After a tumultuous week filled with apologies, editorials, and petitions, Ellen Pao is stepping down as reddit’s CEO. She will be replaced by Steve Huffman, one of the popular website’s co-founders and its original CEO.
The embattled executive drew extensive criticism across the online community after Victoria Taylor, who oversaw the famous Ask Me Anything series on the platform, was abruptly let go last weekend. Despite Pao’s earlier admission on reddit of her own role in the company’s “screw up,” it seemed that sorry simply wasn’t enough.
“It was sickening to see some of the things redditors wrote about Ellen.”
For the more than 210,000 signees of the petition calling for her resignation, Pao’s announcement feels like justice. A recent New York Times editorial penned by two of reddit’s AMA moderators blasted the now ex-CEO for her lack of communication with company employees regarding key decisions that often affected large portions of the organization. Despite Pao’s apologies, the employees wrote, “we feel strongly that this incident is more part of a reckless disregard for the company’s own business and for the work the moderators and users put into the site.”
In an interview on Friday afternoon regarding the decisions that led up to Pao’s departure from reddit, Pao said “it became clear that the board and I had a different view on the ability of reddit to grow this year. Because of that, it made sense to bring someone in that shared the same view.” When Kara Swisher of Re/Code asked Pao directly if she was fired, however, both she and Y Combinator head (and reddit board member) Sam Altman insisted that the ultimate outcome came from a mutual understanding.
When asked what her next move would be, Pao responded, “I am going to get some sleep. I have to figure it out, but I am going to take some time off.”
Her tumultuous career, both at and before Reddit, has been punctuated by intense criticism, which Altman addressed in his full statement regarding Pao’s departure:
“We are thankful for Ellen’s many contributions to Reddit and the technology industry generally,” wrote Altman. “She brought focus to chaos, recruited a world-class team of executives, and drove growth. She brought a face to Reddit that changed perceptions, and is a pioneer for women in the tech industry. She will remain as an advisor to the board through the end of 2015. I look forward to seeing the great things she does beyond that.
“As a closing note, it was sickening to see some of the things redditors wrote about Ellen. The reduction in compassion that happens when we’re all behind computer screens is not good for the world. People are still people even if there is Internet between you. If the Reddit community cannot learn to balance authenticity and compassion, it may be a great website but it will never be a truly great community. Steve’s great challenge as CEO will be continuing the work Ellen started to drive this forward,” he concluded.
We’ll just have to wait and see how satisfied the recently red-with-rage reddit community will be in the post-Pao era.
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