Trigger Warning. Description of sexual harassment, physical intimidation and misogynistic comments below.
You will find below a small subset of my nightmarish experiences in the hands of an abusive manager at a previous organization. By no means was my experience isolated. In fact, that was the norm. Every senior woman on my team has since left (and many men I respected and admired). The ones who have advanced have been primarily men with similar qualities to the one I describe below. This behavior is a feature not a bug and you will find it all the way up to the top-most echelons at this place.
He came into the room charging at me with rage in his eyes. I could feel the wind sweep into my face as he waved his arms angrily and hovered me. He invaded my personal space in a matter of seconds. At the last minute he withdrew but his anger was magnified even more. He accused me of trying to destroy a billion-dollar business. None of that was true. None of it made any sense. It was just another bout of his mental illness. It was just another day in my life with him as my manager.
His kind of psychopathy is not uncommon in the tech world. What’s worse, it’s simply attributed to being “on the spectrum”. Men like him are geniuses; Gods who demand blood sacrifice of people working for him. They derive their power from harassment and intimidation. Men like him not only get away but also get promoted.
“There is an entire dossier on him. I was brought in with specific instructions to baby-sit him” told me his secretary. “He routinely stares at my boobs. I can’t do anything about that”. She also shared how he drove a junior employee to extreme trauma that she was worried if he had turned suicidal.
I later found out that in his previous roles he had driven out co-founders. But every one of them wanted to stay away and was terrified of ever running into him. “I still get nightmares” shared a guy who was physically far more imposing than my harasser, but that didn’t matter. My harasser knows how to get into someone’s psyche.
He had been even worse to his students. He physically intimidated one of his students and later called the cops on him. He even slapped a restraining order against the poor student.
“People want to work with you only because of your looks. You should use that to your advantage” I could not believe what I had heard. He continued: “Go be a booth babe and take one for the team”.
Men like him have an extreme need for control. He once got angry because I needed to take a bathroom break. “My time is precious. You can go later.” He tried to control every part of my life. He would send me text messages later in the evening and get angry when I didn’t respond. He wanted to know my dating life. He would give tons of unsolicited advice on who I should date. “It is so easy for you as a woman. There are only men around here. You can have your pick and you should enjoy it.”
Men like him want to break you and tear you apart. “You need to do better. You are not performing to my expectations”. When I pointed out that I am working 24/7 with no other life outside, he continued “you should not work late. You should sleep well because biology is not on your side. There is a ten-year gap on how biology plays havoc on women’s looks and you know what else..” He flashed a psychopathic grin wide across his face “you still want to have children, don’t you? You have so much working against you”.
All my complaints led to nothing other than my exit. Many others complained and supported me. He was found guilty by the company HR, but nothing else happened. There were so many enablers. There were people who I thought were my friends. They broke my heart when they abandoned me and took his side.
I decided that such an organization did not deserve me. I moved on. Fast forward, I am now in two great organizations: Caltech and NVIDIA, that respect me and empower me.
But men like him never want to admit defeat. He continues to intimidate me at conferences. Now, he wants to visit Caltech and recruit personally. Men like him want to own everything. They want to keep conquering and controlling others. For him, visiting Caltech is a great way to grab his power back. But I will not let this happen, because I don’t want others, especially young and powerless students, to go through what I did.
I am not afraid. He may have a large conglomerate behind him, but I have the truth guarding me. That is my courage. That is my strength. And I will keep fighting until my last breath.
One of my wonderful friends shared this with me to support me.