Citing Ethical Concerns, Engineers Increasingly Turn Down Silicon Valley Recruiters

Written by Ann Brown


Some potential Silicon Valley staffers are getting picky about where they work–selecting companies that match their own ethics and personal beliefs and turning down tech recruiters over concerns over corporate values. Take Anna Geiduschek, currently a software engineer at Dropbox. When she was recently approved by an Amazon Web Services recruiter, she turned down the position by “citing her personal opposition to Amazon’s role in hosting another tech company’s service used by U.S. government agents to target illegal immigrants for detention and deportation,” the IEEE Spectrum reported.

“I’m sure you’re working on some very exciting technical problems over there at AWS [Amazon Web Services], however, I would never consider working for Amazon until you drop your AWS contract with Palantir,” Geiduschek wrote in her email response, which she also tweeted.

Many tech companies–from Amazon to Facebook to Microsoft–are facing backlash from employees over how these companies use and sell their products.  “Tech workers have signed open letters opposing Google’s Project Maven contract with the U.S. military, Microsoft’s contract for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Amazon’s sale of facial recognition technology to law enforcement,” the IEEE Spectrum reported.

And since, Silicon Valley is in need of talent, companies are taking heed to these complaints and protests. When staffers at Google were unhappy the tech giant went out of its way to reassure employees by “declaring it would not renew its Pentagon contract and by issuing a set of ethical principles for future uses of Google-developed technologies,” IEEE Spectrum reported.

“I might be a one-off example, but it could be different if Amazon gets a lot of people emailing them saying, ‘Hey, I won’t work for you because of this,’” Geiduschek says.

But Geiduschek is not alone. A software engineer at Square named Jackie Luo turned down a tech recruiter who approached her about moving over to Google. Luo, who was concerned about Google’s plans to re-enter the Chinese market with a censored version of the company’s Internet search engine, replied in a response email that she posted on Twitter: “I won’t be considering a job at Google now or in the future unless it seriously rethinks the way it does business by putting human rights before profit.” Luo said the China search engine plans as a “huge dealbreaker for me.” She also expressed other concerns about Google’s Pentagon contract as well as the company’s work culture for “women, underrepresented minorities, trans people, etc.”

There is a more collective movement by some tech employees, including the #TechWontBuildIt movement launched by the labor advocacy group Tech Workers Coalition.

Luo pointed out that women, underrepresented minorities, LGBTQ people, and other underrepresented groups in the tech industry are leading the charge to speak out.

“Many, many women pushed back at Uber at the peak of its transgressions,” Luo said, referencing MailChimp software engineer Kelly Ellis, “rejected Uber so hard in so many recruiting emails” in a tweet sent out in August 2017.

Not only do such employees causes companies to take note, they said Geiduschek, “enlighten current employees about their own companies’ policies.”