I worked at Uber for nearly a year. When I started, there were fewer than 200 employees at the company total. When I told people where I worked, it was hit or miss whether they even knew what Uber was.
I quit not because of sexism or harassment. I left, quite simply, because of stress. I've since watched events at the company unfold with an alternating sense of fascination, outrage, confusion, and sadness.
I was blindsided by Susan Fowler's blog about straight-up harassment in the engineering department. I never experienced anything even close to that, and was stunned at how bad it was.
I was enraged by board member Bonderman's sexist comment at the Uber board meeting -- that having more women on the board would just lead to "more talking." It was a depressing demonstration of who was in a position of power at the company (not to mention that he is spectacularly wrong: studies repeatedly show men, not women, dominate conversation in meetings.)
I was also very aware of the friends and acquaintances I still had at the company, and the place it was when I left. I felt pushed there, yes, but I also felt supported, encouraged, and known. Colleagues were kind. People went out of their way to help when I needed it.
We were a team.
Last week, Travis resigned from his post as CEO at the behest of Uber's major investors. While many may have celebrated him stepping down, the next day Uber employee Michael York sent an email to the company entitled, "Supporting Travis." It said:
To say the last day has been rough would be the understatement of the year. I was totally crushed last night when I read the news of Travis' resignation.
As many of you know, I joined Uber at 18 dropping out of my freshman year of college. I ditched my education to be here because I was in complete awe of the incredible people around me. I was having the time of my life making something out of nothing with this insanely smart, driven, familial group of people. Of course, no one inspired my decision more than Travis.
In just my first few months at Uber, Travis validated what I'd felt for a lifetime: that it didn't matter where you'd worked. How old you were. How many times you'd failed. All that mattered was what you were capable of. He's always been every Builder's greatest champion, and it's why many of us are here today.
... Nobody is perfect, but I fundamentally believe he can evolve into the leader Uber needs today and that he's critical to its future success. I want the Board to hear from Uber employees that it's made the wrong decision in pressuring Travis to leave and that he should be reinstated in an operational role.
My ask is simple: one click (and an optional note) to express your support for Travis' return. The form is totally anonymous. I will deliver the results to the Board.
Over 1,000 employees have signed the petition so far.
Would I have signed it if I were still at the company?
I don't know.
Should Travis remain CEO through this tumultuous time at Uber?
I don't know. Personally, I feel conflicted about that.
What I do know is that I'm proud of Michael York for taking a stand, for speaking up for what he believes and inviting others to join him. I'm proud of all the employees that signed the petition, and proud of all the employees who didn't. Everyone should be able to make their voice heard in this.
I think it's important, too, to point out Margaret Ann-Seger's contribution to the conversation -- a beautiful Facebook post about Travis, including a section on her own experience at the company. Before Uber she was at Facebook, where she was told she was too aggressive, pushed too hard, wanted too many changes. At Uber, she said, she "could be who I truly am, without being labeled an 'aggressive' woman. I could push on assumptions, move quickly, do whatever work needed to be done whether it was 'in my area' or not, question leadership in an open, earnest environment."
Yes, at the same company at which Susan Fowler worked.
The fact is, we live in a complex, interconnected world. Yet any neuroscientist will tell you our brains don't like complexity. We're wired to fit things into clear categories: a company is either good or bad; a leader either right or wrong; a person either with us or against us.
The problem is, life isn't black or white. Things get messy. Company cultures you thought were good turn out to have ugly shadow sides. People you thought you could rely on let you down. People who relied on you get hurt. The same culture that supported one woman tears another down.
Sorting out and through the messy maze of dysfunction that happens at this and other companies won't be easy. But surely we can make room for multiple voices in the discussion, and the multiple possibilities that come along with that. Surely we can recognize that not only does everyone have the right to be heard, but that it's only when we hear everyone's truth that we have a shot at actually getting to harmony.
So before you write off employees who signed that petition as either victims of some kind of Stockholm syndrome, misguided automatons who've drunk the Uber Kool-aid and don't care about people like Susan Fowler, or just plain wrong for wanting Travis to stay at the company, consider that there may be something deeper going on.
Consider that their truth may be different from yours, and that that doesn't make it any less valid.