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Leadership / Women Leaders

12 Amazing Things We Learned About Susan Fowler, the Woman Who Disrupted Uber

The writer and engineer is an inspiring figure.
12 Amazing Things We Learned About Susan Fowler, the Woman Who Disrupted Uber
Image credit: Shalon Van Tine via susanjfowler.com
- Entrepreneur Staff
Staff Writer. Covers media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.
5 min read

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You may know software engineer Susan Fowler as the author of a February blog post, “Reflecting On One Very, Very Strange Year At Uber,” which set in motion what would become a cultural reset at Uber and the resignation of co-founder Travis Kalanick as Uber's CEO. In the post, she detailed a series of sexual harassment and discrimination allegations.

Since then, Fowler, who now works for mobile payment platform Stripe, and her name have become synonymous with shining a light on the toxic behavior of Silicon Valley power players.

Fowler’s conviction in her account of her experience at Uber is admirable in its own right, but that quality is evident in how she approaches all aspects of her work, from her unorthodox education to how she thinks about success and failure.

Read on for 12 things we’ve learned about Susan Fowler.   

Related: Here Are the Best Tech Companies for Women to Work

She’s younger than you might think.
The 29,000-word missive that blew the door open on the abuses being perpetrated at Uber required months of documentation and a great deal of bravery. But it wasn’t the work of someone who is a seasoned tech industry veteran. The Arizona native is only 26 years old.

She has worked since she was 13.
She was homeschooled through middle school but her education stopped when her mother had to return to work. During that time, she held down jobs working as a nanny and as a stable hand.

She didn’t go to high school.
“I was kind of on my own,” Fowler told the New York Times about her experience being homeschooled. “I tried to read the classics, would go to the library a lot, tried to teach myself things. But didn’t really have any direction. I really had this dream that someday I could be educated.”

Related: Education vs. Experience: Which One Is More Important?

She loves to read.
Fowler made it a goal to read 52 books in 2016 and kept it going in 2017 -- so far she has read 39. She also has a list of 20 books that she believes changed her life from Plato’s Republic to Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

She is motivated.
When she was 16, she decided that she wanted to go to college. She called local universities, took the ACT and SAT, assembled a list of all the books she read while homeschooled and got a full scholarship to Arizona State University before transferring to the University of Pennsylvania. In college, she studied physics, but did so having only learned up to sixth grade level math.

She is a published author.
Fowler has written two books about software engineering: Microservices in Production came out October 2016 and Production-Ready Microservices: Building Standardized Systems Across an Engineering Organization in December of that year.

Related: Uber Needs to Recreate its Company Culture. Here's What You Can Learn From Its Mistakes.

She has a four-step process to help you find your calling.
She explained her theory in a blog post from 2016. Step one is to “identify your strengths.” Step two is “finding out what types of activities bring you into flow states.” Step three is “identifying your personality/character” and step four is “understanding what motivates you.”

She believes that anyone can learn anything.
“Anyone can learn physics. Anyone can learn math. Being 'good at it' or 'smart' is beside the point,” Fowler wrote in a blog post from 2013. “If we enacted the same set of rules for being allowed to learn a topic to any other area of study, it would be disastrous: only a select few would be allowed to read Plato, we wouldn’t let people study a foreign language if they weren’t able to learn it in a few weeks, and people wouldn’t be allowed to play guitar unless they had a decent shot at being a famous musician. That is how ridiculous it is.”

She’s an editor-in-chief.
Fowler currently oversees Increment, mobile payment company Stripe’s publication dedicated to software engineering.

Related: What Does Uber Need to Do to Fix Its Battered Reputation?

Her life is about to get the Hollywood treatment.
According to the recent New York Times profile of her, Fowler is working on a movie about what she experienced. The film pitch is currently titled Disruptors and it is going to be written by Allison Schroeder, the co-writer of the film Hidden Figures.

She is about to become a parent.
Fowler and her husband Chad Rigetti are expecting their first child.

She believes it's important to fail.
“Something really extraordinary happens when we allow ourselves to fail. After each failure, we learn to pick ourselves back up and try again,” Fowler wrote in a 2016 blog post. “With each try, with each failure, we learn to approach the problem at hand with a little more grit, a little more wisdom, a little more elegance, and a greater deal of humility. We learn how to fail gracefully, we allow ourselves to fail, we push ourselves to fail, and we emerge stronger and more resilient. We become fault-tolerant.”

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