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Reddit Chief Engineer Bethanye Blount Quits After Less Than Two Months on the Job

Blount's exit comes less than two months after she joined Reddit from Facebook.

Screenshot from Velocity 2014

Reddit’s chief engineer Bethanye Blount quit just days after interim CEO Ellen Pao left the high-profile online community.

In an interview, Blount confirmed her departure after only two months at Reddit, having come there from Facebook. She said her move was not directly linked to Pao’s exit, but noted that she had lost confidence in the new direction of the company.

The unsettled situation at Reddit underscores the difficulty its management has had controlling the sprawling and bumptious community that has been created, and also the challenges in making it into a business (Reddit is owned in large part by Condé Nast).

In addition, Blount’s leaving means Reddit has lost yet another prominent female employee. Setting off this recent round of uncertainty, Reddit fired Victoria Taylor, a well-regarded staffer who helped coordinate the site’s highly popular “Ask Me Anything” posts. That ignited a firestorm against Pao, who was appointed last fall and who resigned on Friday.

Blount said she left because she did not think she “could deliver on promises being made to the community.”

“I feel like there are going be some big bumps on the road ahead for Reddit,” Blount said. “Along the way, there are some very aggressive implied promises being made to the community — in comments to mods, quotes from board members — and they’re going to have some pretty big challenges in meeting those implied promises.”

These “implied promises” include improving tools to help subreddit moderators and addressing harassing comments and content.

Blount also said she believed Pao’s exit was an indirect consequence of gender discrimination, and that Pao had been placed on a “glass cliff.” It is a term used to describe women being set up for failure by being put in leadership roles during crises.

“Victoria wasn’t on a glass cliff. But it’s hard for me to see it any other way than Ellen was,” Blount said. However, she added that “I wouldn’t say my decision to leave was directly related to my gender.”

Previously, Blount was the co-founder of the startup MailRank, which Facebook acquired in 2011. She worked for Facebook until June of this year, when she left to work for Reddit. Blount said she plans to launch a startup.

Update: We emailed a few questions to Steve Huffman, the company’s co-founder and original CEO who has returned to replace Pao. Here are his replies:

Does Reddit have a gender discrimination problem that you need to address?

No. Bethanye’s departure had nothing to do with gender, and I was looking forward to working with her. The company is growing, and we have the opportunity to improve in many areas — including the number of women in leadership positions. I am confident in our ability to recruit women at the executive level, as we have made a point to do so at Hipmunk, where more than half of the executives are women.

What makes you and the rest of Reddit’s leadership confident in Reddit’s ability to accomplish the goals that have been stated publicly?

I returned because of my confidence in the company to accomplish said goals and I’ve committed publicly to two things: Creating a new Content Policy, which we are hard at work on, and improving tools for moderation, which are also in progress. I don’t foresee any difficulty in accomplishing either of these things in the near future.

Do you have an interim replacement for Blount?

We have George Pang, who was managing the team for almost a year prior to Bethanye, but we’ll be starting a new search ASAP.

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