Reflecting On One Very, Very Strange Year At Uber
February 19, 2017
As many of we know, we left Uber in Dec and assimilated Stripe in January. I’ve gotten a lot of questions over a past integrate of months about since we left and what my time during Uber was like. It’s a strange, fascinating, and somewhat offensive story that deserves to be told while it is still uninformed in my mind, so here we go.
I assimilated Uber as a site trustworthiness operative (SRE) behind in Nov 2015, and it was a good time to join as an engineer. They were still wrangling microservices out of their monolithic API, and things were usually pell-mell adequate that there was sparkling trustworthiness work to be done. The SRE group was still flattering new when we joined, and we had a singular event to select whichever group was operative on something that we wanted to be partial of.
After a initial integrate of weeks of training, we chose to join a group that worked on my area of expertise, and this is where things started removing weird. On my initial central day rotating on a team, my new manager sent me a fibre of messages over association chat. He was in an open relationship, he said, and his partner was carrying an easy time anticipating new partners nonetheless he wasn’t. He was perplexing to stay out of difficulty during work, he said, nonetheless he couldn’t assistance removing in trouble, since he was looking for women to have sex with. It was transparent that he was perplexing to get me to have sex with him, and it was so clearly out of line that we immediately took screenshots of these discuss messages and reported him to HR.
Uber was a flattering good-sized association during that time, and we had flattering customary expectations of how they would hoop situations like this. I approaching that we would news him to HR, they would hoop a conditions appropriately, and afterwards life would go on – unfortunately, things played out utterly a bit differently. When we reported a situation, we was told by both HR and top government that even nonetheless this was clearly passionate nuisance and he was propositioning me, it was this man’s initial offense, and that they wouldn’t feel gentle giving him anything other than a warning and a harsh talking-to. Upper government told me that he “was a high performer” (i.e. had stellar opening reviews from his superiors) and they wouldn’t feel gentle punishing him for what was substantially usually an trusting mistake on his part.
I was afterwards told that we had to make a choice: (i) we could possibly go and find another group and afterwards never have to correlate with this male again, or (ii) we could stay on a team, nonetheless we would have to know that he would many approaching give me a bad opening examination when examination time came around, and there was zero they could do about that. we remarked that this didn’t seem like many of a choice, and that we wanted to stay on a group since we had poignant imagination in a accurate plan that a group was struggling to finish (it was honestly in a company’s best seductiveness to have me on that team), nonetheless they told me a same thing again and again. One HR repute even categorically told me that it wouldn’t be plea if we perceived a disastrous examination after since we had been “given an option”. we attempted to expand a conditions nonetheless got nowhere with possibly HR or with my possess government sequence (who continued to insist that they had given him a stern-talking to and didn’t wish to hurt his career over his “first offense”).
So we left that team, and took utterly a few weeks training about other teams before alighting anywhere (I desperately wanted to not have to correlate with HR ever again). we finished adult fasten a mint SRE group that gave me a lot of autonomy, and we found ways to be happy and do extraordinary work. In fact, a work we did on this group incited into a production-readiness routine that we wrote about in my bestselling (!!!) book “Production-Ready Microservices.”
Over a subsequent few months, we began to accommodate some-more women engineers in a company. As we got to know them, and listened their stories, we was astounded that some of them had stories identical to my own. Some of a women even had stories about stating a accurate same manager we had reported, and had reported inapt interactions with him prolonged before we had even assimilated a company. It became apparent that both HR and government had been fibbing about this being “his initial offense”, and it positively wasn’t his last. Within a few months, he was reported once again for inapt behavior, and those who reported him were told it was still his “first offense”. The conditions was escalated as distant adult a sequence as it could be escalated, and still zero was done.
Myself and a few of a women who had reported him in a past motionless to all news meetings with HR to insist that something be done. In my meeting, a repute we spoke with told me that he had never been reported before, he had usually ever committed one offense (in his chats with me), and that zero of a other women who they met with had anything bad to contend about him, so no serve movement could or would be taken. It was such a blatant distortion that there was unequivocally zero we could do. There was zero any of us could do. We all gave adult on Uber HR and a managers after that. Eventually he “left” a company. we don’t know what he did that finally assured them to glow him.
