It’s the hard conversations. Like a lot of people are still trying to find a way around not having these hard conversations, come to these real truths about how their approaching business and the
structure and the system that we all live in. And if Google doesn’t have the power to go against the system in terms of what they see people as and how they treat people it makes it so much harder for all these other companies. Because now they can just point to the big behemoth in the room is saying: “They’re profitable. They’re making money hand-over-fist” why…why…”If they don’t need to do it, why should we do it?” Umm, I think time and time again we talk about when you invest in people color you invest in people who are under-represented that the money is 10 times. 3 times, 1 and a half times more in terms of an investment than traditional let’s say funding streams. But people are putting their money where their mouths are. In terms of even using data, a data-driven company like Google saying that we need to invest here not just because it’s the right thing to do for humanity. I mean, yes… But it’s this is actually…it’s a good investment. This is going to help sustain us as a company.
Wesley Faulkner is a first-generation American. He is a founding member of the government transparency group Open Austin and ran for Austin City Council in 2016. His professional experience also includes work as a social media and community manager for the software company Atlassian, and various roles for the computer processor company AMD, Dell, and IBM. Wesley Faulkner serves as a board member for South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) and is a Developer Advocate for Daily.
Kim Crayton: Hello everyone, and welcome to today’s episode of the #CauseAScene podcast. My guest today is Wesley Faulkner, pronouns he/him, and I have to be honest, I don’t remember—life has been so wild that I don’t even remember why I wanted to speak to Wesley? But I know it’s important, so here we go! So Wesley, please introduce yourself to the audience.
Wesley Faulkner: Hello, my name is Wesley Faulkner. I’m based out of Austin, Texas. I’ve been in tech for over 20 years, but right now in my current role, I’m a developer advocate for Daily, which is an API-based platform which allows you to either make your own Zoom-like interface or use video in a way that integrates the experience into your application. So the difference between Zoom—Zoom has Z apps or zapps where the applications are in Zoom—Daily’s API allows you to do the other way around, so you can add video to your applications.
Kim: OK. So we start this conversation as we always do, and because you are a listener, you know where we’re going with this. Why is it important to cause a scene? And how are you causing a scene, Wesley?
Wesley: I’ve been thinkin’ about this question, and it’s been rolling around my head, and I was thinking of it from my experience, that it’s not a choice. I feel that the world itself needs to accept me in a way that I can accept myself, and so it’s important to cause a scene so that—for myself—that I can be seen and I can be heard. And I’ve gone through the road of tryin’ to change myself, tryin’ to edit myself, tryin’ to censor myself, that causes internal harm and damage, and self loathing and shame. And mentally that is not sustainable.
And so I cause a scene by being myself and tryin’ to show up. And it’s important to cause a scene not only for my own stability and sustainability, but to hopefully make room and push the edges enough to allow more diverse thought and more diverse experiences to have that same room that I’m trying to make for myself.
Kim: Mmph. Hm. So, I guess I’ll start with a content warning. This is obviously going to be a mental health episode. So [laughs] just know that, and we’re gonna go full-on, because this podcast is not censored. We tell real stories, because we’ve pussyfooted around things for too long, [Wesley laughs] and we need to hear—so you were gonna tell me, and I was like, “Wait till we got on the air”—to tell me what brought you to my attention?
Wesley: I think what brought you on my radar is your experience with dealin’ with diversity and inclusion, and making sure that people see the light. And those who need to see the light may not always hear what you need, but those who are seeking information, you are lucky enough to put it out there for people to pick up. And my own journey is for podcasts and for me to get my own word out. I’ve put out there on Twitter, sayin’ I’m lookin’ to speak, I’m lookin’ to talk; one, because I’m trying to get my reps in to be a better speaker, and two, because of my job; I’m a developer advocate, my job is to get the word out, to get out there, to get visible.
And so, the voice I’m trying to develop is on tech, on diversity and inclusion—and that includes neurodiversity—and also to evangelize my company. And so when I put that tweet out, apparently several people sent a message to you about me, and said I should be on your show. So that matchmaking was done by some third party that I still don’t know who is, [Kim laughs] that you tried to respond to via DM, but it turns as an “at” reply out publicly.
Kim: Ah! OK, ahh yes, I remember that, ’cause I was like, “Who is it?” Yes. OK, somebody sent it to me, and I was like, “Who is this person?” And you’re like, “You probably made a mistake, but I’m gonna tell you who I am anyway.” And I was like, “Well first of all, I like that gumption! But go ‘head.” And based on that, it was like, “OK, let’s…”—now I remember. Oh lord, that seems like so long ago. [Laughs]
Wesley: That was last year. That was when we still had one country.
Kim: [Laughs] Woo! OK, so I wrote a note here, because the thing that hits me is—for someone who follows me, you know I am always talkin’ about tech is not neutral, nor is it apolitical. And when you have companies like Brian Armstrong at Coinbase, and you have Paul Graham at Y Combinator, and you have the fictitional… pfff—I don’t even know what to call ’em—like the Uncle Bobs of the world, espousing these libertarian, “apolitical” mess when… we’re no longer making widgets. We are in a knowledge economy, and we need to be hiring people for their lived experience. And to expect people to leave their lived experiences at the door or on the table before they log into a computer and then pickin’ it back up is just absolutely ridiculous.
And I took a note and I just drew a line, “Job.” And then I said, “Mental health.” And this is what folx don’t understand about inclusion, diversity, and equity work. It’s not the pipeline. It is that we have shitty systems, institutions and policies in place. And “shitty” is mild, because most of them are downright harmful and racist and discriminatory and oppressive. And to expect people to leave their mental health—whether that is deemed by the mental health community as healthy or depressive or suicidal or whatever—is unbelievable.
