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A Software Engineer Forced Chef to Rescind a Government Contract | Here’s the Full Story

This time on Coding as Creating, we’ll investigate the conflict over Chef’s contract with ICE.

When Shanley Kane, a writer, and currently-activist, came up with a backlash about Chef’s new contract, no one was expecting a DevOps movement. On September 16, Shanley aimed at @Chef, asking “can you please provide a statement on your $100k contract with ICE?” And that was how it all began.

Later that day, she came back with a furious (and full of f-words) tweet that, again, held the tech company as the target. “WHAT THE F*** CHEF CANCEL THE F***** CONTRACT THAT IS LITERALLY ONGOING NOW YOU F***** A*******.”

However, the climax of the story was 4 days later, when Seth Vargo, aka the hero, saw Shanley’s tweet and decided to do something about it.

Seth Vargo’s response to Shanley’s tweet on September 20

Seth was not a normal software engineer. So, when he replied Shanley’s tweet saying “It helped me do the right thing,” everyone knew that something big is coming…

One Coder Stood Up Against the Wickedness and the Rest was Epic

Seth was actually a former employee of Chef who had written some of the main codes used by this company. So, he knew how to get back at the company. And on his ‘thank you’ tweet, he pointed out that his codes were “pulled” from the Chef ecosystem.

Consequently, on September 20, the privately held DevOps company officially lost one of its main code sheets after a couple of clicks of a moralist engineer.

Chef, of course, was not going to let this issue lead to a $100K loss. So, according to The Next Web, they decided to replace the lost sheets with some older version of Seth’s codes.

However, such a decision, again, led to more conflicts over the ethical principles of the company. That’s because Chef renamed the author of the codes, claiming that it’s not a part of Seth’s work.

It was a Conflict Over Morality—But Chef Wanted to Keep It About Business

Everyone believed that it’s a humanistic issue because ICE was the main force behind the brutal actions of the government against the migrants. But Barry Crist, the CEO of Chef, was determined to make the whole conflict look like a business thing.

In his email to Chef’s employees, Crist pointed out that it’s not appropriate, practical, or within the company’s mission to examine government projects. He also claimed that selecting which U.S. agencies to work with is not a good decision.

That’s while in the ending section of his email, Crist adds that he finds policies such as separating families and detaining children wrong and contrary to the best interests of the United States.

And it was the latest moral issue to pop out! Chef was working with an agency which, according to the CEO, had some unacceptable policies.

Tweets Were Not Just a Bunch of Words After all

During all these conflicts between business and ethics, Twitter users were still acting against the contract. Shanley’s hashtag No Tech for ICE was actively receiving responses, all demanding the cancelation of Chef’s contract with ICE.

A user named Joe Damato, the founder of Package Cloudio suggested a step-by-step guide on how Chef must react to this situation. His list had the ‘contract cancelation’ on its top. But the second step, as he wrote, was to “donate all revenue (not profit) obtained under the contract to @RAICESTEXAS or a similar organization.”

Joe Damato’s suggestion for Chef!

What’s funny about Joe’s tweet is that Chef actually followed the same steps the next day.

On September 23, Crist who was seemingly not interested in moral conflicts announced that “After deep introspection and dialog within Chef, we will not renew our current contracts with ICE and CBP when they expire over the next year. Chef will fulfill our full obligations under the current contracts.”

He also explained that the company will donate an amount of money—equivalent to their 2019 revenues—to charities that help vulnerable people impacted by the policy of family separation and detention.

The Results? DevOps Engineers Are United and ICE Is Still Googling New Contractor

Fortunately, ICE is currently seeking another DevOps company to take care of its dirty business.

But the Chef’s conflict had a great lesson for all of us—especially the developers. We saw that even a simple hashtag on social media is enough to bring awareness and urge people to react.

People like Shanley and Seth who choose to do something about the cruelty are today’s heroes. And what we must learn from their actions is that silence will never bring any solutions.

If I were to remain silent, I’d be guilty of complicity

Albert Einstein
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Mohsen Baqery

He is a 24-year-old SEO content writer who has been a part of Coding as Creating since 2018. He has been "writing stuff" since 7; and he's now, obviously, a full-time content writer. Mohsen believes that "words can change the world" [and that's why he's in love with his job!].

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