP is basically just the expensive price; in Rio de Janeiro is mostly the other two).

Uber found an innovative way of breaking this monopoly. But... without creating any other barrier except money to keep its prices artificially low. But cheap money doesn't last forever. And Uber is not the only company with access to money in the world.

As soon as the competitors stop fighting Uber in the court or in the town halls and start fighting back in the market, Uber's business flaws will show up.


I may have experienced a little bit of sexual harassment in my youth when working at a local McDonald's but, being a guy, it was the only time and I was able to put a stop to be rather quickly. However, being in software engineering for the past 12 years, I have seen the sexual harassment of several women all of which never saw a proper resolution.

For instance I worked at a small company that was later bought by a larger company. One of the women I worked with was propositioned by our boss. She reported him to HR and the next day HR scheduled a meeting with her, HR, the CEO and her boss that propositioned her. They told her that her boss denied it then proceeded to ask her for the next half an hour why she was lying and why she wanted to damage his career. She left for the rest of the day in tears.

Over half of his team, including me, left within the month. It was disgusting. During my exit interview I made sure to cite it along with his frequent trips to our area where, when she wasn't there, would pick up her photo of her and her boyfriend and just stare at it along with his fraudulent billing of clients. Nothing ever happened to him, he just got moved into another group because his team got too small.

It's really disheartening to hear story after story about this and even witnessing it yourself. I can't imagine what it's like to be on the receiving end. I worry about this not only because of it being a bad thing but I also have two daughters and it fills me with dread, after what I've seen, what they may go through.

What can be done to stop such toxicity? Do we need stronger laws? Are there groups for women who can turn to?


We have very strong laws about these things; if her report is accurate (which I have no reason to doubt), Susan has strong standing to sue.

It seems like she has chosen not to sue Uber, which is also a legitimate choice; she may just want to move on.

Toxicity has to be stopped at every level, in every team where it is found, in this story it sound like the toxicity extends up to the C-suite, so it would seem some changes need to be made there.


We should teach our sons to truly respect women. We should teach our sons to be respectful honest decent human beings. We should teach our sons to not be assholes who think they are entitled to a woman’s body. We should teach our sons to be humans with emotions and empathy for others. We should teach our sons to not be toxic despicable entitled pathetic beings. It’s on us (men). If we behave badly, it’s squarely on us. No external factor (law, regulation, social status, etc) would have any effect if we don’t know how (or don’t want) to be good.


You're missing a huge part of the problem here. People with power are the ones who need to be "taught" (punished).

This behavior can only occur repeatedly when someone can get away with it, because they have power. If they don't have power, they are punished (often harshly), and a rational person will not repeat that behavior.

Your blanket approach is completely ridiculous. You act like the problem is that men aren't being "taught" properly, when the real problem is that there is little or no accountability for people who have accumulated enough money and/or political power (whether it be on a social scale, or within an organization, as seen in the article).

It's also very wrong for you to assume that only men can abuse their power. Fowler's article even has an example of women abusing it (HR).


I have zero power now but have the potential to have it. If I don't know how to behave like a decent human around my female coworkers and peers right now, I would have no idea how to do this when I have more power (e.g. become a manager). But, then, I'd have the power to cause irreparable emotional and societal damage. If I don't know how to act like a rational reasonable human being who respects others no matter their background or gender, this won't change. All that will change is that I have the authority to cause great damage.

I don't know much and I certainly don't claim to know much. All I know is that if we (men) don't curb our own behavior, we're the one squarely at fault.

I'm so tired of this "not all men" attitude. As someone who gets paid to make fact-based decisions all day, I cannot possibly ignore this ridiculous argument that women are at fault. No, way. Yes, anything is possible but the scenario you're proposing is so rare that is an anomaly. Get off that horse, dude. Stop being on the wrong side of history.


Once again, you are unable to grasp the real problem. Guess what -- men can be victims of the abuse of power too, whether that's at the hands of men or women.

>I have zero power now but have the potential to have it. If I don't know how to behave like a decent human around my female coworkers and peers right now, I would have no idea how to do this when I have more power (e.g. become a manager). But, then, I'd have the power to cause irreparable emotional and societal damage.

