A Survival Guide to Tech Career Fairs

A student-made guide to starting critical conversations in academic & professional tech spaces.

Zine-troduction

Typical career fair advice looks something like this: put on a blazer, print copies of your resume, practice handshakes. But do these tips really prepare you to enter a room full of representatives for companies that often design drones and surveillance systems, maintain toxic working conditions, and gentrify and displace Black and brown communities? 

This zine was created by a group of undergraduate STEM majors at the Claremont Colleges – Pomona (PO), Claremont McKenna (CMC), Harvey Mudd (HMC), Scripps (SCR), and Pitzer (PZ) – questioning and reimagining our relationships to the tech industry. We distributed print copies outside of the Spring career fair at Harvey Mudd College in February 2020, hoping to encourage reflection about both the specific companies that came to recruit and the tech industry as a whole. 

These questions take on new relevance amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, in which science and technology companies have positioned themselves as saviors—from vaccine development to contact tracing apps. We hope that this guide sparks critical conversations about the tech world with not only job recruiters, but also friends, family, colleagues, professors, and anyone else. Everyone is affected by technology’s role in our lives, and we all play a role in transforming it!


Note: After creating this zine it came to our attention that one of the authors we cite, Isaac Asimov, was a known perpetrator of sexual harassment and abuse. We want to acknowledge this history and provide a warning that pages 13-14 (the 7th spread) heavily feature his work.


Mudd’s Declassified Career Survival Guide

A school composition notebook with a camouflage background and the words "Mudd's Declassified Career Survival Guide" in the center.

Page 1 (a terminal window, titled “~/ - zsh -- 80 x 24”, enclosing the following text:) Is this company good or bad? Good or bad for whom? (1) Does this company have an ethics code? Whose side are ethics codes on? (2) Footnotes: Hannah Sassaman, Jennifer Lee, Jenessa Irvine, and Shankar Narayan. 2020. Creating community-based tech policy: case studies, lessons learned, and what technologists and communities can do together. Anne L. Washington and Rachel Kuo. 2020. Whose side are ethics codes on? power, responsibility and the social good. Page 2 We are all cyborgs In 1985, Donna Haraway wrote, “A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction” A cyborg is a symbol. A cyborg is simply a child that has no whole to speak of, but instead acknowledges itself as evolving. Imagine it as a junkyard; pieced together; come together; held together. And these tenuous, dangling, distant, intimate, indifferent, ecological connections between them make the cyborg. Embedded in these connections are dynamics of domination that can be inverted, that can be interrogated, that can be pressed towards a new creation. The cyborg is not whole and has never been whole; the cyborg has evolved and has posited that technology can be personally effortful; that technology has been black, has been non-binary, has been democratic, has been full of care; has been made by and for disabled people; has been decolonizing. This zine has been brought together in a cyborgian fashion. Its “message,” if that’s what you’re looking for, is what you build, tinker, and question with it. (at the center of the page is a drawing of a human facial features on separate puzzle pieces, overlaid upon electrical circuit schematics).

Page 3. We are students from HM, CMC, SC, and PO committed to asking better questions and using our collective power during the upcoming HMC Career Fair. Career fairs give us a unique opportunity to practice agency and shift what “tech” can be: anything from self-reflection and conversing with friends to engaging with recruiters can be generative, creating new definitions and futures. In this tradition, students have ld the #NoTechForICE movement, successfully compelling UC Berkeley, Brown, and the Grace Hopper Conference to cancel their partnerships with Palantir, a company which gains >$200 million from supplying tech to ICE. Students have also created industry alternatives, e.g. college sophomores started the Civic Digital Fellowship, partnering technical students with national agencies. We do not need to wait to get a job to create new worlds; the sociotechnical* is already here, brightly packaged in boxes of swag and flyers. *for everything is social, including technology Page 4 Most companies claim to be committed to ethics. Frequently, this is just ethics-washing. Google was forced to dismantle its “Ethics Board” after employees protested over its inclusion of a member with anti-LGBTQ views. This prompts us to ask, who gets to define “ethical”? Who is in the room? In order to hold companies to account, we contend that tech is political. As we walk through the career fair, we can show up for those not present. From factory workers, residents of gentrified neighborhoods, gig workers, incarcerated people, and other groups: who is affected? Feminist scholar Donna Haraway wrote, “We are living in a world of connections- and it matters which ones get made and unmade.” New worlds are created constantly. Too often, without our knowing. We hope this Zine pushes us in another direction, in which we are attentive to what futures we are creating. In solidarity, Dri, Yoni, Moe, Haidee, Cleo, Lee, Liam, Bradley

