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4 Uber leaders share their recipes for career success

December 13, 2022 / Global

Uber’s changing how people, food, and things move through cities across Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), opening up the world to new possibilities. But even with 21 million global Uber trips a day and 124 million monthly active platform consumers, we’re still just scratching the surface of what we can accomplish. Our Operations teams are the backbone for our growth in EMEA, working on a diffuse problem set that can range from legal, to marketing, to product launch. To be successful, “you need to be a true T-shaped professional”, shares Georgii Sokolianskyi, who leads EMEA Driver Operations. “An expert in your field but also someone who can work with other functions easily.”

Below, 4 EMEA Operations leaders on our Rides team share the leaps of faith, chance encounters, and hard earned lessons that helped them drive their growth and build our rides business across the region.

3 moves, 5 roles, 6 years #OneUber

“In 6 years at Uber I’ve gone from being a strategy consultant and lawyer with no operations experience to leading operations teams and managing billions in revenue every year,” shares Ash Kebriti, our Amsterdam-based Head of EMEA Central Operations. 

Ash began his Uber journey in Operations Strategy & Planning for Central & Eastern Europe Rides before becoming General Manager of the team and then General Manager for UK & Ireland Rides. “These roles have taken me to over 50 cities and have had me based out of multiple locations.”

Your career at Uber has traversed 3 continents. How did this help you grow?

“The opportunities you can get at Uber are outstanding. Driving that is the sheer breadth of interesting problems to solve given our global presence, breadth of products, and scope of issues. Uber’s learning philosophy is focused on learning by doing and Uber is willing to take bets on people.

All of those factors combined means that the rate of learning and development is the best I’ve experienced in my career to date. In 6 years I’ve gone from being a strategy consultant and lawyer with no operations experience to leading operations and teams managing billions in revenue every year. I’ve had 5 deeply challenging, impactful and diverse roles spanning from helping leaders make bold business decisions, to working with cross-functional teams and policymakers to improve how ride hailing platforms are regulated, to improving customer experience and growing the breadth of our products. 

Most importantly, though, this level of growth and development means that our teams at Uber are able to use our learnings and skills to better impact how hundreds of thousands of earners make a living and to help tens of millions of consumers go anywhere. And that has meant that I’ve never felt like work at Uber has been…just work.” 

Any advice for someone looking to break into Ops?

“I’ve got two sets of tips. 

Firstly, learn to get comfortable with statistics, problem-solving and programme management. A lot of operations involve statistics: looking at data to determine how to improve the customer experience and better satisfy customer needs. Problem solving (and being a good listener so that you factor in different points of view) will help you to come to logical and measured decisions. And effective programme management will help you to spot upcoming roadblocks, identify any interdependencies and have the right resources in the right place at the right time. Most people will have some of these skills from past experiences, and some of it will be relatively new. If you are at a basic level in one of these areas, then there are loads of courses out there to help you get started. 

Secondly, just get started. Jump on an operations problem or challenge. There are likely many in the organization that you’re working at. And, if you want more of it, then join an operations-heavy organization, whether for profit or not! Start-ups or scale-ups at the intersection of the physical and digital world are usually a great place to learn given the depth and breadth of operational challenges.” 

Making a career change at Uber 

“The problem set is diffuse. You find yourself on a marketing project on Monday, a regulatory project on Tuesday and an analytics project on Wednesday,” shares Georgii Sokolianskyi who leads our EMEA Driver Operations team based in Amsterdam. Initially joining Uber’s tax team for Central and Eastern Europe, Georgii changed career paths and moved into Operations as Head of Ukraine, Head of Growth, and Interim General Manager, and then Head of Strategy and Planning for the United Kingdom. “The transition went smoother than expected, by the way!”

What has been the biggest turning point in your career so far?

“The biggest turning point was a career transition from tax to operations. I enjoyed my time as a tax lawyer but I wanted to experience the levels of breadth and ownership that are hard to get if what you do is consult on one aspect of a business decision. In Operations, I’ve had to make good decisions, set sound strategy and make sure it turns into action. The expectations are not too different from what a good (insert your profession) does.”

What’s the secret to EMEA Ops’ success?

“The breadth of perspective. Operations is the P&L-owning function at Uber and is sometimes referred to as the business. By implication, the problem set is diffuse. You find yourself on a marketing project on Monday, a regulatory project on Tuesday and an analytics project on Wednesday. You will have access to subject matter experts but you are the one owning the outcome and orchestrating the cross-functional team.