Simply becoming a manager doesn't give you power. One of the main purposes of middle management is to take the fall for C-level mistakes, after all. You also need to have your employer's backing. In this case, this manager is especially powerful because Uber backs him even when it's not in their best interest). I don't know how the manager in question here was able to obtain that sort of empowerment, but you are sorely mistaken if you think that his ability to stick around was simply due to a job title.

>I don't know much and I certainly don't claim to know much. All I know is that if we (men) don't curb our own behavior, we're the one squarely at fault.

I don't know how to get this through to you. This problem is that powerful people are unaccountable due to the way that our current society is structured. It has nothing to do with gender. Maybe you think this sort of thing wouldn't happen under a female CEO, but you don't know what the context of the relationship between the manager and powerful people within the company who provide him with agency.

>I'm so tired of this "not all men" attitude.

I have no idea what you mean by this.

>As someone who gets paid to make fact-based decisions all day, I cannot possibly ignore this ridiculous argument that women are at fault.

Who made that argument? I honestly have no idea what your thought process is here.

>Yes, anything is possible but the scenario you're proposing is so rare that is an anomaly.

When did I propose a scenario??

>Get off that horse, dude. Stop being on the wrong side of history.

Ok, you're just incoherent at this point.


> If I don't know how to behave like a decent human around my female coworkers and peers right now, I would have no idea how to do this when I have more power.

You're talking as if the men in the article don't know that what they're doing is wrong. If some man accidentally does something harmful against a woman, he can learn from those mistakes. A pattern of repeated sexual harassment, though? That's certainly not due to ignorance.


You assume that abuse of power is male only thing. It is not, it is general people thing. The problem is not that men don't know what is right, these know full well what they are doing. Problem is that this behavior is tolerated while women rudely telling that guy off while they are both young is likely to have team turn against her.


> I'm so tired of this "not all men" attitude.

Do you believe that all men are incapable of being decent human beings?

Can I ask why you believe that?


Absolute power corrupts absolutely.


"Teach our sons better" ignores the fact that most people know better and behave better. Plus, it kind of has a generational feedback cycle - do you really want to wait twenty years before figuring out whether this plan works?

Much better is consistently work to undermine the power of folks who behave badly.


Can you write an even more sexist comment? Why not teach our children instead to respect other people?!


Maybe we as men got to let the women know we have their back?

Defend them when they are not around?

Don't stay silent?

I don't know for certain either.


No offence intended, and I realise the detail at the end about picking up the photo seals it for you, but you do realise that sometimes women lie, right? Unless there was written evidence or some other mitigating detail that was unmentioned, it sounds like you wanted the boss to be automatically fired based on nothing more than an accusation from a woman.

I've been in your bosses position, though not in a sex-related situation. A woman accused me of something in a private meeting with me and our manager. It was quite trivial and I can't even remember exactly what it was (this happened years ago), but it was work related - I was her tech lead but not her direct reporting manager and she was accusing me of undermining her, and gave an example of a specific incident that would indeed have been rather bad: if it were true. Which it wasn't.

Fortunately, this woman was an exceptionally bad liar (she lied repeatedly and frequently and had been caught many times but was mysteriously never let go). The conversation she was referring to had happened over email. So our boss asked her to bring it up so he could read it for himself. She proceeded to open her laptop, load the email and read it with the boss sitting next to her. It completely contradicted her account, and the only thing she could find to say was "oh". I remember me and my manager looking at each other with wtf type expressions on our faces.

That woman was eventually promoted into management.

What you described is a classic he-said/she-said situation. Perhaps he did have a crush on her and was a bit creepy, and the girl decided she didn't like that, but he never propositioned her. It sounds like you nor your team really knew the truth, but assumed you did. So why is it surprising to you that nothing happened? You want guilty until proven innocent to apply to you, if one day the tables are turned?


You might have missed this part:

> I made sure to cite it along with his frequent trips to our area where, when she wasn't there, would pick up her photo of her and her boyfriend and just stare at it along with his fraudulent billing of clients


It looks like you didn't read my post, as you missed the first sentence where I explicitly reference that.


