A farewell to tech

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By Hanna Johnson

 

OPINION When people hear that I'm bidding farewell to the tech industry — a career that appears to be gaining momentum at a salary that allows me to sustain myself in San Francisco — they invariably speculate about the reason.

The reputation of the industry is that it's not always hospitable to women, but that hasn't been my experience. I've had a number of excellent mentors, cheerleaders, and colleagues of both sexes who have supported me during the three years I've spent in tech.

No, my decision to leave tech, at least for now, is that I've become disillusioned with the lack of vision, belief, and risk-taking. While this industry is known for those very characteristics, it shouldn't be. Tech has developed tunnel-vision around the realities, challenges, and possibilities of the real world. This complacent acceptance of the status quo does a disservice to everyone, most of all its own community.

There is a deep irony embedded in the culture that guides and defines the tech industry. It prides itself on being "disruptive," but it has left the major challenges we face as a society and planet — environmental degradation and climate change, growing income disparity, education, and health care — largely untouched, in favor of "sexier" spaces like messaging, gaming, social networking, and eCommerce.

It may be the prerogative of the leaders in tech to decide what they will work to address, but when one considers the data (something tech heads claim to value above all else) — threats to the environment are growing faster and more dire than we can even wrap our minds around — it seems obvious that we must direct our attention, resources, and innovation toward solutions.

But all the tech world talks about is the latest app and how much it might sell for. The privilege woven into the tech industry has blinded us to the issues that will be insurmountable soon, if they're not already, and there is no sense of urgency around any of it.

Not all the challenges are environmental. Our city is filled with the victims of harsh, societal violence. The magnitude and severity of the suffering — people laying face down in the sidewalk, passed out over and under bushes; cardboard camps set up where they strive for some modicum of community; human feces on the sidewalks — would signal a major societal flaw in a developing country, let alone one of the richest cities in one of the richest countries in the world. Something is clearly, deeply broken.

Most of my tech mentors share my passion for having a positive impact on the world — doing meaningful work to put a dent in the massive environmental and social issues that face us. That desire is often what attracts us to one another.

But these people tell me that there will be no job that will meet every level of my need pyramid. My urge to spend my working hours addressing these issues is understandable, they tell me, but unrealistic and naive. Best to continue down the path I'm on, which will be challenging, interesting, and lucrative — if lacking in altruism.

The tech industry has a vision problem. How else do you explain the claim that there is nothing we can do to address problems that we have no choice but to solve? Why can't we entice bright, passionate people to work on these causes and reward them with opportunities that continue to inspire and sustain their life in this city?

The tech industry could dedicate some of its vast resources, brain power, and prestige to help address the major issues we face. But I'm struggling to remain in an industry that seems so clueless that these challenges even exist and are important — significantly more so than Facebook's latest billion-something-dollar acquisition.

Comments

quit tech?

And probably only because they were crap at it anyway?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 08, 2014 @ 3:22 pm

Tech isn't her problem, she is like millions before her, tired of her job and looking for a reason to get out.

All the hippie non sense is just shorthand for "pass the bong"

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2014 @ 8:29 am

and sow ants to run home to mom, or to join the Peter Pan brigade of SF'ers who do not want to grow up

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2014 @ 9:03 am

Where was the "hippie" in her commentary? And where was the "pass the bong?" God, what a fucking lack of compassion and incredible inability to sufficiently listen to what people are saying. It's sad to continually realize that humans are so selfish and crass.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 22, 2014 @ 10:43 pm

"Not all the challenges are environmental. >Our city is filled with the victims of harsh, societal violence< The magnitude and severity of the suffering — people laying face down in the sidewalk, passed out over and under bushes; cardboard camps set up where they strive for some modicum of community; human feces on the sidewalks — would signal a major societal flaw in a developing country, let alone one of the richest cities in one of the richest countries in the world. Something is clearly, deeply broken."

Posted by Guest on Apr. 22, 2014 @ 11:23 pm

99.95% of the people in tech are crap at it, just collecting checks.

Posted by Dan on Apr. 10, 2014 @ 2:06 pm

and just because mommy and daddy in Woodside can bankroll her Peter Pan fantasies

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2014 @ 2:17 pm

she really wants to do.

Gee, Hanna, welcome to the club. That is why it is called work.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 08, 2014 @ 3:23 pm

but I guess I'd want to know how one defines "tech."

aren't tech companies coming up with the drugs that cured not only my cancer, but millions of people's cancers and continue to do so? Not to mention AIDS drugs and an endless variety of other vaccines?

aren't tech companies coming up with bio-remeditation systems that can be injected into the ground that "eat" contamination from leaking underground storage tanks and whatnot? aren't they trying to figure out how to get CO2 out of our atmosphere, or at the very least trying to figure out ways to decrease our emissions?

