Uber's woeful month continues with the ignominious departure of senior vice president of engineering Amit Singhal, forced to resign by company CEO Travis Kalanick after tech publication Recode started asking questions about Singhal's hiring in the first place.
An internal investigation at Singhal's previous company, Google, found sexual harassment allegations against him from an employee were "credible," Recode writes, and the company was ready to fire him if he didn't leave of his own accord, according, again, to Recode's sources. The backdrop for Singhal's presence at Uber and now his sudden departure is inevitably a highly publicized account from a former Uber engineer, Susan Fowler, that revealed a culture of "high performing" employees being given passes despite sexual harassment allegations.
Previously, Singhal's departure from Google, where he was considered as "a giant force inside the company," had been characterized as a retirement. Or at least that's how it seems from a belabored goodbye post that explained, after 15 years with the company it was "a good time to make this important life change" and to make his next 15 years about giving back to others.
Ditching that plan, he took a job with Uber: Singhal wrote on his personal website that "after 15 wonderful years at Google working on search, I wasn’t sure that I would find an opportunity as exciting or potentially world-changing. But having spent hours with Travis and many others at the company, I can confidently say Uber fits the bill."
Per Recode: "Sources at Uber said that the company did extensive background checks of Singhal and that it did not uncover any hint of the circumstances of his departure from Google. Singhal disputed the allegation to Google execs at the time." Next time, for the real extensive background check, Uber will have to call Recode's Kara Swisher.
After Fowler's allegations against Uber, which described a workplace where harassment was commonplace and HR failures kept it from being addressed, the New York Times spoke to 30 Uber staffers and characterized Uber's fast-paced, bro-forward work culture as downright "Hobbesian." At the end of the week, Kalanick met with Uber's female engineers to discuss the situation, and BuzzFeed obtained leaked audio from that conversation. Referring to the former attorney general Eric Holder, who has been brought in to investigate the sexual harassment claims, one employee says:
“I think that we should kind of address the elephant in the room which is that everyone who’s in these rooms now believes that there is a systemic problem here. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t... do not think that we need [Eric Holder’s] help in admitting to ourselves as a company that we have a systemic problem.”
There was more bad news for Uber's brand last week when a Google company, Waymo, revealed it was suing Uber over allegedly stealing trade secrets from Google's self-driving car division. Specifically, an ex-Googler is accused of downloading reams of files to help him start a self-driving truck company, Otto, which he sold to Uber before joining that company.
Finally, it came out that a previous PR-nightmare — a self-driving Uber that ran a red light in San Francisco — was in fact driving itself, not being operated by a human driver at the time, despite Uber's protestations to the contrary that pinned the problem on "human error."
All of this might have Uber exec saying "Jesus, take the wheel."