Maryam Aghamirzadeh accomplished a lot in her 30-plus-year high-tech career. She produced goods and services. She created jobs. And she generated economic value.
These days, she’s determined to make something else: change. She’s donating her time to a new grassroots organization opposing the Trump administration, Tech Stands Up, to fight for causes about which she cares deeply, such as women’s rights, immigration and environmental protection.
“I have never seen this kind of mobilization” in the tech industry, says Aghamirzadeh, a 58-year-old stepped down Cisco Systems executive and electrical engineer who emigrated to the U.S. from Iran. “I think it’s the first time we have seen it coming from the bottom up.”
She’s part off a new wave of activism sweeping Silicon Valley. For the first time, legions of tech workers are on the front lines in what Aghamirzadeh and others in Silicon Valley are calling a political awakening.
Mobilization in the form of rallies, volunteering time and skills, fundraising and even the threat to walk off their jobs is bubbling up here. In the process, the rank and file are joining horses with outside organizations to create a broad coalition they hope can flex political muscle in Washington.
More than 1,200 Silicon Valley technology workers in the Bay Area are planning to walk off the job on March 14, turning a special day for math geeks into a protest against President Trump.
During the waning moments of Super Bowl LI, a group of 100 tech workers gathered to lay out a plan of attack against Trump’s immigration ban. The new group, Tech Solidarity, raised $30,000 in funding for three legal aid groups and talked about how to sway reluctant tech executives.
Next week, another group of social activists in Silicon Valley, the Tech Workers Coalition, whose 40 members include employees from Facebook, Google and Twitter, is planning a “No Ban No Wall No Registry” rally in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood.
Silicon Valley workers — often derided as disengaged and narcissistic on HBO’s namesake sitcom — are exercising their voice “and exerting power from within their company,” says Matt Schaefer, a spokesman for Tech Workers Coalition.
And they are turning up the pressure on their employers to more forcefully push back against the administration policies such as its recent ban on immigrants from mostly Muslim nations.