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Leave the familiar behind and get uncomfortable

July 1 / Global

Republished from FairyGodBoss

Lindsey McGhee is a Senior Community Operations Manager at Uber, where she oversees the operations and strategic development of a team of technical support specialists. Together, they support a transportation booking tool for people with disabilities and ADA services, used by private and public transit agencies across the United States and Canada.

“We’re building new processes and structures while still supporting hundreds of clients,” she tells Fairygodboss. “This is my job. I am managing a team while strategizing, building, and implementing.”

Doing just that, she says, is both challenging and rewarding. “It’s very hard work, but it is exciting to know I have a hand in building something,” she shares. “And the most rewarding part is knowing that we are providing a product that is truly helping people get around their communities. I find that extremely rewarding.”

McGhee didn’t always do this type of work — or a type of work that she found rewarding. She started her career in banking, where she tells us she was unfulfilled. Here, we caught up with her to learn more about why she made the career change — and, more so, how she made it.

Read on to hear about her career journey and her best advice for women in similar shoes.

Where did you start your career journey? What were your previous roles and experiences like?

My first real job was working for a small midwestern bank in downtown Chicago. I started as a part-time teller and eventually went full-time as a senior teller. I was at the bank for a little under five years. And, by the end, I was pretty much managing the operations of cash flow and vault.

I was determined to work hard and be an asset. But, I must say, that was not always appreciated. It was very difficult to advance and promote. There weren’t very many people that looked like me. Despite that, I worked hard and gave 100% of my entire time there. Just before my five-year mark, I found the job description for a support role at Uber. Uber offered something exciting, innovative, and popular, and I was eager to make the shift!

The rest is history.

How did you utilize your existing skills in this career progression?

Being a teller is all about attention to detail, building relationships, and providing stellar experiences. Those skills really helped me stand out as a support specialist. Uber recognized this hard work and I was able to quickly move up.

How did you make this switch, and how did Uber support you in this process?

Starting as an entry-level support specialist and being promoted several levels into senior management is not too common in many workplaces––but not Uber. The company provided the perfect environment and opportunities to learn and develop. The “start-up” culture provided ample new roles and the right amount of motivation to all folks, even those who didn’t necessarily have the qualifications on paper but had the grit and drive, to step into roles that other companies may not have. This proved successful and highly beneficial for me.

All of my business and management expertise was gained on the job. Many of my counterparts have advanced degrees in business. And, while I don’t share those accolades, what I’ve been able to learn in the role allows me to sit in rooms and at tables with them and hold my own. I owe that to my drive and determination and natural intuitiveness, but Uber also provided the space and opportunity to learn. They took a chance on me, and it paid off. For us both, I’d like to think.

How have you benefited from the skills/experience you’ve gained in your career journey?

Opportunity. And that is huge for so many people, especially a Black girl from the South Side of Chicago. Having access and opportunity is often missing. With no formal experience, I have been able to promote from entry-level into senior management. I am very grateful that Uber took a chance on me.

What is your favorite thing about working at Uber?

My favorite thing about working for Uber is being a part of something so relevant and vital to today’s society and culture. Because of the company I work for, I am never worried about being stranded anywhere. Just 15 years ago, this was not even possible. That’s huge. 

Looking back on your career, what would you say has been your most valuable career mistake?

There’s nothing worse than being scared or too comfortable. It will cripple you. When I worked at the bank, I was comfortable and insecure about my capabilities because of a stagnant job that didn’t see my potential. Uber created the culture and atmosphere to develop and gain confidence through hands-on experience. When I left the bank, it was to begin contract work for Uber. So it was truly a leap of faith, but it was the best decision I could have made because Uber truly played a pivotal role in changing the trajectory of my career.

What is your best piece of advice for other women who are thinking about making a career pivot?

My advice would be for a very specific woman. That would be the woman who feels insecure because they don’t have the experience or traditional schooling. Or the woman who works hard but feels unnoticed and underappreciated. My advice for that woman would be to never be afraid of leaving what is familiar behind and trying something new.

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