Tech comedians poke fun at employers


Alexis Gay give up her job in tech to pursue comedy full-time amid the Covid-10 pandemic.

Images courtesy of Alexis Gay

When Alexis Gay needed to current second quarter outcomes to her staff on a Zoom video name, she sat down and questioned how she might do it. She needed be clear however she additionally needed to be encouraging to her teammates who had labored so arduous by means of unprecedented circumstances.

The second quarter of 2020 was one of many worst in years for a lot of tech firms, because the Covid-19 pandemic despatched the financial system right into a tailspin. As a senior supervisor at San Francisco-based digital firm Patreon, Gay knew colleagues had been nonetheless studying the best way to work remotely whereas the nation was in disaster.

While rehearsing what she’d mentioned, she could not assist however snicker.

Gay grew up eager to be an actor, however discovered herself seven years right into a tech job the place she absolutely leaned into the business’s hustle tradition. And now, she discovered herself making an attempt to do it with a straight face throughout a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.

Before her assembly, she made a satirical video depicting how she’d method a staff.

“This is a learning quarter,” she mentioned as she regarded to the facet of digital camera as if making an attempt to persuade herself of what she was saying. “These are unprecedented times,” she mentioned in one other lower. “But the team really dug deep!” she mentioned in one other lower, as if making an attempt to encourage her staff.

Her video instantly acquired tens of hundreds of likes throughout varied social media platforms. “I was tapping into that idea of like, ‘what are we going to say about Q2?” She laughed. 

Gay is one in all a number of tech staff leaning on comedy to poke fun at their workplaces, the place the quirks and qualms of employers grew extra pronounced amid the pandemic. It’s the newest spin on a latest development, the place workers supply first-person accounts chronicling the dystopian nature of Silicon Valley work-life.

Often utilizing quick-take comedic movies, staff are poking fun at recruiting methods, range pledges and the business’s homogenous make-up. Some have even begun creating wealth from their followings, lots of whom are millennials going through excessive charges of burnout, exacerbated through the Covid-19 pandemic. For some, it is turn out to be a type of remedy.

From tech to comedy

In January 2021, because the pandemic raged by means of a winter surge, Gay took a leap and determined to pursue comedy full-time.

“The awareness of how uncertain the future was was a point driven home every day,” she mentioned. “It felt like, the time is now because we simply don’t know what’s coming next.”

Since graduating faculty, Gay had labored tirelessly in varied roles in tech, from advertising to gross sales to partnerships. She’s appreciated her jobs for essentially the most half, she says.

“There was an excitement to being young and fresh in the start-up world,” she mentioned. “This was a world where all I had to do was raise my hand and work hard. I showed up early, stayed late and did that whole deal. I became addicted to this idea that you can build and create something. Like, I was having an impact.” 

While working at San Francisco-based cloud firm Twilio — though she appreciated the job — she realized she did not actually care that a lot, she mentioned.

“It was like, you work in tech, all your friends work in tech, you hang out on the weekends and talk about tech,” she mentioned. “It felt like this homogenous routine.”

Gay then moved to a different firm that was nearer to her coronary heart: Creators making content material. Her most up-to-date position was at San Francisco-based Patreon, the place she labored in creator partnerships. Around the identical time, she joined a San Francisco improv group.

She launched one other widespread video in March 2021 known as “every single park hang in San Francisco,” which drew industrywide consideration. “Alexis continually captures the reality of our industry better than any @semil end of year post ever could,” tweeted Compound Ventures companion Michael Dempsey.

“She’s so spot on it’s terrifying,” one other Twitter consumer said. (Gay mentioned Twitter works properly for comedy — the quick format writing makes prime actual property for zingers, and all people in San Francisco tech is on the platform.)

Gay mentioned her comedy is not meant to be anti-tech, although. “If anything this is self-deprecating humor,” she laughed. “For me, it’s poking fun at me and my friends and the fact that for seven years, this was the choice I made. “

Now, Gay is utilizing the talents she discovered in her tech roles to earn cash from her movies on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. She nonetheless does some consulting and panel moderating for conferences on the facet, she mentioned.

Gay is just not the primary to make the leap to a comedy profession.

Sarah Cooper, a former Google consumer expertise design lead, discovered large success after she filmed a satirical commentary about what it is wish to work at Google and at a giant tech firm. She achieved world recognition in 2019 for her TikTok videos lip syncing to President Donald Trump. In 2020, she landed a Netflix deal for her personal present, “Sarah Cooper: Everything’s Fine.” And, in March 2021, CBS ordered a pilot for a present based mostly on her guide “How to Be Successful Without Hurting Men’s Feelings.”

“What is so cool about seeing her mainstream success is that origin story of being a tech comedy person didn’t pigeonhole her later on so that’s been affirming,” Gay mentioned.

Satire from a various perspective

Josh Ogundu, a product operations lead at TikTok and a startup advisor mentor at accelerator Techstars L.A Cohort, makes movies concerning the actuality versus expectation of working in tech.

The 28-year outdated posts movies to his account NaijaNomad, and has reached tens of hundreds of viewers because the starting of the yr. He even acquired a shout out from present runner and “Billions” co-creator Brian Koppelman on Twitter.

