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Do We Hate Silicon Valley? August 9, 2014

Posted by Peter Varhol in Technology and Culture.
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The short answer is probably not. Despite perceived failings (many of which are real and serious), most people admire the entrepreneurial spirit and dedication of those who toil in pursuit of innovation and well, yes, riches.

Disclosure: I am a 30-year card-carrying member of the tech community in general, but not in Silicon Valley, except for occasional travel.

Is it true that startup companies in Silicon Valley lack diversity? Sure. Are they sexist? Almost certainly. Do they have juvenile cultures? Do they shun older workers? Some of them. Do they like it that way? Probably. Do they even realize any of these things? In most cases, no.

Is any of this a problem? Probably, in the aggregate. Silicon Valley startups are doing themselves no favors by supporting the status quo. All too often, the search for a ‘cultural fit’ means that they want someone just like everyone else at the company. Many of them are smart people, but that just isn’t very smart.

Is this a problem as an individual job seeker? I will offer that it is a minimal annoyance; do you really want to work for a company that is so shortsighted and well, stupid? They don’t want you, and you should not want them. Whether or not their attitudes go against both fairness and legality, it will likely be a marriage made in Hell.

My biggest problem with Silicon Valley today, oddly enough, stems from my perceived *lack* of innovation. There are simply too many startups with similar business models (social networks, anyone?), or with trivial business models (Yo!) that venture capitalists seem determined to fund, not out of any desire to advance the state of the art, but for largely unknown reasons. Could the VCs be playing with our minds?

I’ve recently concluded a job search. My search has included a number of Silicon Valley companies (I’ve often worked remotely). I am a white male, though certainly an older worker. With clearly younger interviewers, I’ve rarely gotten past the screening stage. My best successes have come with small companies with a healthy dose of older and more experienced workers. They do exist, and on the surface appear to be more open-minded.

To be fair, no large and established technology company (IBM, HP, etc.) will hire me either. This probably has more to do with my diverse background than any personal characteristic; I simply have no qualifications to fill a predefined and rigid slot in a corporate maze.

Is this bias? Sure, but in my mind it speaks more to fit than to qualifications. Virtually all employers are biased in their hiring practices in some way; it’s only against the law if the recipient is protected in some way. And even if a company violates those protections, intentionally or unintentionally, it’s not hate-worthy. But who would want to work there?

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