Ethics In Tech & Lack Thereof

Sleeping Under The Cell Tower

By Vahid Razavi

Stateside Crisis

I was back in the United States within 24 hours of being released from the hospital. I experienced mixed emotions upon my homecoming; I was glad to be out of the mental institution and back inthe comfort and familiarity of the States, but I also regretted depriving my co-workers of income by just quitting on them. Prior to my departure to Serbia I had planned two events and still wanted to carry them out. The first of these events was to see my ex-colleagues from my Exodus days of the late 1990s. From 1997 to 1999 I’d worked in field sales for Exodus, one of the first pioneers of colocation; I was in my early 20’s when the company went public. I learned so much at Exodus —where I enjoyed the kind, supportive culture and innovative business practices which revolutionized the data center and outsourcing sectors — that I still hold my colleagues and my memories from this company in high regard.

Before my breakdown, I was asked to produce videos and interview the company’s founders and other executives (including my own boss from that time) for a 20-year reunion celebration. I wouldn’t want to miss this opportunity to see these folks. The videos from these interviews can still be found on the old BizCloud Youtube channel.

Back in my Exodus days the Internet was still in its relative infancy. Innovation is what drove companies’ success, and there was no need for dirty money from rendition programs. Now it seems as if every tech company is willing to sell its soul to government and intelligence agencies just to get a slice of that sweet federal funding pie. According to Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, intelligence agency contractors today are awarded close to 70 percent of the total budget of these agencies. From your personal information to your phone calls, emails, and social media, allforms of electronic communications are consistently and broadly monitored by bad actors in the private sector working on behalf of these agencies. This data is available for sale in bulk. Your Privacy is a total fucking illusion.

Back in the days of Exodus we were selling colocation and data center services to other startups. It Was a different era with different business values from today’s. Now, still associated with BizCloud,I felt that I’d lost my values. The bullshit legal process had led to my intellectual property being shared with the tech industry’s worst, most heartless and malicious company. Our second event, to take place the following week, was Data Week and another NSA Comedy night. I wanted nothing to do with any of it. I had another manic episode and mental breakdown.

That weekend, as I was reviewing the videos of Exodus executives, my mind raced with thoughts about BizCloud and our upcoming trade show sponsorship. As I reviewed the previous videos that I’d produced of our various events (from NSA Comedy night to Restore the 4th and 1984 Day), I Realized I could have nothing to do with Ethics In Technology or BizCloud while our brand was associated with CSC and its cohorts.

After Serbia I went home to spend a few days at my mother’s house. One evening, as she was busy preparing dinner, I decided I wanted to end my life. I wanted nothing to do with this rotten world —I had no interest in surrendering my values and representing BizCloud. With my bare hands I picked up every speck of dirt from my mother’s balcony and threw it over. I then proceeded to throw all of the furniture and plants from the balcony. Finally, I undressed and tossed my clothes over before walking to the ledge and jumping, feet first. Flying through the air did not last long. I hit the ground hard with both legs. All I remember is feeling the sharpest, most excruciating pain in my back, and the feeling of being disappointed with myself because I was clearly still alive.

I was lucky. I’d tried to kill myself next to the best research hospital in the world, Stanford University Hospital in Palo Alto, CA. At Stanford they scanned my back and discovered massive injuries to my vertebrae, as well as a fractured pelvis and two broken ankles. In addition, I was diagnosed with being Bipolar Type 1. Thanks to President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act,aka Obamacare, I spent a week in Stanford Hospital. The good doctors there did a great job patching me up. Here are some photos to prove it:

I spent a week at Stanford Hospital and three more weeks at San Francisco General Hospital’s psychiatric ward before I was finally transferred to Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center for three-and-a-half months of recovery. God only knows what I would have done if it weren’t for Obamacare; I certainly wouldn’t have had health insurance, let alone the financial means to pay for the tremendous medical costs I’d incurred. I am forever grateful to the countless medical professionals who helped me. They were all kind, highly dedicated, and competent. I was wheelchair bound and could not put any pressure on my broken ankles; even in the wheelchair I had to wear a back brace. It was a humbling experience. Not being able to use a regular restroom was the worst part.

Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center is mostly end-of-life hospice care; they have adults who are much older that suffer from chronic health issues. I remember one of my roommates had dementia and would fight with all his strength against the kind nurses who would come to his bedside. Being in the hospital for that long is an indescribably sad situation to be in. From hospital bed I Skyped with friends and co-workers in the Balkans to tell them that I was finally quitting BizCloud for good and that I no longer wanted to be associated with the brand I had worked so hard to create; I quit. I transferred ownership of the company to them along with my controlling stake. Within a few months of my suicide attempt my team decided to shut down the business and BizCloud was no more.

