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How the product manager who went viral on TikTok schooled a bunch of tech bro trolls

After posting a poolside job explainer on her TikTok account, Darby Maloney faced the brunt of internet insults—many of which came from tech workers. Here’s how she responded.

How the product manager who went viral on TikTok schooled a bunch of tech bro trolls

Last week, Darby Maloney posted a TikTok explaining her job as a product manager in the tech industry—and, in the process, accidentally triggered some dark, misogynistic corners of the internet. Maloney’s 92-second video features her and a coworker speaking direct to camera, explaining their roles: collaborating with engineers and designers on the reporting, internal tools, and card experience teams at their company.

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They were on a work-sponsored trip and happened to have their laptops with them during a brief break by the pool. “My coworkers keep saying I need to make a tech TikTok, because if you look at my TikTok, you’d never guess I have a job,” Maloney says in the clip.

The backlash happened fast—and, perhaps in light of the ongoing debate around remote work in the tech space, opinions were split. Some tech workers posted in firm support of their work-from-anywhere setup: “I work in IT and 90 percent of what I do can be done from anywhere. I’ve been doing this for years and this is the most seamless the field has ever been. I love people working from home. They’re less likely to bother me honestly. It’s phenomenal,” tweeted @sosiglinks.

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Others were supportive, though less complimentary: “This is exactly what we as an industry have been asking for. Freedom. We asked to be judged by our performance, not by whether or not we’re wearing pants. These girls are no different. They sound dumb, but I’m sure they’re effective.”

And, of course, there were plenty of naysayers who took the opportunity to tear down Maloney and her coworker for their age, gender, apparel, environs, and perceived seriousness.

On Blind, a message board popular with tech workers, the snark ranged from generic attacks on remote productivity (“And you wonder why so many layoffs are happening. If you think in any way what they are doing is productive work you’re fooling yourself.”) to objectifying commentary on their gender and swimwear: “I don’t see what’s wrong with them having fun. Pool girls can definitely keep engineers motivated, I’m sure HR is aware how much it helps lol.”

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The direct comments on the now-deleted TikTok were brutal: “These dim bulbs are a top signal,” one anonymous commenter wrote. “Here’s a bunch of buzzwords, I don’t actually build anything. I’m more of a glorified babysitter. This won’t last.” So brutal, in fact, that Maloney took to the platform in response, delivering a perfectly poised eloquent clap back.

@durbinmalonster

Reply to @roundingagain It is crazy what people will assume from a 1 minute video that was meant to be fun. I love my job and my team and know the value I bring.

♬ original sound – Darby

“People are pressed,” she says. “I’m also hearing a lot of people saying that being a PM is irrelevant and people would rather have engineers do what a product manager does.”

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She goes on to calmly explain that product managers and engineers have different skill sets and job descriptions for good reason: “Generally, engineers I’ve worked with just want to code,” she says. “They don’t want to spend their time in meetings, they don’t want to be talking to customers, they don’t want to deal with escalations, they don’t want to do customer research. . . . Their passion is coding—and that’s what they learned to do and that’s what they want to do.”

@durbinmalonster

Reply to @nonviralvirus you can literally do anything you are willing to work for and hate is usually individuals projected insecurities

♬ original sound – Darby

She also addresses another crude commenter who insinuates she wasn’t hired based on competence and experience. “Why does it feel like you googled what a product manager does 5 minutes before making this?” wrote the anonymous commenter. “We all know why you have your job. Don’t kid yourself.”

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Maloney wasn’t having it. In a firm and strongly worded rebuke, she recognized her own privilege and how unconscious bias can influence how people are treated in the corporate world. She also noted that her age and gender had, in fact, put her at a disadvantage as a new hire at a tech company, where she had trouble being taken seriously in a workplace that continues to be predominantly male.

“The amount of disrespectful comments on my last post has literally enraged me,” she says in closing. “When a young, cute girl works her way into a prestigious career, the immediate mindset is: She doesn’t know what she’s doing, or she was hired for her looks. One [commenter] said: Just because I’m a product manager doesn’t mean I work in tech, I probably literally work at a call center.

“That would be managing people, or project managing,” Maloney says. “But I don’t need to mansplain that to you, I’m sure you know.”

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About the author

Danica Lo is a Fast Company contributing editor covering marketing, branding, and communications.

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