And we had a good example of that with the insurrection attempt—or insurrection—on January 6th, because people—the country was on fire basically—and employers acted as if nothing had happened and was expectin’ people to behave as if nothing had happened. We have to stop doing this! We have to stop acting as if the environment, the systems with which we operate, don’t impact the people, the partners, the customers and the investors, as well as the products and services that we create!
Wesley: And also, I gotta say, what happened on the 6th also was scary to me, but the same people and the same activities that were happening on the 6th happened on the 5th and the days before that.
Kim: Yep! And since.
Wesley: And tech is respondin’, but they’re not retroactively responding, ’cause when people were makin’ these threats online—to you and me and people—sayin’ they’re gonna cut Dr Fauci’s head off, tech is not retroactive in saying, “That was my mistake. We should have taken it more seriously.” That retroactive, retrospective…
Kim: Oh, I got blocked! I got blocked. No, got locked out of my account. Because someone decided to comment on—I don’t know if you saw the video of the police officer walking the ol’ white lady down the stairs—and I quote retweeted, “This is what white supremacy looks like.” And I don’t know why white folx can’t just shut the fuck up—’cause that’s an option; they never do—he comes into my thread, makes a comment, and I just, all caps, “Fuck you! Fuck the ol’ white supremacist blah, blah, blah.” I get reported because I’m “abusive and harassing.” You came to me!
And so it’s—like what you just said—so not only they’re not retroactive, it’s everything is equal. So they have this whole swing, and so I got locked out for 12 hours the same day Trump got permanently suspended. So you’re treatin’ everybody the same at this point. [Laughs] How am I harassin’ and abusing when I’m replying to someone else?
Wesley: I think that’s a really good point, that…
Kim: And it’s not the first time that’s happened! [Laughs]
Wesley: It’s inequity, in terms of—even on the platform itself—of not understanding the difference of how abuse happens and the weight of a “not all men” kind of reply to a conversation, and how harmful, because it leaves room and perpetuates this misunderstanding that being confused on this subject is still OK. [Both laugh]
It’s almost like, “I haven’t learned that fire burns and I’m a middle-aged man.” You should know that. And it shouldn’t have taken this long, but now that everyone’s talkin’ about it and now it’s on fire and then you’re still like, “Well, wait, hold on a second.” People need to take a pause.
Kim: Mhm. Mhm. [Laughs]
Wesley: I think I have I have access to Google—I’m not sure if you do [Kim laughs]—but it’s almost like…
Kim: [Feigning confusion] It’s so complicated. I don’t know. [Chuckles]
Wesley: It’s almost like you just look at your news feed, and there are plenty of ways to get the information you need, and if you are still confused—I’m not one to say you should be embarrassed—but definitely you should look inside yourself and say, “I need help, maybe professional help.” And I don’t mean that in a derogatory, “you’re crazy”…
Kim: Mhm, yes. Exactly.
Wesley: It’s more like, pay a service, find someone to help you through this.
Kim: And that’s what I’ve been talkin’ about: I’m no longer, we are no longer responsible for managing the feelin’s of white people. Go get therapy. Deal wit’ yo shit. [Giggles]
Wesley: And I’ve been saying this a long time, and I’m hoping that one day you or someone else takes this on, but we need a white supremacy privilege rehab.
Kim: Oh, it’s so funny that you just said that because somebody said we need a white fragility boot camp.
Wesley: Or something like, someone who’s like, “I was there at the rally”—you see all the apologies coming out right now, I bet, right? They should say, “I’m now gonna be in Kim’s rehab for white supremacy [Kim giggles] and white privilege, and I’ll be away, I’ll be out of the media attention for the next six weeks.”
Kim: [Laughs heartily] “I’m sequestering myself for 30 days.” [Continues laughing]
Wesley: And then that’s how you repair your reputation, is being able to actually take a really good hard look at yourself, and what you’ve done, and the harm you’ve caused, and not fall apart and saying, “I’m a horrible person.”
Kim: Ohhh, lord.
Wesley: What you did is horrible. What you’re hurtin’ people is horrible. Fix it. And…
Kim: And so you’re sayin’ they should stop ascribing to the, “I say some privileged shit, I get called out on that privileged shit, I fall to pieces, I delete the tweets, close my account and come back two weeks later as if nothing happened.”?
Wesley: Yes. [Both laugh] I mean, it is. But the thing is…
Kim: It’s such a script. It is such a script!
Wesley: Let’s give some space, that playbook has worked many times. [Both laugh]
Kim: Oh, most definitely! Because as soon as they come back, everybody’s like,” Oh, thank you for sharing how much you’ve learned and grown,” and we’re Black people sittin’ back like, “What the fuck!?” [Laughs]
Wesley: Yes. Take your daddy hat off and have a seat [Kim laughs] and maybe listen for a bit to make some changes goin’ forward, and it’s scary that we spike in this way, as a country. George Floyd, of course, people are doing this signalling of saying, “This is wrong, and this is what we’re gonna do to try to fix this.” And then you hear stuff like at Google with Timnit Gebru about what happened to her and be like, “Mmm. Really?”
Kim: And see that—and I know when Google did they reward / risk evaluation, they did not understand the impact of a Black woman who checks all the boxes and y’all still gaslit her ass and fired her, and they did not expect the blowback that they got. They thought it was gonna be her goin’ off quietly. They did not expect the community backlash, ’cause that coulda easily been—’cause it happens all the time. But she checks every freakin’ box, everything you said that we need, and you still gaslit her.