It was October 2014, which any San Franciscan will tell you is the month that the Giants started another incredible playoff run, eventually winning their third World Series title in five years. As the final jewel was being set in the Giants’ dynasty crown, my broken bones were also being set. I Wasn’t going anywhere; I would cheer on the Orange and Black from my hospital bed. The bad news in this situation is obvious. The good news is that I had friends who would visit me and sneakme little comfort items so that I could still celebrate. They would bring me those little bottles of Jack Daniel’s you get on airplanes or at the liquor store counter and I’d mix them with Coca-Cola soI could enjoy the occasional cocktail. This probably wasn’t the best idea. I didn’t consult with any doctor, but I can’t think of a physician who wouldn’t at least grudgingly concede that a little bourbon might help in alleviating my excruciating pain and the crushing boredom of being stuck in one spot for months on end. The length of my stay at Laguna Honda Hospital went far beyond the World Series, past fall, and into winter. The weeks plodded along until Christmas and New Year’s Eve had passed and it was 2015. I was still laid up in bed feeling as miserable as ever.

Thank God for my family and friends, around whom my world pretty much revolved while I was hospitalized. My mother took two buses to visit me just about every day. She’d bring me all sorts of delicious home-cooked Persian treats and fresh fruits like pomegranates. She really is the sweetest mom in the world and I feel horrible about what I put her through. My suicide attempt took a heavy toll on her, and I am so grateful for her unflagging and unconditional love. It was even her idea to tell people that I “fell off” her balcony while helping her do yard work. After all, the whole situation was pretty embarrassing for her too, being that I jumped off her balcony in her community — senior citizen center as cliquey as any junior high school. With those old ladies, gossip spreads faster than California wildfire and I’ll be damned if I was going be the reason my sweet mother was subjected to that disturbance of her peace; she’s 83 years old.

In addition to my mother and brother, my dear friend Mike Rufo would come over with his guitar and keep me company. Other activist friends, including members of Occupy Wall Street, also showed up in a big way. Friends from Los Angeles to Florida came and wheeled me to the animal petting zoo inside the hospital where I made fast friends with a couple of cute goats and cats. I was blessed to have such great friends and concerned relatives. To save face, I told the white lie that I Had been doing repair work on the balcony when I’d slipped and fallen. I did not want myself or my family to be associated with the negative stigma that mental illness and suicide carry. Unfortunately,society considers it much better to have a broken back than to have a mental illness… or at least that’s how I thought people would perceive me and my bipolar disorder.

Despite those spirit-buoying visits from loved ones, I was still largely bored out of my skull while I Was recovering in Laguna Honda Hospital for four months — especially being that I was in hospice care unit, where people are basically waiting to die. There wasn’t a whole lot to do there other than watch TV or explore the possibilities of the Coke machine. I decided to get on Tinder and see what all the online dating hype was about. The thing is, Tinder is proximity-based. I was more likely to be matched with the girl next door, and in this case that meant she’d probably end up dying on me. And even if I do find someone, I thought, what am I going to do? I’m in the hospital. I’m Sharing a room with another patient. He’s psychotic. This poor fellow kicks other patients, nurses,and doctors; it takes five people to control him. Imagine me, in the condition and environment I wasin, trying to find my true love on Tinder. Talk about looking for love in all the wrong places!

I knew it would be better if I focused my energies on righting my own life before searching for someone to share it with. I filed for personal bankruptcy from my hospital bed. A kind attorney was willing to come to my bedside to hash out the paperwork. While I closed the chapter on BizCloud and filed personal bankruptcy to get my financial house in order, I turned my attention toward finding full time employment. All of my aspirations for running a tech company had run up against a brick wall, and all I wanted was to work in the same market segment of the cloud computing industry and get back on my feet again; I started to interview in earnest while I was still in the hospital. The hospital bed is not most comfortable place from which to conduct job interviews. I Was bedridden with a busted back, broken ankles, and no ability to even use the toilet on my own,yet I kept on interviewing and looking for the right opportunity. The challenge was not the phone interviews, but rather how I would perform when it came time for the inevitable face-to-face interviews. I would have to use a wheelchair just to get to work and back. As part of the online application process for each employer I disclosed all of my disabilities, even my bipolar disorder.When I was discharged in late January 2015 I still had to use a walker to get around for the first few weeks while I underwent extensive physical therapy. I spent a good few hours each day looking fora job that I thought would be right for me. Since the 1990s I have spent most of my career as a business executive working for companies such as Bay Networks, Exodus, Qwest Communications,Fast Search and Transfer, and finally BizCloud. There was something right for me out there. I just had to find out what.

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