Silicon Valley responds to our call to disrupt itself

Broader horizons.
Broader horizons.
Image: Reuters/Robert Galbraith
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This post has been corrected.

The culture in Silicon Valley has become insular and toxic, says Carlos Bueno, an engineer with a 7-year tenure in the Valley. Pointing out the danger of a work culture that has become too homogeneous, and dominated by white and Asian males, he made the following plea to those who run Silicon Valley’s “culture“:

“Instead of demanding that others reflect your views, reflect on yourself. Try to remember the last time someone successfully changed your mind. Try, just for a moment, to suppose that it’s probably  unnatural for an industry to be so heavily dominated by white and Asian middle-class males under 30 who keep telling each other to only hire their friends.”

Here is how a few Silicon Valley entrepreneurs reacted to his call to disrupt the “brogrammer” culture:

Ingrid Sanders, founder and CEO, popexpert

As a 30-something female tech entrepreneur in San Francisco, I am certainly an outlier, statistically speaking. That being said, rather than worry about what might be cool in “the valley” I focus every day on taking the steps necessary to build a business that has a meaningful impact on our consumers and a positive financial outcome for our team and investors.

I seek to surround myself with people—investors, team members, advisors, friends—that care a lot less about hype and what is “cool” than they do about building a company with a big opportunity, healthy metrics and a positive double bottom line.

At the end of the day, when you cut out the chatter and focus on the hard work it takes to build a company, you realize that none of the hype really matters anyway and that the people who are successfully building the type of companies that endure come in all shapes and sizes.

Popexpert provides online workshops and a marketplace to find and meet experts over live, face-to-face video sessions.

Dan Pickett, c

o-founder, Launch Academy

It’s undeniable that how we evaluate job candidates is flawed and subject to bias. While we’ve improved in taking away some of the needless formalities of the process, the relaxed nature of the “Silicon Valley interview” can cause confusion as to how the candidate is being evaluated. This can introduce a gray area between cultural fit and conformity, especially at the onset of a relationship.

We’ve found that the best way to evaluate a candidate is to simulate how they will actually perform the work. Our hiring partners glean the most insight via pair programming with candidates. The candidate will build a small feature with a technical hiring manager playing a supporting role. A short exercise like this can provide a fair depiction of the job to both the employer and employee.

The interview process is still a human experience, so likeability and compatibility will be an implicit, but enduring metric.

Launch Academy is an immersive education program for software developers.

Iman Jalali,

former president of TrainSignal

The truth of the matter is that Carlos is right, but the problem goes further than Silicon Valley. The problem is the same from coast to coast and there’s no sign of it getting any better.

We need more women in tech, we need more diversity in business, we need diversity for new ideas, new viewpoints. And tech deeply needs more humility.

Let’s get off our high horses. I’m pretty sure Mark Zuckerberg won’t think younger people are just smarter when he hits 40.

TrainSignal provides workplace computer training services to corporate clients.

Ross Beyeler, f


Growth Spark

In my experience, I’ve found that success in a startup is about maintaining motivation against incredible odds. When looking to grow your team and having multiple conversations with multiple candidates, conversations that reinforce your vision, powered by “similar language,” are much greater motivators than conversations that challenge it. I think it’s because of this that we experience a bias towards hiring people “like us’ (i.e. those that fit the invisible culture).

At our company, we do screen for culture. In all honesty, that screening is usually just a one-hour lunch with the team and ‘success’ is primarily dictated by a gut reaction to the time spent with the candidate. That being said, we do try to provide the candidate with an opportunity to share stories that would touch upon our core values as a company. Something we value highly is the continued pursuit of teaching oneself and those around them. We’ll often prime the conversation to see how the candidates have incorporated “teaching” into their career.

Growth Spark provides strategy, design and technology services to help e-commerce companies grow.

Jake Jolis, c

ofounder and CEO, Verbling


The talent war is real. Smart companies will go to great lengths to get the best people, with little regard to the trivialities the author mentions. Of course, these companies won’t at all hire in pursuit of disrupting Silicon Valley culture, but simply in order to win.

The reason “mirrortocracy” will continue to sustain itself is because hiring within your own network—where people tend to be similar to yourself—is easier than chasing cold leads. Recruiting people you know is a tried and true tactic. Because it works, it won’t go away.

The best companies, however, will be able to sell their vision to candidates outside their own networks, outside Silicon Valley, and even outside the US. By doing so, they grow the addressable talent pool available to the company.

For example, smart companies are starving to hire foreign talent. The H1-B visa cap is the primary government regulation responsible for bottlenecking high-growth, American technology companies, and perhaps the evolution of their cultures as well.

Verbling is an online video chat language school.

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Correction: A previous version of this post mistakenly referred to Bueno’s last name as Danger. Bueno has been working as an engineer for 20 years, 7 of which spent in the Valley. Jalili’s response had mischaracterized a comment by Max Levchin on diversity; he was referring to diversity of thought.