However expansive its ambitions to change the world might be, the tech industry is not known as a hotbed of activism. Historically, tech employees went to work, got the job done, and didn’t talk much about politics.
But in the wake of Donald’s Trump’s election, political talk is nearly everywhere—at company-wide meetings, in discussions among coworkers in the cafeterias, and in employee resource-group meet-ups. For obvious reasons: Many of the policies and views of the Trump administration are anathema to most of the tech industry. In particular, the sector is heavily populated by immigrants—many founders and senior leaders are immigrants, and 60 percent of STEM employees in Silicon Valley are foreign-born (for comparison, only 17 percent of the overall American labor force is foreign-born)—and Trump’s immigration policies (both proposed and enacted) constitute a clear threat to both the industry’s profits and its meritocratic ideology. His brand of politics—“closed borders,” “alternative facts”—is at odds with the primacy the industry places on data, openness, and the free flow of talent around the globe.
Trump’s victory in November stunned many tech employees. Barrie Segal, a senior program manager at the database company MongoDB, said, “There was a lot of confusion and sadness. People were openly weeping in the office. I’ve never seen that before at work.” As one senior manager at a major tech company described it, “It was like a bomb dropped and people died.” (Despite the outpouring of anti-Trump sentiment in the industry, many people I spoke with and the companies they work for asked not to be identified on the record, citing sensitive political times. Such concerns indicate that there are limits to just how public and forthcoming the industry will be with its activism.)