A letter to Bitwise Industries leadership before the collapse

At the end of May this year, on Memorial Day, Bitwise Industries, a tech startup that “promised to uplift marginalized communities and change the narratives of underestimated places” furloughed its workers and soon shut down. Among those who lost their jobs were Kennan Scott, the former OUSD Director of Computer Science, a longtime educator and winner of one of the first State of Black Education Oakland (SoBEO) Impact Awards. Kennan’s wife, Karen, also worked for Bitwise Industries Oakland. In this guest piece, Kennan shares a message he sent to the Bitwise team shortly before the layoffs. (Photo credit: San Francisco Bay View)

Days before we learned of our furlough and weeks before everyone was laid off, I sent a message to the entire Bitwise Industries team.

This message was aimed at my colleagues in senior leadership while speaking to the entire team. Senior leaders were burning people out, putting grace disproportionately over accountability, and widening their say-do gap. At this time, Strategy and scale were “eating culture for breakfast.” I had no idea to what extent until a few days later.

We built Bitwise Industries Oakland on a belief that inclusive equity plus values alignment created belonging. For three years, my wife, Karen, and I held space for community care and well-being. This low-cost and highly effective approach fostered an ecosystem built on self-care, empathy, and belonging.

Over our three years at Bitwise, these well-being groups scaled to company-wide and the impact was wide-spread and laudable, so I penned this message.

We, humans, have corrupted the phrase “alpha wolf.” We like to think about the alpha as this top-down overlord, a dictator, and the strongest of the strong. We personify the alpha as one who leads by example and with an iron fist. They fight to the death in a battle for dominance.

This colloquial definition of the “alpha wolf” is invalid; it’s a myth. A true wolfpack alpha is a caring and sensitive leader who understands the pack comes first and that they are a family! Since day one in Oakland, that’s the kind of leader I have wanted to be, a true alpha, a serving leader. To achieve this leadership goal, we set up Bitwise Industries Oakland with a foundational weekly well-being group at the onset.

Servant leaders must also care for themselves. Through weekly well-being groups, apprentices and colleagues have come to know a vulnerable me. By allowing people to see all of me, we have leveled the pecking order, highlighting the humans beyond the role. Over the past three years of facilitating well-being groups weekly in Oakland, our community has centered on the human experience. We meet weekly as a team to support each other through our professional and personal journeys. We see each other for our resiliency, honesty, and compassion. We see beyond our titles. We see family.

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