To be successful, you need to be a true T-shaped professional: an expert in your field but also someone who can work with other functions easily. Knowing key concepts from every field helps. You can work with marketing and analytics without knowing what brand attributes and data pipelines are, but you are so much more effective if you can speak the same language.”

Growing Uber from Italy to Israel

“There are no two markets alike and there is no single recipe to crack a market,” shares Marie de Tinguy, our Regional General Manager for Southern, Central and Eastern Europe, a fast-growing region spanning from Italy (West) to Turkey (East) and Estonia (North) to Israel (South). Prior to this, Marie covered for several paternity and sick leaves: 3 months as EMEA head of S&P and 6 months as General Manager for Southern Europe, but initially joined as S&P lead for Western & Southern Europe.

Tell us about your career journey and some key moments that got you to where you are today.

“Overall, what guided my career journey was people and flexibility. I didn’t have too detailed a roadmap in my mind and took opportunities as they arose, using each to learn and refine my perspective on what I enjoy and what I want to do next. 

Concretely while I was in S&P, I did several gigs contributing to global projects that I was particularly interested in, building a global prioritization framework for the way we look at our markets and resourcing, and creating the global hailables initiative. This enabled me to deepen my understanding of our business, organization and meet a lot of new people far beyond what my scope would have enabled me to do.

Then, while two (actually many more) potential career paths were ahead of me: taking on a more senior and broader scope within S&P or moving to operations to ultimately become a GM. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to test both. I covered for the paternity leave of the Head of EMEA S&P for 3 months and then was the interim GM for Southern Europe, covering for a sick leave for 6 months. Those were amazing opportunities that enabled me to test myself: would I be able to do the job while learning a lot in a safe environment and seeing what I liked most about the different roles? This enabled me to clarify the path I was most interested in (GM role) and look for the right opportunity.”

Any lessons from growing Uber across very different markets?

“There are no two markets alike and there is no single recipe to crack a market. In highly regulated markets like most of our European markets, the amount of customization and work it may take to build a model that is compliant with local regulations and enables riders to feel they have the same magical experience across the globe adds an additional layer of complexity.

Even in markets where we’re not the leader in market share, we are seen as the category leader, which means we can get a lot more scrutiny and expectations from regulators but also get to be shaping the market. This is a big responsibility but is also extremely rewarding day to day.

Last but most important: with an amazing team everything is possible! And the most amazing achievements often come from the most desperate situations so never give up. There is always a way, you just need to find it.”

Seeing your impact in the world every day 

Stephanie Hughes leads Rider Operations for Europe, Middle East & Africa based in Amsterdam. As the name suggests, the team is responsible for all-things Rider related, from encouraging more people to take a first trip, to making sure Uber gets better the more you use it, to introducing new products and services.

Before this, she led our EMEA Growth Team, incubating what’s next for the Rides product—from renting an Uber to meeting our commitment to be a zero-emission platform by 2030—and also led our competitive spend team. Stephanie joined as a Driver Operations Manager in London. “This first role was one of the most formative and enjoyable of my career, enabling me to interact daily with earners and be part of a period of unprecedented growth, where we all flexed across topics from marketing to customer support.” 

You’ve been at Uber for 7+ years. Why did you join and why do you stay?

“I joined Uber because I was looking for a company where there was an opportunity to learn and grow at my own pace and where I could see the tangible impact of my work on the world around me. I stay because it still offers me these two things. 

Uber is growing and evolving so quickly that there are always new opportunities to work on: new businesses, new challenges, and new ideas. It is also a true meritocracy. If you do a good job you will be given more responsibility and stretched, probably before you feel like you’re ready.

I get to see the impact of what I do every day, whether that’s by speaking to earners and riders or opening up a newspaper. In a company of this scale, even the smallest changes can make a difference.”

What do you look for in anyone joining EMEA Central Ops?

“Mindset and a data driven approach to problem solving. 

I look for someone who has a can-do mentality, is eager to learn, enjoys solving ambiguous problems and can be creative in finding a solution. These qualities will go a long way to success at Uber. 

Being data driven is not the same as crunching data or being a python or SQL wizz. It’s about knowing what data you need to look at to understand the root cause of the problem and to ultimately making a good decision.”

Interested in joining us? Explore our open roles →