As most of you know, I left Uber in December and joined Stripe in January. I’ve gotten a lot of questions over the past couple of months about why I left and what my time at Uber was like. It’s a strange, fascinating, and slightly horrifying story that deserves to be told while it is still fresh in my mind, so here we go.
The New York Times has a short review of Susan Fowler’s memoir, Her Blog Post About Uber Upended Big Tech. Now She’s Written a Memoir. Susan Fowler is the courageous engineer who documented the sexism at Uber in a blog post, Reflecting on one very, very strange year at Uber — Susan Fowler. Her blog post from 2017 (the opening of which is quoted above) was important in that drew attention to the bro culture in Silicon Valley. It also led to investigations within Uber and eventually to the co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick being ousted.
The personal stories of people like Fowler need to be connected to the larger histories told by people like Emily Chang in Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley. In this book Chang shows how the culture of computing in Silicon Valley became so toxic – how it evolved from a nerdy culture to a self-justifying bro culture where women aren’t hired because everyone is just hiring friends.
An important book that takes a wider view is that by Margaret O’Mara, The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America. The Code looks at the emergence of Silicon Valley and the role played by governments and free-market entrepreneurship. She connects the bro culture to other patterns. It is the sort of history of the California computing history that needed to be written to replace all the heroic tales.