How I Ditched Dull VC Shoptalk for “Talk Nerdy to Me” Engineers
On any given night in San Francisco, for every starchy, off-the-record tech-establishment event, there’s probably an uncensored gathering of bright-eyed young engineers.
Case in point: The Sequoia Capital partners and founders “Spring Mix 2014” cocktail party — where WhatsApp and Airbnb execs mingled with tech reporters over lobster rolls — was explicitly no-comment on Wednesday night.
No one invited was allowed to share the conversations that took place in the dark underground San Francisco South of Market bar, 25 Lusk. (Some hints: Office space configurations, hiring decisions, veganism.)
Taking a risk, one reporter did tweet this image from the bar of pun cocktail names (which was then quickly retweeted by Sequoia anyway):
With no embarrassing quotes to be had, I headed across town to a place where nothing would be off the record — or off-limits.
“Talk Nerdy to Me” was billed as a night for literary, libidinal programmers to tell their truest, dirtiest tales.
One of the speaker bios read: “Computer engineer by education, firmware engineer by profession, and sex geek by nature.”
Comedian Candace Roberts was already midway through her set at the Verdi Club, warming up the 300-something crowd with a song about body-hair grooming rituals. The host, Dixie De La Tour — wearing a tiny top hat, fake-diamond necklace and a black tea dress — told the audience that she’d been hosting bawdy storytelling nights for seven years. And, she claimed, never has one been as popular — or as raunchy — as these new nerd-themed programs.
“The nerds, they go into all this detail,” she said later. “We’re actually not normally this hot.”
After some stories about hooking up during “Dungeons and Dragons,” and engineers “gamifying” various acts of intimacy, Janelle Tavares, a young software engineer, stepped onstage for her first time ever.
“My story starts in computer science class,” Tavares began nervously. “Object-oriented coding concepts of polymorphism and inheritance.”
People stomped the floor. Someone shouted out “Emac.”
Her story continued: A lean, handsome RA came to her dorm room on a Friday night to help her install this powerful new software.
“He tells me ‘sudo’ is short for ‘superuser do.’ Whatever comes after sudo has to be immediately executed. My response is, ‘So sudo demands obedience?'”
As her story reached its zenith, Tavares’ heroine gasped: “While 1! Open curly brace, right there! Semicolon, don’t stop!”
After all, this is Silicon Valley.
After the show, audience members lingered by the stage and at the bar.
Chad Gholson walked out of the auditorium in a black zip-up hoodie, carrying a MacBook Pro box.
“I’ve had a long day and just needed to laugh,” said Gholson, 36, who works as technical support at a startup and lives in the Mission District. “This was just the best thing I could have done for myself.”
“This actually is how programmers talk,” said Andrew Glaros, a 27-year-old UX designer, who finds such chatter inappropriate. “People are always making dumb jokes about how, ‘I’m gonna put my disk in your drive,’ or like, ‘I’m gonna upload on your chest.’ We just don’t usually see it onstage.”
Of course, many don’t find such juvenile joshing in a work setting — too much of which can be explicitly anti-women — to be funny at all.
Here, in a performance space, it was more decidedly benign.
De La Tour said she was thrilled with the event, even though one speaker had flaked: “We had a really nerdy furry, but he backed out. Furries always back out. They have to be careful about their identities, but we’re always hoping to get more of them involved.”
At an upcoming event, called “OkPervert,” De La Tour will invite people onstage to tell their best OkCupid stories.
You can see the rest of Tavares’ story here (Warning: NSFW):