Theresa Preston-Werner, wife of GitHub founder and former CEO Tom Preston-Werner, has come out with her side of the story about the controversy that led to her husband’s resignation.
In a post on blogging site Medium, she apologized for making GitHub employees feel pressured to help her with her nonprofit startup.
Her blog post comes after a GitHub employee named Julie Ann Horvath publicly quit the company and accused the Preston-Werners of harassment.
Specifically, Horvath said that Preston-Werner’s wife Theresa claimed to have influence over her husband’s decision-making at GitHub, a web-based hosting service for software development projects.
An internal GitHub investigation found no evidence that Tom Preston-Werner harassed anybody, but did find he’d made “mistakes and errors of judgment.” Ultimately, he resigned.
While it’s not entirely clear what those mistakes were, Theresa Preston-Werner said in the Medium post that her husband resigned because GitHub employees said they felt pressured to help out with her nonprofit startup, Omakase Charity. That startup, which helps people in tech give to charity, was the first nonprofit accepted into the prestigious Techstars bootcamp.
Here’s how Theresa Preston-Werner explained her side of the situation involving GitHub and Omakase (emphasis ours):
After weeks of silence, we learned that, despite, being found not guilty of the harassment accusations, questions popped up regarding Tom’s judgment in a separate area. We learned that unnamed employees felt pressured by Tom and me to work pro-bono for my nonprofit. We racked our brains trying to understand this new allegation. It made me question every action I’ve taken in building Omakase Charity.
I have many close friends at GitHub, and I certainly had reached out to them when I began to build my company last summer. Never having founded a company before, I wanted lots of advice. I invited anyone I considered a friend, inside and outside of GitHub, out for coffees and drinks. Later, I started pitching new people I met at events or parties or bars or on the train. I thought this was what a founder was supposed to do. I thought building a business was about networking and telling the world about your idea.
I am so very sorry if anyone felt that I was pressuring him or her for advice, labour, or to sign up. I truly never had that intention. I was just excited about my business and thrilled to share it with anyone who would listen. Several other spouses at GitHub have drawn on the network inside of the company for their charitable endeavours, and I didn’t see myself as doing anything different. I was the wife of the CEO, but that never entered my mind when I hung out with any GitHubbers.
That blind spot was my mistake. In my enthusiasm over my project, and my idealistic belief in the status-free community of GitHub, I failed to recognise that power structures cannot ever be obscured entirely. It’s a powerful lesson, and a mistake I will not repeat.
As a result of my actions, in part, Tom left the company he founded.
She also says, as Tom Preston-Werner said in his resignation letter, that he would have left GitHub sooner or later anyway because he’s currently working on another, new project.
Tom wouldn’t be at GitHub forever, and I know how excited he is to be able to focus on his new project, but I’m still sad that this is the moment of his exit.
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