In 2006, Google bought YouTube for more than $1 billion, Apple was preparing to announce the first iPhone, and the American housing bubble began to deflate. Claire Stapleton, then a senior at the University of Pennsylvania, faced the same question over and over: What did she plan to do with that English degree? She flirted, noncommittally, with Teach for America.
Then, a Google recruiter came to campus and, Ms. Stapleton said, she “won ‘American Idol.’” The company flew her out to Mountain View, Calif., which felt to her “like the promised land” — 15 cafeterias, beach volleyball courts, Zumba classes, haircuts and laundry on-site.
But for Ms. Stapleton, now 34, the real appeal in a job at Google was what seemed to be a perfect balance of working for income and according to one’s conscience. Naturally, she said yes to an offer in the corporate communications department.
“There was this ambient glow of being part of a company that was changing the world,” Stapleton said. “I was totally googly-eyed about it.”
Than a decade later, college seniors and recent graduates looking for jobs that are both principled and high-paying are doing so in a world that has soured on Big Tech. The positive perceptions of Google, Facebook and other large tech firms are crumbling.
Many students still see employment in tech as a ticket to prosperity, but for job seekers who can afford to be choosy, there is a growing sentiment that Silicon Valley’s most lucrative positions aren’t worth the ethical quandaries. “Working at Google or Facebook seemed like the coolest thing ever my freshman year, because you’d get paid a ton of money but it was socially responsible,” said Chand Rajendra-Nicolucci, 21, a senior at the University of Michigan. “It was like a utopian workplace.”
Now, he said, “there’s more hesitation about the moral qualities of these jobs. It’s like how people look at Wall Street.”
Investment Banking, but Worse
The growing skepticism of Silicon Valley, sometimes referred to as the “techlash,” has spared few of technology’s major players.
In 2019, Facebook was fined nearly $5 billion by the Federal Trade Commission for mishandling user data. Amazon canceled its plans for a New York City headquarters after residents, union leaders and local legislators contested the idea that the behemoth should receive $3 billion from the state to set up shop.
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