“Uncanny Valley” Author Anna Wiener in Conversation w/ Casey Newton
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New Yorker writer Anna Wiener’s new book “Uncanny Valley” is a brilliant memoir of a half-decade lived in San Francisco as tech changes the community for better and for worse. We’ll discuss how working at fast-growing tech startups changed her perspective on privacy, social networks, and the city she lives in.
About Uncanny Valley: A Memoir:
Technology journalist Wiener looks at Silicon Valley life in this insider-y debut memoir that sharply critiques start-up culture and the tech industry. In 2013, Wiener left an assistant job at a New York literary agency to work for an e-book start-up run by young men who were uninterested in reading books. That job led to a move to San Francisco, where she worked in customer support at a data analytics start-up, then at a start-up that focused on software development. Wiener humorously describes the employee perks at the office (“a miniature theme park” with a wraparound bar, a roof deck, a speakeasy), though she decided to primarily work from home “in sagging leggings.”
Wiener writes of how she struggled to be taken seriously in a male-dominated industry that lacked diversity; attended lavish work events—at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Lake Tahoe—while San Francisco’s homeless population increased; communicated with coworkers using just emoji; and watched 20-somethings get rich overnight. She eventually became disillusioned with her job (“I was burning out and failing up”) and left in 2018 to pursue writing, but not before buying up her vested stock options. Wiener is an entertaining writer, and those interested in a behind-the-scenes look at life in Silicon Valley will want to take a look.
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