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Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Book Review: Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener

At the beginning of the tech boom in the early 2000s, Anna, disenchanted from working in the super-low-paying world of book publishing (ahem), First dips her toe in the tech world by working at a company with a reading app. But when that job doesn't work out, her contacts help her land a job in San Francisco working customer support (because even the very, very few women in tech still work gender-role based jobs) for a company that provides data to app companies. It's like selling jeans to the 49ers in California instead of panning for gold, so from that POV, this start-up seemed like a good idea. But soon the bro-culture, the skateboards, the late nights, the getting shafted with options (she was told they don't have pay discrepancies so not to negotiate her pay structure. Lies.) starts to open her eyes to the bigger problems in Silicon Valley, and hence, this memoir was born.

It's compelling and a great insider's view to a business and culture all of us interact with daily (if not minutely) and yet, know nothing about. We've seen the Facebook movie and read a few articles, but to really understand the day-to-day from inside the crazy is a great perspective. I wish she'd been less naive and more self-aware, and while I understand her reasoning for not using brand names throughout the book, it also feels rather stilted and awkward. (At first. And then it gets to be funny. And then you don't notice it much anymore.) Watching the train wreck, it's impossible to put the book down. And yet, I didn't feel any better about the technology and even worse about the companies behind it. Very much a book for Now.

This book is published by MCD/Farrar Straus and Giroux, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

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