Oct 24, 2017

Thoughts on Reset

I just had a chance to read Ellen Pao's Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change. If you're unfamiliar, Ellen Pao is primarily famous for two things: suing venture capital firm KPCB and stepping down as CEO amid controversy at Reddit.

Reset is an auto-biographical narrative that focuses the bulk of its attention on Ellen's experiences in and around the VC and tech industry. She provides context on her family and personal life where it's helpful, but otherwise spends her time on what matters most to her: the inequity in the tech industry, her personal experiences, and her fight to address it.

I really enjoyed Reset. I watched in real-time as most of the major events from the book unfolded and was very interested in them even at the time. Ellen's first-hand account of the events and what was going on outside of the public eye is fascinating simply for the lens it gives into events that are important to my professional life. It's also fascinating because I'm familiar with many of the characters (most often villains) that figure in the narrative. I've seen them talk, been in conference calls with them, and followed their activities online. Reset provides a view of them that I can't imagine getting anywhere else.

One of the things that Ellen touches on in the book is the negative PR machine that KPCB spun up as a part of its "defense" in the trial. With the new perspective I have from the book, I have to admit: that PR effort was absurdly effective. As a long-time Reddit user and a member of the VC community, it was all too easy for me to believe elements of the slander directed against Ellen Pao. I'd like to think that I reserved judgement around motivations and other elements of the events that I had no ability to verify, but I certainly didn't apply much of a critical lens to the general depiction of Ellen as an unsympathetic character.

Over the past couple of years my viewpoint has matured substantially. I've come to care a lot more about the issues of equity in the tech world I learned about as an investor. It has become much, much easier to believe that sexism, racism, ageism, and a host of other forms of discrimination are rampant in virtually all of the top institutions in the tech world (though the problem is by no means limited to our industry). Reset offered a rare view into the worst of these elements. I'm tremendously grateful to Ellen Pao for having the courage to stand up for herself, for her convictions, and for the rights of all underrepresented groups.

Reset's probably the best book I've read this year. I would highly recommend it to anyone.