Humans of Tech - Rachel McEwen
Updated: Mar 5, 2019
We chatted with Rachel McEwen, the Trust & Safety Operations Team Lead at Kik and got to hear about a side of tech not usually discussed. Rachel takes us through how Kik works closely with law enforcement globally and with other tech companies to address online safety.
What’s your major internal motivation for doing what you do?
I started at Kik as a co-op student back in 2014. We were only 45 people at the time and it was my first introduction into the internet safety space. I was fielding a lot of questions about safety concerns and finding new ways in which we needed to improve the product. I was learning firsthand about the impact our tech was having on people’s lives.
When I came back in 2016 and started working full time with Kik, I got to work with law enforcement directly and collaborate with all of the teams at Kik. I got to work with the team located here locally that responds 24/7 to emergencies across the globe.
It was that experience that really showed me the importance of keeping people safe online, particularly children. We’re living in an age where kids often know more about the technology they’re using than their parents and that can lead to some difficult and dangerous situations. Kik is directed towards kids aged 13 and up and that can be a very influential time in their lives. The work I do with Kik helps protect and save those people who end up in situations where people have abused the technology we’ve created. We often get feedback from law enforcement that our help has helped them save someone and I’m motivated by being part of the solution to this widespread problem. We share the goal of keeping people safe online.
What are your favourite aspects of what you do?
It’s all about the collaboration for me. Kik really is a safety company and by that I mean that as a company we keep the user’s safety at the forefront of every team - product, legal, operations, etc. Working closely with all those teams means that I get to learn from all of them regularly and that keeps me feeling energized.
What’s been the most surprising part of your journey?
It was a surprise to me that I entered into the safety side of tech. Also, I have been really pleasantly surprised at the level of collaboration that goes on within the whole safety industry. Kik is part of the Technology Coalition, along with companies like Facebook and Twitter, to work together on common issues within tech. Everyone involved gets together to brainstorms ideas, talk about the human solutions, and figure out how to take care of the people working in the front-line roles. Companies that normally compete against each other are actively working together when it comes to online safety. At Kik, we’ve built technology that we’ve then shared with other companies in the coalition and vice versa all for the sake of making our industry better. Despite competing in other ways, we’re aligned on this common goal.
What are you most proud of professionally?
I’m really proud of the work that I’ve done with the Moderation Squad. We’ve gone through some major developments in the past 6 months and I’ve been proud of the role that I’ve played in helping those developments roll out. I manage the human part behind the technology being implemented and I get to see the real world impact of what I’m helping bring into the world. Hearing from law enforcement about how actions we’ve taken as a company has helped them intervene in dangerous situations in time to save someone keeps me going.
What do you find the most interesting about the Waterloo tech ecosystem?
What I love about this area is that there are tremendous opportunities for learning. There are so many ideas and initiatives in so many different industries. You could, over the course of your career, working with your same skill set you could apply it to so many different industries. The chat industry, the safety industry - you can learn about so many different skills without ever changing postal codes. I find that really exciting.
Kik hosted a YWCA event at our office where 15 to 20 younger girls attended and we taught them how to build a bot. We guided them through the ideation process all the way to the presenting phase. It was exciting to work on something to inspire women in STEM and it was led by all the women at Kik.
Catalyst represents a really good step to further capitalizing on what makes this region so great. The building brings so many people into the same space and provides opportunity for collaboration and idea sharing. I’d like to see this trend of people getting together to share ideas and inspiration continue.