Pages 5 and 6 UNREPRESENTED: company leadership demographics (hand-drawn pie charts showing the percentages of male and white members in leadership positions for each company present at the career fair this zine was presented at) Ancestry.com: 77% men, no data Hewlett-Packard: 68% men, 68% white PGD Consulting: 58% men, 100% white Solar Turbines (Caterpillar): 77% men, 82% white Flow Traders (PMCO): 100% men, 100% white Miso Robotics: 60% men, 70% white Unify ID: 100% men, 83% white Veeva Systems: 82.5% men, 82.5% white Masimo: 67% men, 100% white Physical Optics Co: 87.5% men, 87.5% white Zip Recruiter: 72% men, 82% white *data includes board of directors, company management, and other company leadership as taken directly from company websitesPage 7 Ned’s Friends’ Guide to Questions to Ask Tech Recruiters Picture credits: A Youtube video with 542 views called “Top 10 Ned’s Declassified Characters of All Time.” That’s the beauty of technology. (The following questions are enclosed in speech bubbles overlaid on screenshots of individual characters from the show Ned’s Declassified Middle School Survival Guide.) Are employees unionized? What happens when employees protest contracts/projects? Are foreign workers’ H1B visas ____? (Screenshot of a Google search for “kickstarter union”.) How transparent is your supply chain? How do you address your contribution to gentrification? (Screenshot of a Google search for “apple rare” with “apple rare earth metals” as the first result. Screenshot of a headline from Newsweek Magazine stating “Tech Boom Forces a Ruthless Gentrification in San Francisco” by Joe Kloc on 4/15/14.) Have you taken military contracts? Do you profit from prisons? Do you work with ICE? (Screenshot of a Google search for “ice ama” with “ice amazon” as the first result and “ice amazon boycott” as the last result. Screenshot from the Defense section of IJK Controls website with an image of a tank, captioned “IJK Controls serves a variety of research customers and production programs. Our expertise in line-of-sight stabilization goes back decades.”) Page 8 Ned’s Declassified Dialogues: Questions to Ask Each Other (The following questions are enclosed in speech bubbles overlaid upon screenshots of groups of characters from the show Ned’s Declassified Middle School Survival Guide.) What are our common goals? How can we hold each other accountable? Are we reproducing capitalist ideologies of productivity in our daily interactions? What do we mean by “social good”? What would a future look like that worked for everyone?Page 9 ALGORITHMIC ECOLOGY* Q: What ecosystem surrounds a piece of tech? A: A complicity web (A diagram with the logo for Lucid Circuit at the center, surrounded by a tower labeled “USC Stevens Center for Innovation, a fighter jet labeled “Air Force”, and dollar bills labeled “Space Ventures Coalition”, with labeled arrows connecting each node described below:) Lucid Circuit → USC CSI: profit Air Force: chip technology USC CSI → Lucid Circuit: commercial licenses Space Ventures Coalition → Lucid Circuit: publicity USC CSI: partnership Air Force: connecting companies to defense AIr Force → Lucid Circuit: $3m funding USC CSI: military influence in STEM → Academia, industry, venture capital & nonprofits all contribute to the MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX that kills thousands worldwide. *adopted from Free Radicals & Stop LAPD Spying! Page 10 & ALGORITHMS IN OUR ECOSYSTEMS Q: how do digital technologies take up physical space? A: EVERYWHERE From forcibly remaking POC neighborhoods into their own image… (Left: Map showing evictions near Google shuttle stops between 2011-2013 from the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project. Right: A drawing of a young man with locs, a young woman with black long hair and an old woman with white hair holding signs that read “EVICT GOOGLE” and “THE BAY IS OUR HOME”) ... To exploiting natural resources in the global south. (A drawing of a mineral mine in a mountain range with dark smoke everywhere.)Page 11 questions = [ ​"Am I doing what I want to be doing?"​, ​"Is what I am doing 'good'?"​, ​"How is my definition of 'good' informed by my environment?"​, ​"Does this work give back to the communities that have given to me?"​, ​"Can I be my most authentic self when doing this work?"​, "Do I know all of the potential repercussions of my work?" ] Page 12 """before you take points off for this function, think about how you would change and/or improve it. Can we trust computers to handle the subjective, difficult task of human decision making?""" def​ ​askyourself​(organism, questions): ​ while​ organism.status: ​#if you're still breathing answers = [] ​for​ i ​in​ range(len(questions)): print(questions[i]) ​try​: answers[i] =bool(input(questions[i])) ​#answer each question ​except​ TypeError: ​#are all of the answers going to be booleans? print(​"Sorry, not every question can be answered with a yes or no"​) ​#and then it starts all over again... askyourself (you, questions)Page 13 Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics Tech Internships From Isaac Asimov’s 1941 short story “Runaround:” (A photo of a page from the book follows, overlaid with black lines underlining the sentences underlined below.) Powell’s radio voice was tense in Donovan’s ear: “Now, look, let’s start with the three fundamental Rules of Robotics - the three rules that are built most deeply