Wesley: It’s the hard conversations. A lot of people are still tryin’ to find a way around not having these hard conversations, comin’ to these real truths about how they’re approaching business and the structure and the system that we all live in, and if Google doesn’t have the power to go against the system in terms of what they see people as and how they treat people, it makes it so much harder for all these other companies, because now they can just point to the big behemoth in the room and say, “They’re profitable, they’re making money hand over fist. Why, why—if they don’t need to do it, why should we do it?”
I think time and time again we talk about when you invest in people of color, you invest in people who are underrepresented, that the money is 10 times, 3 times, 1.5 times more in terms of investment than traditional, let’s say, funding streams. But people aren’t puttin’ their money where their mouths are in terms of even using data; a data-driven company like Google saying that, “We need to invest here, not just because it’s the right thing to do for humanity—I mean, yes—but this is actually a good investment. This is gonna help sustain us as a company.”
Wesley: This is actually…
Kim: It’s good for our business.
Wesley: …it’s a good investment. This is gonna help sustain us as a company.”
Kim: Mhm. Yep, yep. So I want to get into more of your personal story, because I want people to understand—again, content warning, this is mental health—and I want you to just, because you wanted to tell your story, so I’m gonna put myself on mute so you can tell your story.
Wesley: So, I would say most recently—and I’m not gonna mention the company—I had a role where… the way that I approach things, the way that I talk to people, the way that I have care and feeding of my community, that that was seen as something that was worthy, that was something that they wanted to—an essence that they wanted to bring into their company. And it was one of those things where it’s like, “We’ve seen you, we’ve seen your work, you’re amazing, you’re awesome.”
And I was brought in—and I’m not gonna say the company; and a lot of what I’m saying is probably applicable to many companies in my history, so if you’re lookin’ at what jobs I’ve had, you probably wouldn’t be able to pinpoint it. But, it’s one of those things where, when I came into the company, it didn’t matter what I did in terms of results, there was always an over-emphasis on how I did it. And so I was recognized as something who’s doing something different, doing something noticeable, doing something that is genuine, connecting and honest.
And then when I was brought into the company—many of these companies say they are inclusive, and they really want diversity. Of course, many of those companies, in terms of inclusive, means assimilation; that culture is good as long as it’s our culture, and the dominant culture is usually not one that has a lotta hues in it.
And in those systems, when I was brought in to be the expert, the person who is gonna help lead the way, it was less important about whether when I did the things that I did that did get the results that they initially said they wanted, that if it wasn’t movin’ the needle in the way they thought I would be movin’ the needle; if I didn’t take the route that I felt matched up what they wanted, but more what they needed.
And usually the self-identifying say, “We need help, we need help getting connected with people. We need help with connecting with our users. We need help hearing that feedback and acting on it.”
The way that I did it, usually with more care, more focused on the individual, more understanding their individual needs instead of broadcasting and placating and just totally marketing to people with telling them what they wanted and how we are and polishing the image—it’s hard for me personally to say, “Hey, we didn’t screw up,” when we screw up—and that type of transparency was something that scared a lot of my previous employers.
So, copy-paste that for several roles, several jobs. And so what I’m getting back is I’m bad at my job. What I’m getting back is that I’m not doing the stuff that’s on the checklists. Things I’m getting back is that I’m not a team player. Things I’m getting back is that I’m taking too much ownership, or not enough ownership. I’m too vocal, I’m not vocal enough. That I spend too much time fighting for individual issues for people instead of focusing on the bigger picture and bringing in revenue.
And the disconnect from people from thinking that what I’m doing in terms of customer loyalty and retention is akin to not spending money for people who are gonna just kinda churn, and reaching the wrong audience. The right audience is what we need, not just an audience.
When we talk about “there’s a pipeline problem,” and you see numbers staying steady for these tech companies, what they’re not reporting a lot of is churn. What if they had retention of every single one of those employees for each of those columns every single year? I bet they wouldn’t be as steady in terms of these single digit percentages in these tech companies.
It’s almost as if when they they see me, it’s like they have an apartment and they don’t have ice and they’re like, “Hey, I’m lookin’ around, I don’t have ice,” and I’m the ice, and they bring me to the apartment and they’re like, “OK, we fixed the problem with ice,” and then I melt there on the counter, and then they just get more ice instead of making a freezer, buying a freezer, and then making sure there’s an environment to sustain the problem that they’ve recognized already.
Kim: This is a very simple and very clear example. Thank you for that, that was amazing. [Laughs]
Wesley: Yes. And so, especially this summer with—I lost my job—George Floyd and racial protests happened, I was green lit [Wesley means “gaslit”] by saying all of this past history stuff about me not being good at my job, me not executing well—even though a third party assessment would just say, “This is so not true”—being singled out, being told that diversity is too much of a focus; in fact, a distraction.
Dealing with all this, it made me re-evaluate, am I good? Am I just denying what people are saying? There’s so much evidence, there’s so much evidence stacked up that’s saying that I’m a crap person, that what I do is crap, and what I believe in is crap, and my gut feeling of taking care of people is crap. And so everything that is natural to me got put through this filter and say my instincts, my gut reaction, my reflexes, is what makes me a bad person, and mentally that was extremely taxing on me. And I thought about if I can’t be accepted, if there’s no place that will accept me, maybe I shouldn’t be in this world; maybe I should just delete the problem because I feel like I’m the problem.