> you do realise that sometimes women lie, right? Unless there was written evidence or some other mitigating detail that was unmentioned, it sounds like you wanted the boss to be automatically fired based on nothing more than an accusation from a woman. [..] > What you described is a classic he-said/she-said situation. Perhaps he did have a crush on her and was a bit creepy, and the girl decided she didn't like that, but he never propositioned her. It sounds like you nor your team really knew the truth, but assumed you did. So why is it surprising to you that nothing happened? You want guilty until proven innocent to apply to you, if one day the tables are turned?

Whoa slow down for a second. I gave a very brief overview of some events that related to the topic at hand. I'm not really sure how you took that to mean myself and my team didn't know the truth and we just assumed but I think you're letting your own, personal experience taint experiences others have gone through.

We knew for sure he propositioned her. I get that you had the opposite happen to you. That sucks and, unfortunately, there isn't a great way at dealing with things on either side (IMO anyway). Too many women are not believed and, at the same time, too many women can be believed.

Regardless, if it makes you feel better about my statements, here is just a few things I remember about my boss from approx a decade ago:

- He had done it to at least two other female colleagues one of which shrugged it off as a "that's how guys act" thing and the other, he actually told me she gets "very loose when she's drunk". As you can imagine all employee celebrations had effectively unlimited company drinks purchased for them at whatever restaurant served alcohol. He enjoyed getting everyone drunk.

- He explained, in great detail, what his penis looked like to all of us including the female employees. He threatened it pull it out multiple times but his brother stopped him (his brother directly reported to him). Then he went on to describe his brother's penis in great detail.

- He once hired a woman who he described as a "dirty feminist" and suggested to several of us that we be careful about "triggering her" if we wanted to go out with her.

- He had us interview a woman who was clearly unqualified for a job. After we declined her he repeatedly asked us to re-interview her with easier questions and that we'd "find something for her to do". This eventually boiled down to him calling her several times at home trying to re-re-reinterview her which she then stopped answering him.

- He once told me and a co-worker of mine that I'd be an amazing salesman if I lost some weight because the older women in corporate jobs would "wet themselves" to give us their business.

- He once told me he hired a PI and found out his wife was talking with a divorce attorney. So, he claims, he poked holes in all their condoms and kept stalling her from taking pregnancy tests later so she'd have another kid with him and stay with him longer.

- He had us do other various projects to try and win a customer's money by doing it for free then billing their larger client for the work. I balked at this and refused to do it then he'd log in and change our hours to be against the large contract.

Honestly I could go on and on. The dude was a sleaze bag. Some of this stuff he bragged to all of the male employees about. Trust me, he did it and trust me, many of us reported a lot of his crap and nothing ever happened beyond him being moved horizontally to a different position because he lost too many employees.


> sexual women

Unfortunate typo there.


Oops. Thanks!


Using a throwaway for obvious reasons. I started as an engineer at Uber about 7 months ago and sadly none of this surprises me. I feel for Ms. Fowler and seeing this gives me even greater motivation to leave. I can't speak for the rest of the organization but can say that Uber's engineering org has a lot of assholes like the ones Ms. Fowler describes.

My negative experience doesn't compare to Ms. Fowler's, but what I've seen basically boils down to:

1) Senior engineers and managers who lack anything approaching maturity. A lot of toxic personalities have been promoted into positions of seniority because they were at some point considered high performers. Many managers and senior engineers are concerned mainly with expanding their influence over improving the organization, helping those with less experience or — god forbid — actually getting anything done.

2) Diseased work culture. 60-hour work weeks seen as normal and encouraged as an enactment of Uber's "Always Be Hustling" cultural value. Tons of drinking, sometimes forced on you by your manager or your manager's manager. Too many unhappy, burnt out people fearful of negative performance reviews.

3) A lot of this stems from our CEO, Travis Kalanick, being profoundly out of touch. He's constitutionally incapable of acknowledging the company's real problems (toxic culture, massive unprofitability, drivers who hate us to name a few).

There are some fantastic engineers and plenty of good people at Uber, but the company rewards the bad eggs far too often and it's killing us from within.


If you are sexually harassed, and HR doesn't do anything about it, you should sue. Don't expect HR to change.

If the stories in this article are true, and if the evidence is as strong as the article says it is, this is a slam-dunk case for sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, etc.