He usually pokes fun firms’ multi-million-dollar range initiatives, recruiting practices and the way when firms check with “hiring” for sure roles, they usually imply contractors, who often do not get the advantages and perks that common workers get pleasure from.

TikTok product operations lead Josh Ogundu has grown in recognition as tech staff relate to his movies that take satire to the fact of working in tech.

Photo courtesy of Josh Ogundu

“What Big Tech says on the surface and what happens in practice is very different,” Ogundu mentioned.

One of his movies, known as “tech guy breaking into tech,” pokes fun at individuals who come from privileged background complaining about being an underdog. Another pokes fun at tech firms rewarding workers with Slack emojis, whiskey and, primarily, something however compensation.

After the 2020 homicide of George Floyd and subsequent racial justice protests, a string of tech firms pledged to do extra to combat racial injustice.

Ogundo’s response: A parody video known as “Tech founders talking about diversity in tech.” In it, Ogundu appears to the facet of the digital camera with a disinterested face as if talking to a crowd, and says, “At Big Tech BigCo, we pride ourselves on diversity….Due to our five-year $100 million pledge to diversify tech, we are able to hire five more people of color as contractors this year than in any previous year.”

He mentioned he noticed a spot in Silicon Valley satirical comedies, which centered on engineers however ignored the true challenges for individuals of shade.

“For me, it’s having an outlet to talk about more serious topics by poking fun at it and opening it up for a broader conversation in a way that isn’t an attack on someone,” Ogundu mentioned.

San Francisco-based Hallie Lomax sought an analogous form of honesty. A Lyft engineer who’s labored at varied Silicon Valley tech firms, the 27-year-old began a digital caricature known as “At Work Comics” which she describes as “moments with people I am paid to talk to.”  

Lyft engineer Hallie Lomax has created digital comedian strips depicting frequent office interactions.

Photo courtesy of Hallie Lomax

It started as a approach to doc her uncomfortable experiences throughout an internship at a tech firm.

“This guy in my office would be weirdly flirty with me and I didn’t like it so I started posting using the hashtag #guyatwork did this thing.” During the pandemic, she revived her pastime of drawing she roughly deserted earlier than she acquired into tech as a software program engineer throughout faculty. 

One comic from 2020 depicts a person on a video name saying “I want to make coffee but I don’t want to show you my house.” Another comedian reveals her working from her laptop computer from a small dwelling when her canine begins mounting a close-by stuffed animal. “This is a hostile work environment,” the character is proven saying whereas staring at her canine.

Photo courtesy of Hallie Lomax

“It’s kind of like the opposite of a micro-aggression,” she mentioned. “It’s these micro positive moments that add up over time to create an overwhelming feeling of positivity.”

They additionally assist her reconcile being a Black girl in a homogenous tech business, she mentioned.

“I’ve had a lot of pretty weird, negative experiences, but with this, I have evidence that there are a lot of good ties and positive relationships I’ve had with coworkers and some of them are even pretty good friends,” Lomax mentioned. “The tech industry can be a very hard place to be, especially when you don’t necessarily feel like you’re a part of the ‘in’ groups, but if you can remember all of the good times you’ve had, it’s easier to look past it all.”

Lyft even requested Lomax to do a comic book for its weblog after coworkers took discover. 

The weblog post, known as “mentoring myself” options light-hearted drawings of her character speaking to new trainees, recalling from her first days in tech “a crippling paranoia that you don’t have what it takes to succeed in the professional world.”

It reveals a drawing of her in a penguin costume with the phrases “If I had a dollar for every time someone told me I had imposter syndrome, I’d question whether or not I deserved so much money.”

Millennial work nervousness

Rod Thill, a 30-year outdated gross sales employee for an e-commerce logistics firm, noticed his social media following explode to tens of millions of followers in October 2020 after posting about Silicon Valley’s “grind” tradition and the stresses of feeling insufficient throughout a time when staff cannot learn their bosses’ expressions.

His TikTok identify is @Rod and bio says “Anxious Millennial” with a tear drop emoji.

“Last April, I had a management change during a pandemic and I had never met them face-to-face,” Thill mentioned. “When that happened, it intensified the anxiety. Reading communication has been really hard to do during this time.”

Thill’s breakout video got here when he described millennials working with the irrational worry they’ll get fired. “I am a pretty stellar employee and still feel like I’ll get fired for no reason,” he mentioned.

He’s garnered over one million followers throughout platforms in months and is now doing sponsorships with manufacturers like StitchFix, Lenovo and Wholly Guacamole. “Millennials love guac, so it fits in.”

Companies at the moment are hiring Thill for pleased hour occasions and awards nights. Now, he is begun writing a TV script about millennials in startup tradition and employed an agent. But he does not plan on quitting his day job anytime quickly.

Like Gay, Thill wanted to have the ability to discuss and snicker concerning the realities of office nervousness and an outlet like TikTok appeared good.

“Millennials, I think, like to just open up and check apps real quick,” mentioned Thill, describing why he thinks he struck a chord with individuals. “Working in corporate America, time is money and breaks are amazing.”

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