I’m lucky that I have a lot of caring friends, a caring community to have conversations, and family members that helped me understand that I am not the problem. The world is the problem, these people are the problem. And it has supercharged me even more to find my voice, find my passion and to put it out there, and not let the world dictate my own values.
And just like you—I know you said that, I think recently, you tested as ADHD—I’m ADHD as well. I’m also dyslexic, and so, these “problems”—I’m using air quotes—these “problems” are just a different way of seeing things and doing things to the point where that is the true beauty of diversity, is being able to see things at multiple angles, be able to put your arm around a situation in a different way that maybe finds something that people weren’t seeing before, but for us, it may be glaringly obvious.
So I understand there’s frustration on their end, but there’s equal frustration from our end, right? Because if it’s so easy, if it’s so easy, why can’t they see it? And, [Kim and Wesley together] why can’t they do it? [Kim laughs] Yes. Why can’t they just let us do what we do? If we—if there’s already acknowledgement that we do things well, just let us do it. Just don’t tell us how to do it. If you know what needs to be done, and we both are on the same page, maybe how we do it is a little bit different, and maybe you should listen.
Kim: Well, I’m gonna stop you at this point, because they don’t know what they’re doing. So I need to stop you from there. They don’t. And so I’m sitting here… and I want to thank you, first of all, for making that initial, “Hey, you probably at-ed me, but here I am.”
Is this conversation—and I already know I’m gonna go get a weed gummy and go to sleep after this, because this is pretty damn deep, ’cause it’s hitting me in so many… So I took some notes here. I had a dream the other day—I mean, a few weeks—I think it was last week and I—oh, not last week, ’cause last week was a week from hell—the week before, it was the last week of December; and I put out a tweet and I woke up with a very strong phrase in my head, and it was, “I showed up as my authentic self, dot dot dot, and I was seen.” That is all we ask for. I mean, just waking up with that was such a profound… I had such a profound sense of satisfaction and joy, because that was what my dream was about.
Every space in that dream was I had showed up as my authentic self, and I had been seen. And then I wrote, “What they wanted versus what they needed.” And this is very much a part of my consulting work. Folx reach out to me often tryna tell me what they want; it’s never what they need. And I’m not gonna say 10% of—no, it’s never what they need—because they don’t have the level…
People’s expertise in the industrial age was, everybody’s on a assembly line; you’re a engineer, your job is to make this thing we doing, make it perfect so that these people can manufacture it. We’re in a information economy, a knowledge economy, and so what you think you want, through your—this is why I stopped you—through their, what they think they want through their lens is not, nowhere near, what they need. It’s never, I’ve not come across one client who told me what they wanted, and it was actually what they needed.
So that’s that. And then I wrote “questioning value.” Man, if that ain’t some gaslightin’ right there. And so I’m really thankful just meeting you that you did have a community of support that was around you to counter that narrative, because that narrative is what we all hear, and if we don’t have that support, based on various degrees of where we are, it impacts us in small and very harmful, impactful—I mean, deeply cutting…
That’s why I don’t like the word “microaggressions” anymore; that’s abuse. It’s abusive behavior. It is abusive behavior. No—so them tellin’ you constantly, “You’re not enough. You’re doing too much. You’re not doing too much,” I mean that back and forth; they—these individuals, the default—makes these statements and they walk away. They’ve said it and they walk away. We’re still sitting with this 24 hours, 48 hours later, tryna unpack some shit that does not make sense, and that’s the part of the game that we don’t understand, because we’ve been told—again with this assimilation stuff—”If you just do this, it’ll make sense,” or, “This’ll be the rules.” But then as you demonstrated or communicated, the line keeps changing.
And so none of it—this is why they don’t know what they want, ’cause they don’t know shit. And this is why I don’t want to hear from—if you book me or hire me as a consultant, shut the fuck up. People are like—I did a workshop and they were like, “Do you want the feedback from the surveys?” Why the hell would I want the feedback from the surveys? I’m here as an expert. What the hell are these individuals here—most of ’em don’t wanna be here—what the hell are… so they could tell me they don’t like my approach? I already know that! I don’t wanna hear about that. You not gonna mess up my mental health because I’m reading some bullshit from your surveys. I’m not doin’ that. And then you think it’s constructive feedback? No, it’s not! It’s nowhere near constructive.
And then I wrote, “The skills developed via lived experiences are weaponized against us.” The very thing that makes us make your product and service, your organization, your business thrive, we’ve earned—not handed to us—we’ve earned through lived experience. And when you, when the systems, institutions and policies turn around and weaponize it against us because that’s our lived experience, it is at our core. It is fundamentally at our core.
So I just wanted to make sure I say to you, I commend you, ’cause I don’t know your struggle, but I know your struggle; [Kim is audibly upset] and to come out on the other side of that when you have mediocre, unremarkable white fuckers just throwin’ out shit that they have no idea the impact of their words and actions, and usually don’t give a damn, and how that fundamentally affects and impacts our lives on and off the jobs.
And I say this all the time, white people need to—while they’re concerned about, [sighs] you know how Black people blah blah—I say, “Y’all better be glad that we have the humanity not to slap y’all asses every time we see you.” Just out of sheer goddamn—on GP—just on general purpose. Because the harm—what we saw on January 6th was the external manifestation of what happens to us every day on the job internally.
Wesley: I just wanted to say thank you for that; I take it. Our shared experience and our lived experience definitely shapes us, and I think that is in itself a skill that also needs to be assessed, in terms of almost put it on a resume, that people need to make sure they count it.
