Meet Mr Kamas, Inspiring UberEATS Delivery Partner & Singapore Para-athlete

Screen Shot 2017-09-08 at 4.57.35 PM
Photo: Screen grab from Straits Times’ video

I first learned about Mr. Kamas Mohammad when an UberEATS consumer shared how Mr. Kamas travelled 2.5km in a wheelchair to deliver his order. We got in touch and invited Mr. Kamas to share more about his story during UberEATS Singapore’s first anniversary in July. Besides delivering with UberEATS, we learned that he was also a para-athlete who represented Singapore at the 2015 Asean Para Games in wheelchair basketball.

Earlier this week, The Straits Times – Singapore’s most widely read newspaper – featured Mr. Kamas across print, digital and video.

In a very inspiring video (I really encourage you to watch it and add to the +52k views garnered since it was published 2 days ago!), Mr. Kamas shares his life story and how he delivers with UberEATS. He spoke about how grateful he felt being able to find a way earn his own income and care for his cancer-stricken elder sister through UberEATS, saying, (Translated) “They let me work, so I’m happy. I’m more encouraged to work. Since they let me work, I feel compelled to repay them by working hard. As long as I can work, I will work.”

 

Besides the video, The Straits Times also shared more in a written feature story. The story appeared online as well as in print – earning a front cover mention, as well as taking up 2/3 of a page in its “Top Of The News” section.

Once again, Mr. Kamas was effusive of his experience with UberEATS, saying, “I liked my previous job, but the salary was not enough to pay rental and buy food. Now, with this job, it is easier. I can follow my own time and target, and earn more.”

He also shared that seeing his photo being shared on Facebook made him happy: “Maybe then, more people like me will realise they can also do such jobs.”

As I’ve said before, this is the kind of technology-changing-the-world awesomeness that I signed up for by joining Uber!

The Sound Of Empowerment

leighuberbeethovenlaunch

This week was one of my more awesome weeks on the job at Uber: publicly launching app update features for hearing-impaired driver-partners in Singapore and Malaysia!

This is the kind of technology-changing-the-world awesomeness that I signed up for!

Internally codenamed “Beethoven” – after the master-composer who was deaf himself – these app features are designed to help hearing-impaired driver-partners earn an income to support themselves and their loved ones on the Uber platform. To develop these features, Uber’s research team invited hearing-impaired partners to participate in feedback sessions to learn what we could build that would improve their experience.

You can find out more about how the app works here.

In the course of preparing for this event, I really had my paradigm changed and many misconceptions broken – especially when I went through the research on road safety in the case of hearing-impaired drivers. Did you know, there was no evidence indicating a higher risk for deaf and hard of hearing drivers? The majority of the relevant information we receive to drive is visual, and there is no evidence to suggest that deaf drivers are at an increased risk for a crash.

  • “Deafness does not in any way limit a person’s ability to drive a car or other vehicles. Consequently, a deaf driver does not constitute a risk for safe traffic. There is no evidence that deaf drivers are involved in more car accidents, or are at any more risk on the road than those with normal hearing.” – World Federation of the Deaf
  • Almost 100 countries around the world – in Africa, Middle East, Asia, Europe and the Americas – allow deaf people to obtain driver’s licenses. – World Federation of the Deaf survey reports
  • “Evidence from the private driver’s license holder population does not support the contention that individuals with hearing impairments are at an increased risk for a crash.” – 2008 ECRI Report
  • In October 2014, the US Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced that deaf truck drivers were allowed to obtain commercial drivers licenses (CDL) and attend CDL training schools. – FMCSA

The greatest highlight for me (and others in the team) was the stories of the driver-partners themselves! In Singapore, I got a chance to hear Andrew’s story and meet a really bubbly guy called Roland, who has conducted almost 3,000 trips and even runs a WhatsApp group to support other deaf Uber driver-partners (check out this video of being driven around by Roland here)! In Malaysia, I was introduced to James, a 3D designer in Petaling Jaya who decided to earn some extra income by becoming an Uber driver at night.

All of them were great examples of resilience and character, who overcome their “different-abledness” to become providers for themselves, their loved ones, and to be a productive member of society. At the end of the day, isn’t that what we all want to have an opportunity to do?

To our hearing-impaired driver-partners, thank you for being part of the Uber experience. This week has really been a blessing to me to be learn from and be inspired by all of you!

More pics from the events in SG and MY available here.

12 Best Practices For Employees To Keep Company Trust In Work-From-Home Scenarios

So the issue of working from home continues to gain traction here in media.

