6 months ago Özlem Öz moved from Istanbul to Dubai to join Uber’s Communications team. After a short break from tech, she realized just how much the industry aligns with her values and how much she missed the fast paced and innovative ecosystem: “I enjoy being part of the workspace that encourages you to think differently and go beyond, doing things with heart.” We sat down with Özlem to chat about her experience at Uber so far and what it’s like to be on our MEA Communications team.
Tell us about yourself.
“I am a storyteller. I value hearing different perspectives, exploring different cultures and enjoy working within diverse teams. My motto in life is ‘challenge your comfort zone, rethink and experiment, and give yourself license to fail’.
I started my professional journey at a multinational PR agency where I planned and executed communications strategies for clients from every industry. I then joined a multi-national tech company, where I echoed my company’s contribution to Turkey’s & MENA’s society and economy with technology and the internet. I had the privilege to run a global corporate reputation campaign for my country Turkey, in 15 countries. Then, during COVID, I built a communications strategy for a new ‘self care’ concept across the Middle East and Africa for a global healthcare company. During my short break from the tech industry, I realized technology was my real passion and just how much I love examining and telling the world about the intersection of technology, economy and people. That’s why I joined Uber 6 months ago and relocated to Dubai from Istanbul.
About me outside working hours? The sea is my happy place; endless blue that is full of surprises to discover. I am interested in understanding human nature and try to spare time to study psychology. I take active roles in DEI projects, mainly for empowering women at the workplace. I am a cat mom who is a big fan of Billie Eilish and Fran Lebowitz.”
You’re halfway to your 1-year Uberversary. Why did you join Uber and what have the first 6 months been like?
“The technology industry is the industry that fits into my values. The fast pace, innovative ecosystem is a great playground for a comms expert. At Uber, combining technology with an actual product that reimagines the way people move and provides opportunities for millions of earners around the world is an inspirational story to leverage, as more people learn about it they benefit from our platform. I enjoy being part of the workspace that encourages you to think differently and go beyond, doing things with heart.”
Tell us about Uber’s communications team and how you support Uber’s mission in MEA?
“We are a team of 4 covering MENA and SSA. MEA, with its potential, diverse cultural richness, and appetite to embrace innovation, it’s an exciting region. This vibrant ecosystem inspires us to launch our global firsts and continue to bring product innovation that provides more opportunities for the earners and better experience for our riders.
The team’s key priority is to leverage our story of commitment to transform how people move in cities and boost economic opportunities, and also be the key ally on topics that matter the most for the communities in countries where we have presence.
Comms is a strategic ally for the business. We work very closely with cross functional teams. The innovative, dynamic environment is a great playground to rethink and take risks to experiment creative approaches. We have to tackle roadblocks and we work hand in hand with our policy team, focus on literacy building programs and engage regularly with our key media stakeholders.
Net contributor, platform of choice and sustainability are our key story pillars. During challenging macro economic times, we constantly work on leveraging the innovative solutions that we bring to the region to enable better opportunities for our earners. Think of creative ‘digital first’ PR ideas to be able to engage with the MEA’s young population. Sustainability is a rising trend in MEA where we actively collaborate with our partners and government stakeholders on green initiatives and be the partner for mobility transition on sustainability.”
How does Uber support economic opportunity and access to mobility in MEA?
“At a time of unprecedented economic uncertainty and inflation peaking around the world, flexible platform work is more important than ever.
In the past year alone, we saw double digit growth in new economic opportunities on our platform in MEA. We’re focused on drivers to help elevate their costs and find new opportunities for them to increase and access earnings. Our Driver Ops team do regular earner roundtables that give us the opportunity to assess and launch new products that will meet their needs. We launched one of the global first flexpay in Egypt, aiming to empower drivers with faster and direct access to earnings (no fleet partner).
Women empowerment and supporting female drivers on our platform is one of our utmost priorities. We run different programs across the region to support them with training and wellbeing programs. We have recently launched a GigSister program in SSA and Egypt.
For our riders, we provide more diverse, affordable and sustainable options that enable them to commute efficiently. During the World Cup in Qatar, we launched X Share and during the tournament we moved 2.6 million riders. We launched the Wusool program in KSA with the Saudi Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF), an enhanced mobility partnership to make transport more accessible to women going to work. The program proved to be highly successful in empowering working Saudi women. With the help of Wusool, female participation in Saudi Arabia’s labor force grew between 2018 and 2021- from around 22% to almost 36%.
We provide products for our riders that prefer to ‘go green’ while moving. Since 2017 we have been offering ‘Uber Green’ on our platform in the MENA region. In the UAE, we made our first commitment in the region, where we aim to have every 1 in 4 trips in the UAE being emission-free by 2030. In Sub-Saharan Africa we are accelerating our efforts; we are one of the partners of the ‘Go Green’ initiative in South Africa, we have eBikes in Kenya.”
What surprised you about Uber after you joined?
“Everyone’s passion for Uber and our products, the fast paced environment that keeps innovating to provide the best-in-class product experience for both earners and riders. The start-up spirit and humble, friendly colleagues that are always ready to lend a hand.”
Why’s now a great time to join Uber in MEA?
“More than ever, consumers are looking to companies and brands to share their values and demonstrate positive impact on society. I believe that Uber’s business model and DNA make it easy for all of us to meet people’s expectations and create a positive impact that exceeds our commercial objectives. Uber is a great workplace to grow your career. Our culture encourages us to be bold, take risks, and do everything we can to help more people. For anyone that wants to go beyond and share this passion, it is always a great time to be.”
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