Kim: And that’s the thing, we’re not making widgets anymore, we need to be hiring people for their lived experience.
Wesley: One of my earliest jobs, in the 90s, I worked for Dell tech support over the phone, so that’s a lot of where my patience comes from, being able to deal with people who just are not understanding what’s going on. I can’t tell you back then how many people said they needed a new computer but instead what they actually needed was a new monitor. Because to them the computer’s not working; there’s nothin’ on the screen. And that is just the endpoint that’s representing with some of the problems.
And I think going back, George Floyd, January 6th—that’s definitely the monitor. People are seeing the problem—what they perceive is the problem—but they are not followin’ the cable to actually go all the way to the end to make sure everything is working down the chain. And so…
Kim: I wanna stop you, because that goes back to the Timnit thing. There was a—the more I read about this, this was all about white dudes’ feelings. Somebody got they feelin’s hurt, and made some decisions that had an impact; an uninspected, uncalculated impact. And this happens, and that’s exactly what you—because they don’t, it’s just the monitor they’re lookin’ at. And it’s not new to us. [Laughs] We, like you just said, you as the support decided, “Hey, did you check that cable? Did you do that thing? Did you do that thing?”, because your lived experience on the phones told you, “OK, these are the things I need to go through first.” [Laughs]
Wesley: And the problem happened for her was when she tried to troubleshoot the problem. “Who’s requesting this? What is the reason for this? Why am I being questioned on this?” She asked the questions to figure out what the heck is goin’ on? How did we get here? What are we even talking about? [Kim laughs] And that is that is the thing that caused her to get let go.
Wesley: Her questioning.
Kim: How dare you? How dare you question? How dare you?
Wesley: Just back then, when I was at Dell, I would talk to people who had called and said, “Yeah, I need four hard drives,” these are network administration saying, “Just send me four hard drives.” I say, “Well, let’s do some troubleshooting.” Like, “Already did it.” I said, “Well, let’s do this. Let’s—have you done this? Have you tried this?” And it’ll fix it, and they’re like, “Oh, it’s fixed,” and hang up.
Kim: [Laughs] ‘Cause they couldn’t say thank you. They couldn’t say… [laughs]
Wesley: Yes. Because you are breaking down their perception, their words, and themselves and their knowledge of and care of themselves, to the point where they couldn’t even defend it, because that is not something that is acceptable, and that itself is an injury. And so, when privilege is questioned, it is uncomfortable—and so uncomfortable it’s almost like a reflex to stop the pain, right? Stop the hurt. Get rid of that person of color who’s complaining. “If I get rid of them, the problem goes away.”
Kim: And because we have such a binder of acceptable reasons for this—we have a long history of coming up with these reasons—all you have to do is go through the binder is, “OK, Wesley. OK, he can fit that one,” [laughs] and use that as an excuse.
Wesley: Yeah, and it won’t be questioned, right? Because they, the people in authority…
Kim: Exactly, exactly. But, but that’s some history. OK, that’s—but it’s also because there’s history. So there’s history to the discrimination and the harm, and when you say that they don’t wanna go back and do the work to repair. They don’t, it’s so—it’s like a schism. They can do it when it benefits privilege, but when it’s not, it’s just like, “I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about.” [Laughs]
Wesley: Like the two people of color at Pinterest that were let go, and then a white woman wins this lawsuit. Pinterest is like, “Oh, wow, now we need to retroactively go back, find all the HR complaints and make sure we make right about what we acknowledge we did.” No, it doesn’t work that way.
Kim: And only because somebody knew that this woman won a lawsuit. It’s ridiculous. And it’s the same thing that’s ridiculous with these NDAs; not the anti-defamation ones, I mean the non, not the non-disclosure, but the non…
Kim: Yeah, how the hell—what?! You treat me like shit and now you gon’ hold my money for me to sign—how utterly disgusting is that? And the fact that they continue to do it, and the fact that there’s some companies that I know who I thought better of? [Aside] Glitch. That’s problematic for me.
Wesley: I think if you cannot defend yourself in the forum about what you’ve done, you either don’t know why you did it, can’t defend why you did it, or aren’t willing to make the changes that made you do what you did. And so that is the reason why these non-disparagement clauses are put in these NDAs, is because they like the way things happen; things are working as designed.
Kim: And what’s interesting to me is, I can go into these companies, first of all—and I call them companies and organizations—’cause first of all, most of these people don’t have businesses. They don’t have the processes, procedures, and policies in place to make them businesses. They are scale products and services, period. They have no—every time they do HR or every time they do something, they’re startin’ from scratch ’cause they have no idea what the hell they’re doin’.
And yet in these companies, they—the vast majority of ’em have these NDAs. You don’t have anything else, but you thought to have this risk management tool at your disposal. You don’t have a hiring process that’s equitable, you don’t have any of that, but you default—’cause you done talked to some lawyer I’m sure—and “You need to have one of these things.” And that is fundamentally the problem—this is why I hate whisper networks. I so hate whisper networks. Because I understand the reason they exist, but they only benefit the people who are in the network, and it’s usually not the most vulnerable person.
Wesley: Yep, you gotta get to the point where in these whisper networks that you feel confident enough to talk to someone and be able to put it out there, and that confidence only gives you some protection. But it’s hard to get in—which, understandable, there’s a lot of sensitive information—but the worst part is when these offenders are offending and they finally get some sort of reckoning in these companies, they go to the next company and just start all over.
