Yesterday was one of the most trying days of my career.
You, the community, have been very vocal about your views over the last few days on serious issues in the United States (particularly within the Immigration & Customs Enforcement office). Issues that, in my opinion, have gone horribly wrong. Issues that have led to heart-wrenching outcomes such as children being separated from their families. Issues that resulted in collateral damage to our customers and community because someone protested our contract with ICE. And honestly? I don’t blame their frustration. As an immigrant myself, and a father of two daughters, I too am disgusted with the actions that we see in the headlines on a seemingly regular basis today in this country. And I look forward to taking to the polls as an expression of my views on these subjects.
You have demanded to know whether I care or have an opinion on the matter. Rightfully so. I am sorry that I haven’t been more transparent in articulating my personal views on these matters with all of you. This is an unprecedented internal conflict — one that I don’t think anyone could have ever anticipated needing to navigate in life. It’s been impossibly hard for me to decide how to approach talking directly about something as vile as kids being torn away from their parents. Or if I even should. Blurring personal and company views is a dangerously slippery slope. I’ve wondered if it’s appropriate for me to weigh in. I’ve wondered if it would only be met with unconstructive debate, rather than awareness for the greater good. And then I wondered what my daughters would think 10 years from now if they learned that I didn’t weigh in. It breaks my heart to think of there being any circumstances (political, monetary, or other) that would warrant condoning or willingly enable the separation of families.
I want to be clear about something: Chef’s software deal with ICE is not structured or intended by any means to enable any of the abhorrent behavior this community has been concerned about, such as separating children. What it is intended to do is arm IT professionals with the tools they need to insight change through knowledge. My headspace here is that I believe better access to information enables better decision making. What if the IT professionals tasked with their role inside ICE could actually help reduce the number of separated families by having visibility and the information they need to stop raids before they happened? I want so badly to believe that to be true. The reality is, withholding access to better software and systems for IT departments doesn’t change the policies that agencies have been given by their commander in chief.
I am proud to be a part of a community that boldly states, “you must do the right thing.” Yet that statement simultaneously hurts me. Why? It hurts because it tells me that I gave you reason to believe otherwise. I gave you reason to think that Chef wasn’t doing the right thing. That’s something I have to own. It tells me I failed to be an effective communicator about my feelings on this matter.
And that brings me to this: I should have been more vulnerable and transparent in stating my explicit opinion about ICE earlier. I should have listened when you so clearly were asking me for my voice. I held back because I was struggling with the mutually-exclusive nature of it all — my personal outrage about ICE, contrasted with my belief that business executives don’t get to rewrite government policies in this country. There are other ways by which we can all leverage social advocacy to influence change. I thought we as an executive team had shown empathy for the issues at hand, but it is clear now as I reflect that it wasn’t nearly enough. I’m committed to doing a better job of being personally transparent – starting with my own team in the coming days.