I get it, if you aren't being fulfilled at your work, move on and find something that "does it" for you, but I'm not sure I'm buying that the tech world isn't concerned with many of the major issues we are facing here in SF, the US, and worldwide.

are there d-baggy people in tech who are only in it for the $, who only care about inventing some dumb app and cashing out? A thousand times YES, but what field doesn't have people like that in it?

like I said, good luck, Hannah, I mean that sincerely and hope that my post doesn't come across as a slam or trollish, as that is very much not my intent.

Posted by guest on Apr. 08, 2014 @ 3:32 pm

as it does in the welfare of few individuals, I guarantee you, AIDS and Cancer would be history long time ago. I know for sure that tech brings about more cancer than it had cured by the way. Just do the research on "Google" ;)

Posted by Dan on Apr. 10, 2014 @ 1:56 pm

Who do you think pays most of the taxes? These same folks.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2014 @ 2:14 pm

After the passage of Proposition 30, the top 1% in California pay 80% of the state income taxes.

That's not enough, obviously...

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2014 @ 2:23 pm

exceed their ability. Why work for your rewards when you believe you can extort them from others?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2014 @ 2:39 pm

Go spread your lies on Redstate or something. I have debunked you repeatedly.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Apr. 13, 2014 @ 9:08 pm

One of the main benefits of working in software is that one gets exposed to a wide range of applications and work environments over one's work lifetime.

Yes, the tone of the industry has taken a turn for the douchey, but a choosy engineer can bide his or her time until they find the right fit such as location in the City, application outside of spying and advertising, technology looking forward and, if lucky, an application that helps people meet real needs.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 09, 2014 @ 6:10 am

"The tech industry could dedicate some of its vast resources, brain power, and prestige to help address the major issues we face. "

I'm optimistic that over the long haul, the influx of intelligent people to San Francisco will mean far more progress on these issues than the catastrophic mess that 30+ years of goofy, feel-good but destructive progressive policies have accomplished.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 09, 2014 @ 6:30 am

100% of all scientists are 100% certain the earth is not flat, smoking WILL cause cancer and evolution is “proven”.
But after 32 years of CO2 research 97.6% of all CO2 scientists are now 95% certain climate change is real and is happening and COULD (never will so far) lead to unstoppable warming. Find us one IPCC warning that “believes” beyond “could be” and says; “inevitable” or “eventual” like they say comet hits are but not their own comet hit of a CO2 climate crisis?

For the worst crisis imaginable (a climate crisis), we deniers demand 110% certainty from the world of science not the “belief” consensus of a goose stepping mob of “believers”, news editors and politicians. You can't "believe" more than science does. Who's the neocon?

Posted by mememine69 on Apr. 09, 2014 @ 6:45 am

After reading Hannah Johnson's opinion essay, one word comes to mind: Sanctimonious. Having worked with “marketing engineers” I remember the conflicts that resulted in my termination of employment and a few times, relief and satisfaction that they had been terminated.

Posted by Awayneramsey on Apr. 09, 2014 @ 1:07 pm

Hanna has seen the light! Or at least she is getting out to see the world while she is young, strong, healthy and optimistic. We all see the reasons why and frankly, she was easy on them! Not to throw a drop of cold water, but as someone who tried such escaping last year (not tech) be careful and have a back up plan. Life can throw so many life wrecking curve balls so fast, and all we have to do is look around our city to see this place doesn't care how far or fast you fall, and there is apparently never a bottom. In short, I was recently trying to flee INTO Tech and found them all nearly impossible to talk with, and nearly impossible to discuss anything outside of a very narrow job range, and after witnessing the advisory board on the tax breaks, I will have to say, there is no enforcement teeth and the tech companies know it. They'll continue to Twitter their self praise for inventing homeless apps, and Yelp review places they eat lunch at and think that's what their millions in tax breaks were for. And just so you don't think I'm picking on them, no one talks about rich foreigners driving the real estate and rents up, and some of them made fortunes in the most backwards Earth and people killing ways. But there's not a bus for them is there?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 09, 2014 @ 6:17 pm

She also grew up in Woodside.

The rich have options not available to the rest of us.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2014 @ 9:18 am

Trust fund chick who feels your pain.

Or not.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2014 @ 12:19 pm

"Hanna Johnson worked in tech marketing, follow her new journey at TheRoadsToRoam.com."

The first sentence of her latest blog post on TheRoadsToRoam.com:

"I bought a one-way ticket to Belize last week."

Just another working stiff...

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2014 @ 1:19 pm

giving up a career isn't so high risk if you have rich parents to fall back on.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2014 @ 1:29 pm

As usual the Guardian picks some of the worst examples to butt trumpet out.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2014 @ 1:50 pm

She's a marketer, not a tech person, she could work in any industry that has to convince people to buy their stuff.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 10, 2014 @ 10:19 am

and prosper and, like so many who fail, blames everyone and everything but herself.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2014 @ 10:29 am

What are you going to do?