I was recently asked to provide some insights into this issue – especially from my own work experience. Some of my responses have been published in Digital News Asia‘s article, “Working from home: A case-by-case consideration“.

I still maintain that working from home remains an issue of trust.

So, what I wanted to elaborate on were some of the best practices of employees in companies with Work From Home (or in our case, thanks to cloud-based productivity, collaboration and communication technology, “Work from ANYWHERE”) policies, all of which are premised on trust, empowerment and responsibility.

  1. Discuss working styles upfront – a discussion that especially needs to be held between managers and work group team members.
  2. Keep good communication – whether through online chats, phone calls or email, the key to successful flexible working is good communication. 
  3. Be open and transparent about your whereabouts; about what you are doing and where you will be.
  4. Make sure you have physical meetings regularly and co-ordinate when they will spend time at the office together.
  5. Check in; take time to check in with each other regularly so you can keep improving your working relationships with colleagues.
  6. Make appointments. You set aside time to meet with someone in person, so why not make appointments for important telephone calls? By booking time, you can be sure that your coworkers will be prepared and focused.
  7. Stay focused when on conference calls. It’s easy to stray when meetings go long, but keep multitasking to a minimum during phone conferences. The other party can almost certainly hear your keyboard clicking while you respond to someone else’s e-mail message.
  8. Stay online as much as possible. If you are not online, it is likely that people may think you are not working – even if you are. Respond quickly to e-mail and your colleagues will know you are being productive.
  9. Establish a schedule. Keep home work hours similar to those you would keep at an office. Your manager, coworkers and customers appreciate knowing when you are available.
  10. Be present. Check in with your team regularly throughout the day and be responsive to their questions and comments.
  11. Focus on objectives. Work with your manager to define clear goals and objectives against which your performance can be measured.
  12. Tell your team and your boss when you work from home. Type in your calendar that you’re working from home, so that others do not book physical meetings with you that day.

Working From Home: An Issue Of Trust

File:Marissa Mayer at TechCrunch 2012 II (crop).jpg

So, everyone’s all over Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s recent decision to ban employees from working from home. Responses range from the (IMHO) unexpected (i.e. “Maybe she’s suffering from post-partum depression“) to hues and cries about how this is a step backward (and the “1980’s are calling for their work environment back”).

I, for one, am actually sympathetic to Yahoo!’s decision and think that the crux of the matter lies in their response (emphasis mine): “This isn’t a broad industry view on working from home — this is about what is right for Yahoo!, right now.” Citing unnamed employees, Mashable reports that,

“Work ethic at Yahoo has deteriorated over time, and the new policy allows management to better monitor and inspire people at the office, the employees revealed. What’s more, it’s seen as beneficial if less productive staff chose to leave because of the policy, they added. Indeed, some workers have abused the work-at-home option to the point that they’ve founded startups while being on Yahoo’s payroll.”

My company currently provides a work from home option, which my colleagues and I definitely appreciate (well, actually, it’s more of a “work from anywhere” option, rather than just “from home”). For many of us, the option to work from anywhere really frees up a lot of time from commuting to work and struggling through traffic. In fact, with cloud-based productivity suites, access to work files, communication and collaboration is actually quite unhindered as well.

That being said, I do personally believe that a “human touch” and face-to-face interactions are vital to forming a strong workplace culture and environment.

At the end of the day, the option to work from home or anywhere else is really a step towards employee empowerment. This, of course, involves trust – which can always be open to abuse. In the case of Yahoo!, I understand that they were looking to manage those who were abusing the “work from home” option and address issues surrounding performance and productivity. When that trust is broken, remedial steps must be taken.

I think the approach to achieving a balance lies with addressing how a company looks at employee empowerment. It could be less about managing “presence” in the office and more about ensuring employees are responsible for their time and end-results, giving employees reasons to meet face-to-face (again, having strong company culture is severely underrated and often overlooked), and releasing them to work from anywhere, as necessary.

I intimated something along those lines when I spoke to a reporter about this (“Malaysian employees perplexed with Yahoo!’s work from home ban“):

Never mind working from home – with today’s technology, you can work from anywhere. Leigh Wong, head of communications at Microsoft Malaysia, said cloud-based productivity suites allows workers to access work files even from a continent away.

“This way, communication and collaboration are quite unhindered,” he said.

(…)

If more companies now are in support of working from home, what could have compelled Mayer to make such a move?

Wong said while working from home is a step towards employee empowerment, it involves trust that is open to abuse.

It is less about measuring presence in the office and more about ensuring employees are responsible for their time and end-results, he said.