Suicide of an Uber Engineer

Last April this year, the news about a wife who tried to sue Uber for “killing” his husband went viral — Joseph Thomas’ wife blamed Uber for its unsupportive job environment that led to his suicide in August 2016.

Image result for joseph thomas uber
Joseph Thomas, his wife, and children

Originally from Atlanta, Joseph taught himself how to properly operate the computer, to the point that he gained the recognition as a computer engineer. Attracted by the $170,000 salary, Joseph decided to leave his former job (a site engineer at Linkedin), to become a software engineer at Uber. With his vast knowledge, Joseph quickly became the smartest man in the room there. However, he always came home with distress and anxiety, saying things like: “My boss does not like me. I feel stupid, they’re all laughing at me”. There he was with all of his potentials and capabilities, yet Joseph still felt insecurities until all of his confidence was teared down to the bone. It was such a pity to see Joseph feeling self-conscious all the time, since he always worked hard. If there was a coding language he did not yet understand, Joseph would studied diligently and even got certification for it — this fact alone has proven how passionate he was in engineering. So, during the period of working in Uber, Joseph got stressed out all the time by having panic attacks and constant anxiety. His condition was atypical, coming from a man who had no history of stress whatsoever under any working conditions. Then, in August 2016, the wife found Joseph in his car, dead. What is more heart-breaking is the fact that his wife, who was close in completing her master’s degree in computer science at that time, seems to not be able to complete her own goal. Being too heart-broken right now, her only goal is to raise both of her children well, without their father’s presence.

Attempting to protect its company, Uber refused to give any general information about Joseph Thomas — everything coming from the company was heavily edited as benign. Maybe this Joseph Thomas’ case is about racism, who knows? Being the only smart African-American in the room, some ashy white “intellectuals” might feel jealous towards his brilliancy. Recently, Uber released its first diversity report, showing how out of 12,000 U.S employees, only 8.8% were black. Ironically, only about 2% are in leadership positions. This is a chart on the demographics:

Like many other tech companies, Uber employees are mostly white (Caucasian) males and Asian. Anyway, Uber seems to be in hot water right now, especially after a video on the CEO shouting at a driver went viral. Not only that, Uber was also under allegations on sexual harassment and its support on the U.S President Donald Trump. All of these bad news really did affect its stocks on the market. In addition to all of those stuff, people be voicing the movement #DeleteUBER and downloading another transportation app (LYFT) instead. However, everything is the same under the construct of capitalism. Who doesn’t need UBER nowadays? Besides, one of LYFT’s main investors is also a supporter of Donald Trump — surprise surprise.

The suicide of Joseph Thomas is an eye-opener; it shows how working in a big corporation might not be an actual “dreams come true”, you see? Toxic working environment, anxiety, stress.. Are they worth the $170,000 salary? Is one’s life worth $170,000? Joseph’s expectations might be achieved, but reality came crashing down hard. If what happened to Joseph Thomas was only because he was black (or an African-American), then Uber would be one racist corporation. Isn’t it sad to see a person full of passion and knowledge died, just because of toxic work environment? Besides, no one wants to die in the hands of the corporate world and capitalist ventures.


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