Suing would have lots of negative consequences, and few upsides. It would take up months of time, be immensely frustrating, stressful and lead other employers to be wary of you in future (even if most wouldn't admit it). Your name would be dragged through the mud by Uber in an attempt to derail the case, and you'd become an online target for haters (as with Ellen Pao). All for some uncertain monetary reward. Who needs that kind of stress and hassle?

Writing this article (which was superb in its incredulous anger) is a better way to get closure IMO, but this should be her decision alone.


Companies such as Uber will continue these destructive behaviors until they face genuine consequences that impact their bottom line.

You have summarized a number of reasons why I would never ask anyone to volunteer to be the one to accomplish this.

This entire episode will hopefully shine some light on the true difficulties that need to be overcome to promote STEM diversity.


This could lead to genuine consequences, perhaps more than a lawsuit.

Anyway, we shouldn't even be talking about what she is doing, how about the evil actions of Uber?


> Companies such as Uber will continue these destructive behaviors until they face genuine consequences that impact their bottom line.

Having a hard time recruiting is a serious consequence.


If this article catches public attention, Uber will attempt to bring these canons to bear anyway.


They will have less ammunition.

In a suit the defendant can paint the person bringing it as a money grabber (like the people did with the McDonalds hot coffee case.) Someone posting a blog has much less to gain personally, so you just look like a jackass if you try to paint them in a negative light unless they are actually a really bad person.


It's currently the top story on The Verge.


Including a response from Kalanick...That was fast.


HR works for the organisation. It's not there to protect you. Source: work in the HR industry.


This is true, but I should point out that an organization with foresight would not permit harassment of employees, because the long-term cost of the lawsuits and bad publicity will be bad for the organization.


But Uber's entire business plan is about flouting rules and sustainability so that they can become irreplaceable. The sad fact is that they're probably being entirely rational. What's right is often unprofitable, short-term and long-term. Unless they have a big exodus of talent or customers, even a report this embarrassing is unlikely to slow the juggernaut.


That's Uber's strategic focus publically, but HR is an internal department and could conceivably be different, just like how their Marketing team almost certainly doesn't flout (or at least emphasize) flouting of laws.


Working for the organization should also mean avoiding potential lawsuits


Also working for the organization doesn't mean working for that specific middle manager who keeps harassing co-workers.


Yep. No fan of Ellen Pao, but it seems obvious HR did her no favors over at Kleiner Perkins.


Second. The writer and the others should sue, not only to be compensated for their own injuries but to protect others who might be harassed as well.


There are huge professional and personal costs to suing. She has done more by most to protect others by going public. Isn't her job to fix Uber via lawsuit.


Someone needs to do it. It's not any particular person's duty, and she has definitely gone above and beyond by writing this up, but it would be a great public service for someone to bring a (preferably class-action) lawsuit.


Everyone is talking about why she didn't sue. Given the way the courts have ruled recently on binding arbitration, is it possible that she has no recourse to actual courts, just to arbiters? (She never says if such a clause was included in her employment contract, but I know that it has been included in the last two contracts that I signed.) Wouldn't that foreclose her opportunity to sue, and just to go into the much less favorable (for her) arbitration process?


Her choice to write about it might end up being a bigger incentive for change there than a lawsuit.

She tells the story quite well. Probably an ideal story for some journalist(s) to pick up and expand on.


For once, I appear to have guessed correctly :)

Enough impact that Uber is now hiring Eric Holder as a lead investigator.


Uber's employment contract includes an agreement that you won't take them to court.


Wild guess says that companies can't opt themselves out of sexual harassment laws with a simple clause in their contract.


Is that legally enforceable?


Of course not.


I don't know, but it was certainly scary to see.


No.


So when you sue them, you also get fired, if you hadn't quit already. I am pretty confident you'd find a similar clause in any company's employment contract, but even if it wasn't there it would be a safe assumption that any lawsuit brought against a current employer would result in termination.


Suing is great and all, but do you have any idea how hard it is? How much work it is, and how financially and emotionally draining it is? You can't just call up a lawyer, tell them your story, and expect magic justice sprinkles to do the rest. There are retainers to pay, depositions to do, discovery... and the whole process is adversarial _by design_. It's a nightmare. Anyone who's willing to go through it is a goddamn superhero in my book.