Ricky Kwok

Ricky Kwok

Machine Learning Engineer @Spotify through acquisition of @preact. PhD in Applied Math from @ucdavis.

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On a bright and windy day last summer, while working on some updates to Uber’s driver payment system, Mike#2 proposed an idea which to me seemed as unfair to the drivers. It would block the payments to the driver if a customer complained about the ride before a ride ends. Fortunately, this never made it into the app. When we were brainstorming this idea, I openly spoke up against it. I told them that it was unethical to block a driver’s payments without researching the complaint to make sure it was the driver’s fault. Many of the Uber drivers in some countries do not own the cars they drive. They are owned by rich people who give the drivers a fixed monthly salary and take the money Uber pays the drivers from their bank accounts. So, if a payment is blocked because of a customer complaint, the drivers may go home without the pay they need to feed their families. When I voiced my concern, Mike#2 looked at me and said “There is no place for ethics in this business sweetheart. We are not a charity.” I was upset to hear such an insensitive comment. I repeated my point and this time, I raised my voice to show that I was unhappy with his attitude. Visibly angry, Mike #2 covered the microphone of the conference phone, he reached over to hold my hand tightly and told me to stop being a whiny little bitch. Two of the men in the room looked at each other and laughed while the rest of the men, like me, were shocked. For the next few minutes, it seemed as if my brain was paralyzed. I could not remember what happened during the rest of the meeting. All I remember was that when the meeting ended, I took the stairs to a restroom downstairs away from the main office space and locked myself into a bathroom stall and sobbed. I contemplated on calling my mom and asking for her guidance on what to do. I didn’t. I was afraid that she’d tell me to stay and fight. I was afraid that she’d tell me to do something I didn’t want to. I wiped off my tears and went back upstairs. He was right there in our collaboration area. He pulled me aside and warned me that he does not like it when girls like me are insubordinate and think they got here because of their brains. When he left, I was comforted by my colleagues but we all knew that there was nothing I could do to get justice.