I came outside to sit down after grabbing a cup of coffee. It was the perfect beautiful sunny day. The birds were singing, families were strolling by, the chairs outside were nice and comfortable. He was an ex-CEO who still advised the company, and had just finished up a business call. I had just been fired from his company for complaining to HR about gender discrimination and poor treatment.
I don't think he took the coffee meeting to calm me down. His eyes genuinely teared up when I told him what happened. I think he took it because he is a good guy. We talked for a while about recent changes, and running a company, and life.
He told me he wished he could do something to help, but the truth was he'd given up control of his company and really did not have the power others thought he had. I had spent the past many months trying to make the reorganization of the company go better with the new CEO. Talking with him was confirming that my efforts were just trying to inch a big rock uphill.
The new CEO seemed terrified of his investors, and was really just seeking to make a lot of money, not out to put ethics and good culture first. He was great at PR, great at pretending to be a decent human.
A lot of really good people worked there. A lot of really good people tried protecting their teams from bad leaders like this. That company also made products that impacted peoples' lives well. So many stayed for that sake.
So is that kind of company worth being at?
The other day I told a friend about some of my bad experiences at big corporations. She declared that she would never work at those companies. But I told her-- it's hard to name a big corporation that isn't similar. I can tell horror stories from so many big corporations-- I guess part of that is being a woman in games. But there are good teams.
I was at a dinner meeting with several women. "I stayed at this big corporation for 20 years, Stephanie. I tried to make it better. I don't think that was a good idea. Running my own organization like I do now is such a better use of my time, and has a much more significant impact than anything I did there in terms of good social change."
I think that there is nothing wrong with staying with a big corporation to get experience and do what good you can do.
It's also worth noting that many small companies are not ethical, and controlled far too much by bad leaders and investors.
I think a big part of a healthy community is supporting ethical small companies and freelancers.
A big part of the way I live life these days is simply ignoring the toxic big industry people who I used to cater to. If they don't support me, I find people who do. If I don't like something they're doing, instead of trying to fit in with their systems I build my own.
Small companies can make changes fast. Small companies can care about their local communities more. Small companies can keep their leadership in check. Small companies can feel more human.
I have to deal with the overhead of talking to lawyers and accountants and finding clients, but it's made up for by not needing to battle company politics and sexism. If I want to donate to a charity I love, I grab the company credit card. If I want to speak my mind, I go and write my thoughts freely. If I want to work nontraditionally or try a new idea, there's no problem.
I'm lucky to have a network of lovely small companies and freelancers in Seattle who support each other.