In a background, there was a game-of-thrones domestic fight distracted within a ranks of top government in a infrastructure engineering organization. It seemed like any manager was fighting their peers and attempting to criticise their approach administrator so that they could have their approach supervisor’s job. No attempts were finished by these managers to censor what they were doing: they boasted about it in meetings, told their approach reports about it, and a like. we remember large meetings with my managers and skip-levels where we would lay there, not observant anything, and a manager would be braggadocio about anticipating preference with their skip-level and that we should design them to have their manager’s pursuit within a entertain or two. we also remember a unequivocally unfortunate group assembly in that one of a directors boasted to a group that he had funded business-critical information from one of a executives so that he could curry preference with one of a other executives (and, he told us with a grin on his face, it worked!).
The ramifications of these domestic games were significant: projects were deserted left and right, OKRs were altered mixed times any quarter, nobody knew what a organizational priorities would be one day to a next, and unequivocally small ever got done. We all lived underneath fear that a teams would be dissolved, there would be another re-org, and we’d have to start on nonetheless another new plan with an unfit deadline. It was an classification in complete, harsh chaos.
I was propitious adequate during all of this to work with some of a many extraordinary engineers in a Bay Area. We kept a heads down and did good (sometimes great) work notwithstanding a chaos. We desired a work, we desired a engineering challenges, we desired creation this crazy Uber appurtenance work, and together we found ways to make it by a re-orgs and a changing OKRs and a deserted projects and a unfit deadlines. We kept any other sane, kept a enormous Uber ecosystem running, and told ourselves that it would eventually get better.
Things didn’t get better, and engineers began transferring to a reduction pell-mell engineering organizations. Once we had finished adult my projects and saw that things weren’t going to change, we also requested a transfer. we met all of a education for transferring – we had managers who wanted me on their teams, and we had a ideal opening measure – so we didn’t see how anything could go wrong. And afterwards my send was blocked.
According to my manager, his manager, and a director, my send was being blocked since we had undocumented opening problems. we forked out that we had a ideal opening score, and that there had never been any complaints about my performance. we had finished all OKRs on schedule, never missed a deadline even in a violent organizational chaos, and that we had managers watchful for me to join their team. we asked what my opening problem was, and they didn’t give me an answer. At initial they pronounced we wasn’t being technical enough, so we forked out that they were a ones who had given me my OKRs, and if they wanted to see opposite work from me afterwards they should give me a kind of work they wanted to see – they afterwards corroborated down and stopped observant that this was a problem. we kept pushing, until finally we was told that “performance problems aren’t always something that has to do with work, nonetheless infrequently can be about things outward of work or your personal life.” we couldn’t interpret that, so we gave adult and motionless to stay until my subsequent opening review.
Performance examination deteriorate came around, and we perceived a good examination with no complaints whatsoever about my performance. we waited a integrate of months, and afterwards attempted to send again. When we attempted to transfer, we was told that my opening examination and measure had been altered after a central reviews had been calibrated, and so we was no longer authorised for transfer. When we asked government since my examination had been altered after a fact (and since hadn’t they let me know that they’d altered it?), they pronounced that we didn’t uncover any signs of an ceiling career trajectory. we forked out that we was edition a book with O’Reilly, vocalization during vital tech conferences, and doing all of a things that you’re ostensible to do to have an “upward career trajectory”, nonetheless they pronounced it didn’t matter and we indispensable to infer myself as an engineer. we was stranded where we was.
I asked them to change my opening examination back. My manager pronounced that a new disastrous examination we was given had no real-world consequences, so we shouldn’t worry about it. But we went home and cried that day, since even aside from impacts to my income and bonuses, it did have real-world consequences – poignant consequences that my government sequence was unequivocally good wakeful of. we was enrolled in a Stanford CS connoisseur program, sponsored by Uber, and Uber usually sponsored employees who had high opening scores. Under both of my central opening reviews and scores, we competent for a program, nonetheless after this disreputable new disastrous measure we was no longer eligible.
It incited out that gripping me on a group finished my manager demeanour good, and we overheard him braggadocio to a rest of a group that even nonetheless a rest of a teams were losing their women engineers left and right, he still had some on his team.
