For years, Stanford University has been ground zero for Silicon Valley talent, and employers like Facebook and Google have been considered dream companies to work for. But given the major scandals and constant stream of negative news in the industry, there’s a “growing skepticism of the inherent goodness of technology,” writes Victor Luckerson, and a push at the university to revamp its computer science courses to address the ethical challenges that companies, especially the corporate giants, currently face.
At The Ringer, Luckerson explores Stanford’s ties to Silicon Valley’s biggest employers, the evolution of its computer science curriculum, and its students’ changing views on what it means to work in tech.
As tech comes to dominate an ever-expanding portion of our daily lives, Stanford’s role as an educator of the industry’s engineers and a financier of its startups grows increasingly important. The school may not be responsible for creating our digital world, but it trains the architects. And right now, students are weighing tough decisions about how they plan to make a living in a world that was clearly constructed the wrong way. “To me it seemed super empowering that a line of code that I wrote could be used by millions of people the next day,” says Matthew Sun, a junior majoring in computer science and public policy, who helped organize the Theranos event. “Now we’re realizing that’s maybe not always a good thing.”
Landing a job at a major tech firm is often as much about prestige as passion, which is one reason the CS major has expanded so dramatically. But a company’s tarnished reputation can transfer to its employees. Students debate whether fewer of their peers are actually taking gigs at Facebook, or whether they’re just less vocal in bragging about it. At lunch at a Burmese restaurant on campus, Hall and Sun summed up the transition succinctly. “No one’s like, ‘I got an internship at Uber!’” Sun says. Hall follows up: “They’re like, ‘I got an internship … at Uber …’”