A few days ago I read the article below in the San Jose Mercury News, penned by Vivek Ranadivé, on the topic of discrimination in Silicon Valley. I loved his striking analogy to Florence, Italy, during the Renaissance – a place where I studied in college – and thought that this piece had a lot of merit. The one caveat, though, is that in my experience there is certainly a very pronounced, impossible to miss age discrimination in Silicon Valley among the high tech companies. Anyone more than 50 or 55 years old may feel that his or her job may be cut at any time and handed to a younger, less expensive employee. Once this last holdout of bias is gone, then perhaps the correlation with exquisite Florence will be exact. The article below is republished with permission. – MPH
Discrimination in Silicon Valley is a Myth, by Vivek Ranadivé
Lately, I’ve been hearing criticism about diversity in Silicon Valley that deeply saddens me. Some people seem to think that gender and race discrimination in the Valley are still roadblocks to career advancement, preventing some people from pursuing opportunities given to others.
I disagree with this completely.
It’s no secret why scores of foreigners flock to Silicon Valley each year. It’s home to some of the best universities, some of the world’s most innovative companies and some of the brightest minds in history. It’s a region that prides itself on disrupting the status quo and pushing the envelope.
What I’ve witnessed in my 30 years in the valley contrasts starkly with recent criticisms.
Since day one, it has welcomed me, and many other Indians, with open arms. And not just Indians — any ethnic group willing to pour their hearts and minds into developing the “next big thing.” Take a walk through the hallways of any business in Silicon Valley and you’re likely to witness a melting pot of young intellectuals from every corner of the world. Silicon Valley not only embraces ethnic diversity, it highly encourages it. That’s what has made this region so successful.
I like to compare Silicon Valley to Florence during the Renaissance. Led by some of history’s brightest and most progressive minds, Florence was the world’s epicenter for art, music, politics and technology. If you wanted to make a name for yourself in the early Renaissance, Florence was where you had to be. The parallels to Silicon Valley are clear — from the Traitorous Eight to the late Steve Jobs to the Google and Facebook guys, so many of the most innovative and intelligent people of the past half-decade have lived and flourished here. As a result, the valley continues to attract the best and brightest from all over the world.
And they don’t come solely for the resources. The valley doesn’t judge, the valley doesn’t care who you are or where you’re from. It only cares what you can do.
I was born in Bombay and came to the United States in 1974 with $50 in my pocket. My current company has grown to $1 billion in revenue in just over a decade and we employ more than 1,000 people in Silicon Valley. Roughly 36 percent of that workforce is foreign.
My executive staff is a microcosm of the Valley: My CTO is Australian, my COO is Canadian, my head of sales is Turkish, my CMO is American, my head of engineering is Indian and my head of services is Chinese. When I hire, I simply look for the best candidate. I don’t care where they come from. I care what they can do. And given the incredible amount of talent, I don’t have to look very far.
I don’t believe anywhere in the world is more open to ethnic and gender diversity. I am forever humbled and grateful for the opportunities that have been given to me, and I have never experienced any sort of discrimination. It hurts to hear anything to the contrary. Take a look around you. I guarantee you will see one of the cornerstones of this country — the possibility for anyone to prosper — alive and well.
I always say: “Never, ever give up.” The valley has never given up on any of us.
Vivek Ranadivé is CEO of TIBCO, a publicly traded Big Data company based in Palo Alto. He wrote this for the San Jose Mercury News (Dec2, 2013). Republished here with permission.