THANK YOU AMELIE! As a black former employee of Squarespace, I have my own stories to tell. And because of your bravery I might actually tell them.
For the past few months when people asked me what it was like working there, I would grin and bear it, murmuring something about it being great through a clenched jaw, before quickly changing the subject. I didn’t want to lessen my chance of getting a recommendation or burn bridges. But now I realize: what value is a recommendation from a place that put every obstacle in my way when I tried to advance or develop my career, or when I tried to make the workplace better as a whole?
Fun fact: there is not a single black employee currently at the Squarespace office in Portland. Out of over 150. When I brought this to their attention and asked for more diversified recruiting efforts they basically blamed it on the demographics of Portland. Being the type of person I am, I came prepared with stats. I told them that if Portland is 6.3% black then there should be at least 10 black people there based on the demographics, instead of the two there were at the time. Of course the response to this was some mess about preserving the culture (their go-to deflection/response for just about any concern brought up). It took everything within my power not to say “So…you’re telling me you’re more interested in propping up a culture that’s exclusionary to black people than actually changing that culture to be more inclusive.” Of course I didn’t say this b/c I did not want to get fired. I (as black people who voice concerns in tech companies often are) was already on thin ice and was trying not to get in more trouble.
The thing that resonated with me the most after reading this was the feelings of worthlessness. My advice to the unhappy folks still there (trust me there are plenty) and to folks in similar situations:
DON’T BELIEVE THEM WHEN THEY MAKE YOU FEEL UNWORTHY. They have a vested interest in holding you back, because it makes them less accountable and encourages you to work more for less.
It’s been 4 months since I quit and not a month goes by when I don’t have another job offer or people claim they wished they had a chance to “snatch me up.” The entire time I worked at Squarespace, I was convinced my work wasn’t good enough, that it would be impossible to get another job, that I had to stay and put up with the nonsense b/c just paying back the moving bonus (~$2000) would set me back too far. My self-worth plummeted and I too had to start seeing a therapist.
I now realize that if I had quit sooner I would have been way further along in my goals, and that place could care less about my career development. In my conversations with current employees of all stripes, I see that come up time and time again. They make you feel like you’re advancing your career just by being there, but at the end of the day they’d rather hire a happy-go-lucky, ping-pong loving outsider than advance someone who’s willing and eager to work for change within the company.
At Squarespace there’s this cult of compulsory positivity. Lots of people fresh from college without a lot real experience sometimes would quickly and easily rise through the ranks- living the dream of working at a fancy tech company with their best friends all around them. The culture is part “you can do it!” but mostly “If you don’t advance it’s your fault because this is an amazing job and these strategic few we give opportunities to are proof of that.” Also, free lunch and beer so shut up and don’t you dare hold us accountable or complain when we don’t follow through on our promises.
I’ve gone on long enough and I have just really need to write my own medium article but Amelie I just wanted to affirm what you’re saying and tell you you’re awesome. :)