When we assimilated Uber, a classification we was partial of was over 25% women. By a time we was perplexing to send to another eng organization, this series had forsaken down to reduction than 6%. Women were transferring out of a organization, and those who couldn’t send were quitting or scheming to quit. There were dual vital reasons for this: there was a organizational chaos, and there was also a sexism within a organization. When we asked a executive during an org all-hands about what was being finished about a shrinking numbers of women in a org compared to a rest of a company, his respond was, in a nutshell, that a women of Uber usually indispensable to step adult and be improved engineers.
Things were commencement to get even some-more comically absurd with any flitting day. Every time something absurd happened, any time a sexist email was sent, I’d sent a brief news to HR usually to keep a record going. Things came to a conduct with one sold email sequence from a executive of a engineering classification concerning leather jackets that had been systematic for all of a SREs. See, progressing in a year, a classification had betrothed leather jackets for everybody in organization, and had taken all of a sizes; we all attempted them on and found a sizes, and placed a orders. One day, all of a women (there were, we believe, 6 of us left in a org) perceived an email observant that no leather jackets were being systematic for a women since there were not adequate women in a classification to clear fixation an order. we replied and pronounced that we was certain Uber SRE could find room in their bill to buy leather jackets for the, what, 6 women if it could means to buy them for over a hundred and twenty group . The executive replied back, observant that if we women unequivocally wanted equality, afterwards we should comprehend we were removing equivalence by not removing a leather jackets. He pronounced that since there were so many group in a org, they had gotten a poignant bonus on a men’s jackets nonetheless not on a women’s jackets, and it wouldn’t be equal or fair, he argued, to give a women leather jackets that cost a small some-more than a men’s jackets. We were told that if we wanted leather jackets, we women indispensable to find jackets that were a same cost as a bulk-order cost of a men’s jackets.
I forwarded this absurd sequence of emails to HR, and they requested to accommodate with me shortly after. we don’t know what we approaching after all of my progressing encounters with them, nonetheless this one was some-more absurd than we could have ever imagined. The HR repute began a assembly by seeking me if we had beheld that *I* was a common thesis in all of a reports we had been making, and that if we had ever deliberate that we competence be a problem. we forked out that all we had reported came with endless support and we clearly wasn’t a inciter (or even a categorical character) in a infancy of them – she countered by observant that there was positively no record in HR of any of a incidents we was claiming we had reported (which, of course, was a lie, and we reminded her we had email and discuss annals to infer it was a lie). She afterwards asked me if women engineers during Uber were friends and talked a lot, and afterwards asked me how mostly we communicated, what we talked about, what email addresses we used to communicate, that discuss bedrooms we frequented, etc. – an absurd and scornful ask that we refused to approve with. When we forked out how few women were in SRE, she recounted with a story about how infrequently certain people of certain genders and racial backgrounds were improved matched for some jobs than others, so we shouldn’t be astounded by a gender ratios in engineering. Our assembly finished with her berating me about gripping email annals of things, and told me it was unsuited to news things around email to HR.
Less than a week after this absurd meeting, my manager scheduled a 1:1 with me, and told me we indispensable to have a formidable conversation. He told me we was on unequivocally skinny ice for stating his manager to HR. California is an at-will practice state, he said, that means we can glow we if we ever do this again. we told him that was illegal, and he replied that he had been a manager for a prolonged time, he knew what was illegal, and melancholy to glow me for stating things to HR was not illegal. we reported his hazard immediately after a assembly to both HR and to a CTO: they both certified that this was illegal, nonetheless zero of them did anything. (I was told many after that they didn’t do anything since a manager who threatened me “was a high performer”).
I had a new pursuit offer in my hands reduction than a week later.
On my final day during Uber, we distributed a commission of women who were still in a org. Out of over 150 engineers in a SRE teams, usually 3% were women.
When we demeanour behind during a time we spent during Uber, I’m overcome with recognition that we had a event to work with some of a best engineers around. I’m unapproachable of a work we did, I’m unapproachable of a impact that we was means to make on a whole organization, and I’m unapproachable that a work we did and wrote a book about has been adopted by other tech companies all over a world. And when we consider about a things I’ve recounted in a paragraphs above, we feel a lot of sadness, nonetheless we can’t assistance nonetheless giggle during how absurd all was. Such a bizarre experience. Such a bizarre year.
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