Kim: Mhm. And that’s why I hate whisper networks, because everybody’s shut down, no-one can talk about it, and we see them move to the next company, everybody’s cringing because we know what’s gonna happen. Why do we allow these individuals to continue to perpetuate harming people?
Wesley: And of course, because of who they are, they get the benefit of the doubt, then the benefit of doubt, and the benefit of doubt, until…
Kim: And they get money!
Wesley: And then they’re ruining people’s lives, hurting other people’s careers along the way until the company finally, finally says, “OK, we’re going to do something,” and then they start all over again.
Kim: And this is where I did a—right before I went on break for Christmas—I did a poll just asking how many people had the experience of a problematic person, instead of being removed, being moved around? That everybody gets to be, yeah, everybody’s moved, everybody else is shuffled around this individual—or these individuals—instead of the company dealing with the issue.
And this is another—you know, we understand that HR is a arm of the company, and it’s there to protect the company. I don’t understand how an HR functions; they’re—well, it’s becoming clearer now. I understand it ’cause that’s how, again, in the industrial age, when all you need to do is hire a whole bunch of people to be on your assembly line.
When you start losing people like Dr Timnit and others, you can’t easily replace that because of these toxic individuals. You can’t just go out somewhere and just replace them. That’s not gonna happen. That knowledge is gone. That tacit knowledge that they have from their lived experiences that could help benefit your companies is gone. And Black women are queens at this, they’re queens at goin’ in your company, learning everything they need to learn, takes your abuse, leaves, and takes all of that with them.
Wesley: And this investment in the short term, “I feel good gettin’ rid of this person,” so hurts in the long run. So even the people who aren’t people of color who are left behind are going to speak up less, they’re gonna challenge less; and we all know, in terms of iteration and company, especially in technology, finding the bugs, fixing the bugs and doin’ that cycle over and over again makes your product better. Making it more accessible, finding the people who couldn’t use it before, and enabling that makes your product more accessible, which increases your user base.
So you’re making it more durable, and you’re making it so more people can use it, if you allow yourself to make changes for usability, make changes for accessibility, you make changes for making sure that the people who wouldn’t use it before can now use it, just for the long term makes you a better company, makes your product better.
And removing these people doesn’t just make it [so] you can’t replace those people, the problems that they were finding makes it harder for them to fix, because now you have all this technical debt that you have built in, that you would not listen in the design phase, in the testing phase, [Kim laughs] but you’re gonna do in production phase and it’s just gonna be that much worse.
Kim: And we’re so innovative. We are just the most innovative and clever industry. We just really just rock and roll when it’s some bullshit. We can make a scooter company all over the place. How many of those companies are still in existence now? I don’t know any. They all left, they all left my city, I don’t know why the hell they came in the first place, we don’t have sidewalks. [Laughs] Why the hell the scooter companies were here?
But they get to test their business models and we don’t. We have to come in with a proven business model, proven ideas. And they get to just—but I know why it happens. I know because it fundamentally—just like our lived experiences are ours, we’re challenging everything they know to be—to them, the default is reality. For us, we know the default is an illusion. And so we are fundamentally at mass.
I tell people right now, I wouldn’t wanna be a white dude in this country for shit. I wouldn’t. I don’t care about it, it’s about time; but I wouldn’t wanna be one, particularly one that’s less evolved. [Laughs] If you are taking a hard stance, you will be obsolete. You—we’re not going backwards.
Wesley: A friend of mine once said, “Don’t get legal advice from someone who has not been arrested; don’t get dieting advice from anyone who’s skinny.” If people don’t have to struggle through things, if people don’t have to figure things out, it makes it harder for them to relate and to understand and to see some of the things that just go right over their head. I’m not sure, I know you’re on Clubhouse, but I’m not sure how often you’re on there.
Kim: Oh, I was on there for all of a weekend. I have not deactivated the app yet, because I may find a reason to use it. But how that whole—I just could not find, figure out an effective way to safely bring my community over to have a conversation. I’m like, “Even if I had a locked private room, then that’s more work on my end,” ’cause people can’t find it.
Wesley: It’s almost like, I mean Clubhouse is sometimes it feels like a zoo.
Kim: Oh my word!
Wesley: People are talking and they’re behind a cage listed like, misogynist. [Kim laughs] I’m just in the room listening like, “Oh my gosh!”
Kim: Exactly! Exactly!
Wesley: They don’t know! It feels like I could just listen in and be like, “Oh my gosh, they have no clue.” And it feels like that, some people who are onstage are just out there, and I’m like, “Oh god, they just don’t know.”; and it feels—I know it’s kind of like schadenfreude—when other people come up like, “Did you know how offensive you are?” [Kim laughs] And it’s just like, I listen to it, but I think that’s one way that Clubhouse at least—I’m not saying I’m enlightened a lot by it, like there are some really good conversations with really good facilitators—but I would say a lot of the people who’re like “How to become millionaires” and just…
Kim: Oh, my god. But what’s funny is Twitter about to eat they shit, because they comin’ up…
Wesley: Mmm. Spaces. [Kim laughs] Yeah, Twitter Spaces. And there’s no really useful moderation tool…
Kim: And that is the problem for me. How do you build something in 2020 that does not fundamentally have moderation as a—particularly when you’re talking about building community.
Wesley: I could tell you how.