into a robot’s positronic brain.” In the darkness, his gloved fingers ticked off each point. “We have: One, a robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.” “Right!” “Two,” continued Powell, “a robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.” “Right!” “And three, a robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.” “Right! Now where are we?” (The black lines culminate in an arrow pointing at the following typed paragraph.) That’s a good question, Donovan, and I don’t know the answer. Although we may not be trying to control a rogue robot on Mercury, our situation is still uncertain. How do we guide our mostly autonomous selves to apply our skills and passions in systems riddled with ethical issues too complex for even DeepMind’s most sophisticated and best Go-playing AI? We think Asimov, as always may hold some insight. So we present… (All of the above is overlaid over text from Asimov’s writings, an illustration of an astronaut on an extraterrestrial planet, and a drawing of Isaac Asimov.) Page 14 Rule 1: A tech intern may not, directly or indirectly, cause harm to another human being. Understand, as the HMC Mission Statement boldly implores us, the impact of your work. What is your tech being used for? What could it potentially be used for? Does it concentrate or decentralize power? (Left: A screenshot of a news article titled “‘Techlash’ Hits College Campuses.” Below, right: A “No Tech for ICE” poster. Below, left: A screenshot of a news article titled “Battling Algorithmic Bias: How do we ensure algorithms treat us fairly?”) Rule 2: A tech worker may only take orders when these orders do not conflict with rule 1. The problems caused by the tech industry aren’t going to solve themselves. Employees at numerous tech companies have organized to hold their employers accountable. Refusing to work for a company in the first place is also a powerful statement. (Below: An image of a protest, with people holding a banner stating “Silicon Valley RISING” and a sign stating “NOT OKAY GOOGLE”) Rule 3: A tech worker must sustain their own existence, but must ask themselves, “How can my sustenance not conflict with rules 1 or 2?” Tech policy jobs might not pay $100k. You might get fired for protesting. Trust yourself, ask difficult questions, and figure out what compromises are important for you to make. (This text partially covers screenshots of tweets from @rushkoff and @EFF discussing Amazon Ring and tech research.)Page 15 This zine is but a tiny glance at larger ideas ! > if you are interested in learning more about ethical / activist STEM efforts check out some of these resources… Free Radicals :: “an activist collective dedicated to creating a more socially just, equitable, and accountable science” > FREERADS.ORG #NoTechForICE :: “our campaign seeks to expose tech’s outsized role in criminal justice justice and immigration enforcement by organizing with tech workers and targeting specific companies with demands to end their collaborations” > NOTECHFORICE.COM Page 16 Data for Black Lives :: “a group of activists and mathematicians committed to the mission of using data science to create concrete and measurable change in the lives of Black people.” > D4BL.ORG Stop LAPD Spying Coalition :: “alliance of different organizations that reject all forms of police oppression; our vision is the dismantling of government-sanctioned spying and intelligence gathering, in all its multiple forms.” > STOPLAPDSPYING.ORG Tech Workers Coalition :: “guided by our vision for an inclusive & equitable tech industry, TWC organizes to build worker power through rank & file self-organization and education” > TECHWORKERSCOALITION.ORGPage 17 Four black and white posters from #TechClimateStrike, stating: ZERO carbon emissions by 2030 (background: a circle full of binary strings of zeros and ones overlaid upon a circuit diagram, surrounded by smoke) ZERO funding of climate denial lobbying (background: drawing of two people surrounded by dollar bills) ZERO harm to climate refugees (background: drawing of person crying behind bars made of binary strings of zeros and ones) ZERO contracts with Fossil Fuel companies (background: smoke rising from a landscape) Page 18 Tech jobs that are more explicitly centered on social good DO EXIST! > be mindful, however, of “ethics-washing” or “green-washing” that companies might participate in -- always do your own research ! coding it forward > (codingitforward.com) Climate.Careers: Find high impact jobs solving the climate crisis. Code for America (codeforamerica.org) techjobsforgood.com > job boardPage 19 (back page) Thank you for reading! Love, Tech for Good, 5ctechforgood@gmail.com Free Radicals, freeradsblog@gmail.com Yoni, Haidee, Cleo, Moe, Leo, Liam, Bradley, Dri

 


Haidee Clauer Haidee Clauer is an undergrad at Pomona studying Astrophysics and Environmental Sciences and interested in science journalism!

Lee Beckwith studies environmental justice & computer science and is working to understand how these seemingly disparate fields are intertwined. They are especially grateful for cirrus clouds.






dri chiu tattersfield is a nonbinary physics student who can usually be found laying in patches of grass or attempting to farm. things they are currently thinking about include the role of imagination in community organizing. they love writing poetry, doodling and combining the two into comics, and would love to meet u !