I have to say, as a Google employee, that I largely agree with recent media buzz that calls out the devastating impact the Bay Area's tech boom has had on housing prices and diversity in San Francisco. Yet this most recent Grist article like so many others often do, glaringly omits the fact that technology is stimulating the national economy. The Bay Area is one of the few cities that has consistently provided a surplus of jobs over the past few years.
As someone who specifically chose not to work in big banks right out of college because I questioned the integrity of their work, and instead struggled to make ends meet for years in the non-profit sector, I look at the work and impact of my company, and others like it, and see much concrete good resulting. Just one example of many is customized innovations in Google Maps that allow conservationists to track real time rainforest destruction, utilizing a highly sophisticated tool they would never have the resources to develop on their own.
I'm certainly not defending the way that tech companies are set up for tax breaks or positioned to provide superior comfort to retain talent or how they relate to the cities they cull for that talent. I simply would love to have an intelligent conversation via media pieces that have a vantage point beyond simply saying "tech is evil." More journalists and policy makers should bridge the gap in a way that opens doors for tech companies (including my own) to modify some of their less well-received civic behavior and ultimately achieve a more positive social-economic impact.
Take transportation for example. Bashing (quite literally) on a Google shuttle will certainly get people talking about the tradeoffs inherent in a luxury elitist mode of transport that results in thousands of fewer cars on the road. But perhaps we can see this polarizing issue as an opportunity to invest more tax dollars and private grants in public transportation that is more useful for a larger percentage of our local population. In recognition of a working class that is getting squeezed by lack of affordable housing in concentrated urban areas, let's press tech companies to rally around solutions for low-income housing and tenants' rights. There is much potential to what we can collectively achieve if we can move beyond a black and white stance and agree to get curious about the shades of grey.
The opinions stated here are my own, not necessarily those of my company.
Jessica works in Learning and Development at Google on the internal coaching team. She has lived in the Bay Area for over a decade. Prior to Google, she worked for several non profits, including the Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center, which provides business skills and training to low-income entrepreneurs in the Bay Area and the Conservation Strategy Fund, providing economic analysis training to conservationists around the world. She has also taught in private schools and afterschool programs that support first generation college students in Bayview, Hunter's Point and East Palo Alto. She has a B.A. in International Relations and an M.A. in the History of colonialism from Stanford University.