Kim: OK, well, tell us how. [Laughs]
Wesley: I’m sure you know the answer, it’s diversity and inclusion. [Kim laughs] They didn’t have people in the room, before this went out, about saying, “Hey, I’m part of a marginalized community, and so what’s gonna happen when I’m attacked in this room? What’s gonna happen when people are trying to silence me? What happens when people talk over me, and how do I have space? How do you make sure that there’s room and there’s space for me, and some people don’t just try to signal and say I’m wrong in my own room?”
Kim: Is it open to the public yet?
Wesley: I heard something about a couple of days that they opened the floodgates, but I don’t know. I haven’t seen anything.
Kim: Because my point is, they—in beta, it was a shit show. At scale, this is gonna be horrible.
Wesley: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. I mean, there might be a Trump room in there, since he’s been de-platformed everywhere else. Someone might give him an invite to Clubhouse.
Kim: That makes sense. Exactly. Oh, and now then, speakin’ of that, this is—so you have your Parler, who is touting, “Hey, we’re the alternative to free speech,” and now he’s on every little show he can, whinin’ about the fact that these companies don’t want to touch him. Crisis management issue, baby; that’s a partnership.
This is why I talk about stakeholder value; you need to look at who works for you, who partners with you, who buys from you, and who invests in you. Your partners are like, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no. You ain’t about to work, mess up my reputation. Oh, nooo.” Now, they shoulda did that vetting earlier—it took January 6th for them to say, “Wait, hold up.”
But I loved how Google and Apple shut it down, ’cause, you know, they actin’ all like, “Fuck Twitter. We gonna, you know, we—de de de de de,” beatin’ their chest, and I’m thinkin’, “Do these people not know a website is just a box?” They don’t understand that—like you said, the monitor—there’s other shit that makes this website work. And so when Apple and Google shut down the app store, people were like, “So what? We, you know, old users.” And then they started tryna clone the app for Android so other new people could get on that. And then when AWS [shut them down], baby, you have nowhere to go.
Wesley: Jeff Bezos says, “Say what? I’m up? Let’s do this.” [Both laugh]
Kim: Never seen such a coordinated—I’ve never seen “Big Tech”—quote unquote—be this coordinated in its effort in doing anything.
Wesley: And you see, the PGA is pulling out. I saw a MasterCard is starting to stop processing charges for all of the people who signed on.
Kim: Did you see that Twilio? Twilo? Is it Twilio? Yeah. They de-platformed them for their email and identification, but in their press announcement—you need to go to my thing—on their press announcement, they gave some information that these hackers now went into Parler, went into their authentication thing, because Twilio wasn’t there to authenticate, copy—so now they have, like, millions of authenticated—I mean, not authenticated, the people who run a site, who have authority—authority accounts! And now they have all these people’s shit. Even the ones that deleted it, they made it seem like it, but they didn’t delete ’em. They just sent the message. So they have—the FBI and shit—has all the shit now.
Wesley: 70 terabytes of data that they were able to download. 70 terabytes of archival information on all these people. All the posts…
Kim: Then, for the verified people—the people who want to be verified—gave the front and back of their driver’s license. [Laughs] I was like, “You know what? Tech can be shitty as hell most days, but for this one, this is a win.” [Laughs]
Wesley: And, yes, the detectives, the Twitter sleuths out there findin’ these pictures, putting them out there and saying…
Kim: People snitchin’ on em. [Laughs]
Wesley: But once again, you gotta then find these employees who made complaints to HR, find Joe Blow who was on Parler talking all this racist stuff, find that person, find the companies they work for, find the HR complaints, and then find those people and apologize to them please.
Kim: Exactly. Exactly. Because somebody’s lost their job because of this asshole.
Wesley: Some was law enforcement. So many people got arrested by these people.
Kim: Yes. Yes. Some people probably got killed because of these people. Yes.
Wesley: The testimony of all the officers in court against their defendants should be looked at.
Kim: Yes. Exactly. Exactly. It is—and this is why I stay in this space—because tech is—as bad as it is—it is the democratizing thing that we all can access. We just need to make it welcoming and psychologically safe for more people. [Laughs] And that means—I’m like, I tell people, I’m not here to convince and convert. I need these people gone. I need Uncle Bob gone. I need Paul Graham gone. I need Austin [Allred] who runs Lambda School gone. I need these people outta here. I’m not tryna redeem them. I’m not tryna—they need to be gone. They’re takin’ up space that other people who can better help facilitate the welcoming and psychological safety. They’re takin’ up space. They’re takin’ up money. They’re takin’ up air. They’re takin’ up platforms. They’re takin’ up all kinds of stuff. They gotta go.
Wesley: I gotta say, for the people who are following these people, who are quoting them and amplifying their voices, even though they know they’re bad but they’re like, they…
Kim: Oh, they can justify it: “They give out so much, I just follow them for the technical information.” [Laughs]
Wesley: Realize that you are a user. Don’t be a user of people, because what you’re doing is you’re being indoctrinated in the same school that these people are forced into. So, don’t be a user, be with people—there’s so many options out there for people who are caring, who understand, and wanna take care of other people. Don’t follow—there’s so many options. Let it go. Let these people go.
Kim: Let them feed on themselves.
Wesley: Because it’s the same with Twitter. Twitter with Donald Trump’s like, “Well, he’s gonna be mad at us, so we can’t just be, we can’t just do this thing”. It’s—let him go! The consequences of doin’ the right thing is worth it, instead of the retribution for doin’ the wrong thing.
Kim: But that goes back to your earlier statement. The lack of long-term strategy, the lack of seeing beyond the immediate gratification.
