I got asked if I wanted to interview as a developer for Uber

A couple of days ago this email turned up in my inbox.  Obviously it was a mass send-out as I’m nowhere near the cream of the crop that these companies usually target.

I saw who it came from.  My parents brought me up to have good manners so I consider it a basic courtesy to respond civilly.  I couldn’t possibly work for a company like that so I told them why.  Perhaps it will nudge them in the direction of change so they could become a company I’d be comfortable working for.  I remain the eternal optimist so sent them the following response:

Hi, Gerry

Thanks for the offer to connect.  I feel honoured in being one of only a probable few hundred who received this email via LinkedIn.

I’m happy to learn my background is a fit for some of your engineering needs.  As with most developers I suffer from ‘imposter syndrome’ and so can’t quite believe that people are actually paying me money to do what I do.  So to be informed I fit “senior engineering needs” does give me some validation that I might actually be vaguely decent at what I do.  Thank you for that.

Then I discover that a large international corporation is possibly interested in my skills. That’s nice for the ego.  I tried doing my own thing for a while – didn’t quite work out because creating a business is very hard.  A job at a big corporation came up recently and thanks to the old girl’s network of which I’m a part they helped me get it.  I’m reasonably happy there.  The work keeps me interested, the people are decent human beings, and they pay me on a regular basis.

So to your offer to request an interview.  Let’s be blunt: Uber doesn’t have good press.  And I say this from a position of experience as someone who has spent a lot of his career working for large banks.  I’m one of the very fortunate people: I’m white; I’m male; I live in a first world country; and I received a free university education (thanks, Gough).  That’s Willy Wonka golden ticket winner.  And all due to factors entirely beyond my control.  I had no say over my sex or skin colour; where I was born (or parents emigrated to); or government decisions about education in my youth.

Having had this knowledge of the sheer luck that informs where I find myself in the world today I have always tried to pay it back in some way.  Or at least feel I can justify to myself that there is some ethical aspect in the jobs I take that do not conflict with my beliefs.  I have ignored jobs with any Rupert Murdoch company for this reason.  I have taken jobs with banks because while there are aspects of their business I disagree with the areas in which I work don’t rub against my beliefs too much.  As with most things in life it’s a balancing act between beliefs and reality.  The reality of needing to pay a mortgage can be balanced against working for a large bank even though I believe a Royal Commission into the banks would be a very good thing.

Then there is Uber.  We’ve all read the Susan Fowler piece.  And that Travis Kalanick resigned over ‘issues’.  And the attempt to screw drivers over pay.  And how surge pricing takes advantage of people when they are most in need.  And the alleged theft of Waymo software.  In short Uber seems somewhat toxic.  Which is a kind way of saying it has a reputation as a misogynistic and abusive culture desperately hoping that will be covered by it promoting itself as something beneficial to the public.  Even the hiring of Bozoma Saint John seems purely tokenistic for marketing reasons rather than a fundamental shift in company culture.

Then there’s the requirement to work in the US.  It does not appear to be a friendly place even though I am male and white.  We have long been aware of the inequality that resides there and which seems to have become even worse since the recent presidential election.  Not that we in Australia can cast too many stones given the increasing level of abuse we exhibit towards refugees, the poor, women, and anyone of colour from Australian governments in the last five years.  Hmmmm, I’m starting to see from where Uber may have got its company culture.

The exceedingly high cost of rents in California for anyone who wishes to live there, the antipathy of the US government to anyone from overseas, the ‘joys’ of dealing with the TSA, the probability you’ll get shot (if Australian by a US police officer), and the knowledge that you’d be working for Uber – the Donald Trump of the tech world – means that this is not an offer I would contemplate.  No doubt some will but I suspect they’ll be saying to friends “don’t tell my mother I work for Uber – she thinks I play piano in a whorehouse”.

Thank you for thinking I may be a suitable candidate but you are not a company in your current form which in all conscience I could ever be associated with.