What is this newsletter about? 💌
“How To Work in Tech Without Losing Your Soul” is a newsletter that explores the messy relationship between humanity and technology. It’s also about the tech industry, written for tech workers searching for clarity, recovery, and insight in a time of disillusionment, burnout, and contradictory visions for what our future holds.
Even if you don’t work in tech, this newsletter peels back the curtain into the absurdities of the industry, the unreasonable pressures tech workers face, and tips for how to more consciously engage with technology, particularly at a time of global political upheaval and information fatigue. The goal is to explore, process, and challenge unhealthy ideas about innovation, restore the parts of ourselves that are becoming lost in a world consumed by technology and work, and crack open the unspoken dialogue between us.
Subscribers will get access to detailed analysis, personal essays, journalism, regenerative tips, and a dash of cultural (perhaps therapeutic) criticism delivered directly to your email on a bi-monthly basis. Sign up or share with your friends. 👯♂️
Hi, I’m Lauren Celenza 👋🏼
(she/they, SE-LEN-ZA, Twitter and Instagram: @laurencza)
I’m a digital experience designer, writer, and educator based in Seattle, on unceded Duwamish land. My work, essays, and commentaries have appeared in Forbes, In These Times, The Economic Times, UX Collective, dscout, among others. I’ve been selected for writing fellowships at Tin House, Barrelhouse, and Catapult.
I run my own design and wellbeing studio, partnering with leaders and organizations worldwide to develop technology that thoughtfully considers the relationships to our environments, our communities, and ourselves. I do this through design consulting, team training, and career/wellbeing coaching. Formerly, I was a Design Lead at Google and an early member of the Alphabet Workers Union. I teach the course Design in a World of Chaos & Uncertainty at Harbour Space University in Barcelona. In 2022, I petitioned for the Silenced No More Act in Washington state. I’m currently writing a debut memoir that explores the relationship and impact of technology within the spheres of family, place, identity, and industry. (See more info below.)
If you’d like to work with me, get in touch.
What inspired you to write this newsletter? 🤔
I grew up in Ohio during the decline of manufacturing and the rise of the internet, where I witnessed tech’s rising power over family, place, and identity from a young age. When the 2008 recession struck through my family and hometown, I watched how Big Tech stepped in and filled gaps: from helping my mother find treatment for cancer on Google after losing access to health insurance, to helping my father find academic information on Google to assist with a career transition, to replacing the local abandoned mall with Amazon delivery trucks.
For decades, my father worked as a warehouse manager, a career that thrashed between unemployment and fourteen-hour, life-threatening work shifts, where it took him forty years to see the ocean. He faced severe sleep deprivation and we lost time together. When he returned to school with the desire to change careers and be closer to family–arriving in a tech-driven world he struggled to grasp–and then later received news that his job had been terminated just weeks before getting a pension, he warned me to “find a career that won’t consume you.”
But after amassing $115,000 in student loan debt and facing my own job loss in a labor market increasingly consumed by tech, I longed for the same desire my father had–a stable career with a sense of agency. I moved from Ohio to Seattle, landing in the heart of Big Tech as a software designer at Google, the very entity that was my family doctor, librarian, lawyer, school counselor, and now, employer.
From 2016 to 2021, I sought to catalyze changes to Google’s process by helping cross-functional teams dismantle silos and work together with local communities, startups, and activists to bring the relationship between humanity and technology into balance. But this process involved major contradictions: while I contributed towards making Google Maps navigation inclusive for public transportation, motorbikes, and communities new to the internet–ultimately mapping out millions of previously excluded routes, languages, addresses, and businesses across the world–I struggled with the power of my position as a white American tech worker at a global corporation and my participation in perpetuating that power. These contradictions are not discussed, and, in some cases, are silenced across the tech industry–even though many of us feel it and can become a major contributor to our burnout. As I organized against the pressures to “assume ownership,” joined the Alphabet Workers Union, and fought for a seat at the table alongside workers across the world–from offices in Nigeria to data centers in South Carolina–I wondered whether I’d be able to follow my father’s advice to not let myself get consumed by it all.
In 2021, I resigned from Google after organizing with my colleagues against the firing of Timnit Gebru and its failure to address rampant discrimination. I launched this newsletter and my own design and wellbeing studio to help tech leaders, workers, and organizations develop technology that thoughtfully considers the relationships to our environments, our communities, and ourselves.