Wesley: Yes. A friend of mine hit me up on LinkedIn, saying that he was looking for work and I was helpin’ him find a job and stuff like that. And then I started seeing his posts saying Donald Trump stuff and I was like, “Hey, this stuff is harmful. Why do you support this person?” He’s like, “Well, sorry we have a different political opinion”. It’s like, “No, no, I just wanna know why you like trash people. Talk to me, explain it to me.” And then he ignored me. And it was like, “Nnh,” and I was like, “Bye. You’re done.” I don’t need it. If you’re not even gonna have the dialogue with me like…
Kim: Oh, and they love the dialogue. That’s how they gaslight us all the time: “I just want you to explain! Can you explain? Give me some proof.”
Wesley: Yeah, he needs to explain to me, not the other way around.
Kim: Exactly. Exactly.
Wesley: And him not having that dialogue, I’m like, “I’m not even gonna deal with that.” And this was what, November? And now it’s like, I don’t know if he’s lookin’ at himself in that exchange and understanding that maybe he’s one of the baddies, right? Maybe he’s cheerin’ for the wrong team, and if it’s gonna cause you to lose people who you feel care about other people, then you should look at yourself.
Kim: And the thing that I say, though, is—and the data proves it—no-one escapes white supremacy unharmed. No-one. Even these unremarkable, mediocre white dudes in tech are so afraid of their positions because they know what the system is. There’s gonna be something shinier and brighter that’s comin’ along, and they gonna—and that’s another reason why they fear us, because we’ve had to show, just to be in the room… and this is why I call them—they think I’m being flippant, but no, you are mediocre. You are unremarkable. You have never had to compete on a even—everybody wants to talk about equality—on a even playing field with people who have been told their whole lives how many x times better we have to be than other people just to be in the room. You don’t even know what that means!
Wesley: It’s so sad that people don’t understand how this is so self-harming, like the Secretary of State in Georgia saying that he’s getting death threats, but he still voted for Donald Trump.
Wesley: He’s raising money for Donald Trump. The Capitol police officer who was killed was a Trump supporter. ‘Cause ultimately it doesn’t care about people, it cares about power.
Kim: And it’s about—white supremacy is designed only for two things: chaos and destruction. There is no redemption in it; it only knows chaos and destruction. And so this goes back to a comment you made before, when all the Black and brown people are gone, it’s just gon’ go up the ladder to the next group, ’cause now we’re not in the room, so we’re not the most marginalized, so it’s gonna start eatin’ on the next most marginalized. That’s what it does.
So what would—this has been amazing; I wanna really thank you for first of all, trustin’ me with this story. Yeah, I just have nothin’ else to say beyond that, just trustin’ me with this story. Because people need to hear it. Their actions do not go—actions have consequences. And just because you’ve walked away from ’em, you don’t get to destroy people’s lives anymore. Those days are over. And we’re en masse saying, “Those days are over.”
So what would you like to say in your final moments on the show?
Wesley: One thing I want to acknowledge, I wanna say thank you for having me on, definitely. And that I have had a horrible experience in my history, and I wrote a short blog post about it on Dev.to, so if you’re on Dev.to you can find me and…
Kim: No, just share with me the link, and I’ll put it in the show notes.
Wesley: OK, I’ll give that to you. But I’m gonna end this podcast with a summary of that post, which is that the company that I work for—Daily.co, Daily—has been the softest pillow to land on. It’s one of those things that I’ve heard about, the unicorn of company culture that I didn’t know existed, does.
Kim: That you only dreamt about? [Laughs]
Wesley: Only dreamt about. So forgiving, so understanding, so letting me do what I think needs to be done. Really, really focusing on care and compassion, not only of their employees, but their customers; reaching out—on Wednesday, people, the co-founders putting out there, “I don’t know about y’all, but I can’t focus. Take all the time you need. “
Kim: Mmm. Mhm, mhm.
Wesley: “Whatever you need, take it.” That’s something that where being able to see that and hear that and experience that as the place that I work…
Kim: And see it demonstrated from leadership level. Yes.
Wesley: Not only that, I approached the co-founders, I was like, “I’m gonna write this personal post. I’m just gonna do it because I need to get it out there,” and they’re like, “Yes, please, please do it.” And then when I wrote it and I tweeted it out, they re-tweeted it from the corporate account; they’re like, “Everyone needs to see this”.
It’s the amount of support—I can’t say it enough. I can’t express the amount of gratitude, and it’s this care that they feel for people, and how it permeates the company, and it shows in their products and their services. And they allow me to do podcasts like this on their dime because they know how important it is to me, and how I want to tell my story and how everyone in tech needs a little bit of hope that things can change and there are better places. And I’ve been in that place where I’m like, “I’m just getting what I can, I need to survive, this is paying my bills, I’m just gonna take it because that’s the only thing I can do.”
And people in privilege say, “Well, just quit your job. Just, just, just quit your job. ” Everyone could do that, but I do wanna say, when you get to the point where you’re looking, don’t immediately x out diversity, inclusion, and acceptance on your criteria when you’re looking for your next role. ‘Cause it does exist, there are places, there are places that do it, and I just hold out hope that it’ll be the majority instead of the minority in the future.
Kim: Thank you so much, Wesley. This has been amazing.
Wesley: Thank you, Kim.
Kim: Have a wonderful day.
Wesley: You too. Take care.
Listen to more great #causeascene podcasts
Originally posted on August 19, 2018 I will begin this post as I begin each talk, with a list of my credentials because there’s always
There are many reasons that businesses succeed or fail but in an Information Age economy, one looms bright. The reason organizations like Amazon and Walmart