Posted by Christopher Lasch's Ghost on Apr. 10, 2014 @ 11:58 am

Why is everyone attacking this girl for leaving tech for a reason that is very understandable by some, if not many? I am sure you all have done or not done something for reasons that are less understandable. It is her right! Besides, she attacked tech, big deal. Its not like you invented it. Those who did, probably are busy doing something as opposed to spewing some venom to some free individual who has a "freedom of expression". You all need to stop being wannabe tech guy/gal and get a life. The douchebagery and pretension infiltrating San Francisco through the name of tech is repulsive to the normal eye.

Posted by Dan on Apr. 10, 2014 @ 2:04 pm

so many people have no choice but to do a job they don't like, because they have a family to support.

Nut this little rich kid can afford to quit and swan off to Belize because she has rich parents.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2014 @ 2:16 pm

Being financially secure enough to leave tech marketing to travel the world is a fine thing.

To pretend that you are leaving tech, because tech is somehow responsible for people shitting on the streets in San Francisco, is a bit over the top.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2014 @ 2:21 pm

Nailed it.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 22, 2014 @ 8:48 pm

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Hello Hanna,

I found your article profoundly and pointedly personal and political at once. I hope you're aware that much of the negative response above is a perfect articulation of so many of your piece's well-articulated thoughts.

I'm a local independent filmmaker who has also 'stepped back' in my own way, but for very similar reasons. Perhaps we can meet to commiserate and swap stories and notes for surviving these challenging times.

Please feel free to shoot me an email.

Best, Ken

Posted by Ken Paul Rosenthal on Apr. 12, 2014 @ 1:07 am

Hello Hanna,

I found your article profoundly and pointedly personal and political at once. I hope you're aware that much of the negative response above is a perfect articulation of so many of your piece's well-articulated thoughts.

I'm a local independent filmmaker who has also 'stepped back' in my own way, but for very similar reasons. Perhaps we can meet to commiserate and swap stories and notes for surviving these challenging times.

Please feel free to shoot me an email.

Best, Ken

Posted by Ken Paul Rosenthal on Apr. 12, 2014 @ 1:09 am

Hello Hanna,

I found your article profoundly and pointedly personal and political at once. I hope you're aware that much of the negative response above is a perfect articulation of so many of your piece's well-articulated thoughts.

I'm a local independent filmmaker who has also 'stepped back' in my own way, but for very similar reasons. Perhaps we can meet to commiserate and swap stories and notes for surviving these challenging times.

Please feel free to shoot me an email.

Best, Ken

Posted by Ken Paul Rosenthal on Apr. 12, 2014 @ 1:10 am

Get yourself along to one of the hundreds of.civic hacks, Code for America or other grass roots tech groups building apps that make a difference and help out e.g. http://www.theguardian.com/media-network/media-network-blog/2014/apr/14/...

Posted by james tyack on Apr. 14, 2014 @ 5:14 am

Tech doesn't need this pathetic excuse for a person. People complain about tech all the time, but it's because they are losers. They complain about losing San Francisco. Well guess what! You deserved it! San Francisco is for the best and the smartest. Always has been always will be. If you can't afford it, guess what? It's because you suck at what you do.

I'm sick of these "tech" is killing San Fran articles. It was dead until we came here. I don't need another botulism toaco stand or a stupid bike lane. It's only going to get better now.

Get out of tech now and move to russia.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2014 @ 5:57 pm

You arrogant, naive fuck. SF has been alive and vibrant, regardless of tech, for many decades. The notion that tech resuscitated SF is both arrogant and completely untrue. Mayor Ed Lee enjoys throat-fucking tech companies because he is a weak-minded simpleton looking for basic solutions and short-term payouts. It's interesting that you suggest SF is for the best and smartest, and suggest that finances define these categories, because you provide no data to support your claims. SF was never dead, and it sure as fuck was not dead before tech. This is exactly the issue at play, in particular that tech reveres itself as more vital and important than it is. I can't speak for others but I sure as fuck hope that you develop botulism and die a worthless death.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 22, 2014 @ 11:00 pm

Well, there was one recent offer from somebody in tech to supply SF schools with tech equipment and training, but there's a greater need for more basic stuff -- history, English, ceilings that aren't caving in, and other students who have the means but haven't peeled off into private schools.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 24, 2014 @ 1:00 pm

Hello folks, you can't expect tech to solve the worlds problems, pooping and peeing on the street by homeless people, passed out people on the sidewalk, and homeless persons and the ills of the city. What are we to do?

Through more money at the problem, give them are paychecks and baby someone who by choice wants to live this way. I am for helping those who want the hold, serious about getting help which means coming to the city and really asking for help.

The Tech Industry is not to blame for the problems of San Francisco.

Posted by Garrett on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 10:26 am

Some people just like to write and talk about "pooping and peeing" all day long.

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