Wangui Mbugua’s childhood passion for adventure and puzzles has pushed her to traverse 3 career paths across 3 continents—first practicing corporate and commercial law, shifting into management consulting, and now as a General Manager for Uber Eats in Kenya. Her advice for people looking to break into tech? “Be prepared for a learning journey. Have an open mind and get stuck into everything you come across.”
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
“All my life I have loved adventure and puzzles. As a child, I wanted to be an archaeologist since it seemed to combine those two loves of mine, especially after watching Indiana Jones. I love puzzling adventures, even more when solving with my two brothers today and when I’m convincing my reluctant boyfriend to join me in traveling across our home country of Kenya.
I took those two elements and managed to weave them around my life in various ways. After studying law at the University of Manchester, with a stint at the National University of Singapore, I practiced briefly in London and then back home in Nairobi before switching career paths to management consulting. Consulting across the African continent offered me the opportunity to solve problems across multiple industries and within companies or agencies at different stages of maturity, while working in tech means I’m learning something new and building solutions every day.
In my personal life, I am a devoted partner, daughter, and sister who loves the beach (check out my favorite beaches Diani and Watamu in Kenya), travel, and food. I also recently took up yoga and boxing, a paradox that represents the duality of my personality!”
Describe life at Uber in Kenya.
“There is no straightforward day at Uber Eats in Kenya, but some of the typical themes we cover are performance metrics, solution drives for short and long-term issues, and functional deep dives across the different elements of our ecosystem.
We have a diverse and brilliant team in Kenya and work closely with our colleagues in Rides and our local Greenlight Hub. We also have a brilliant once-a-month East Africa State of the Nation where we share and socialize with all teams and have recently started monthly group activities.”
How did you make the jump from Management Consultant to General Manager?
“I’ve had approximately 3 lives in my career path so far. I practiced corporate and commercial law for a year, shifted into management consulting for 4 years, and then segued into tech.
As a management consultant, I worked at one of the Big Three consulting firms in Africa focusing on both strategic and implementation projects. It was phenomenal to work across the continent in countries like South Africa, Ethiopia, Zambia, and even my home country Kenya. In many ways, working as a management consultant on the continent mirrors the Uber experience where you are constantly building processes and working on implementing initiatives that will drive improvements for a business.
After 4 years, I wanted to be operational and own results from end to end, so I moved to a tech startup focusing on providing green energy solutions to low to middle-income households in Kenya. I set up our strategy on customer operations until Uber came calling.
At the time, I was applying for a Marketplace Operations lead role in Kenya at Uber Eats. But during the course of my interview, there were some changes in the business. Based on my interview and the skills Uber was looking for, I ended up joining as the Strategy and Planning Lead for Sub-Saharan Africa for Uber Eats. I worked to solve structural, organizational, and process issues across growth and operations, alongside monitoring the financials, which was both exciting and challenging. I love that about Uber. You’re always learning, solving, and thinking broadly about impact because there are so many facets in society that our business weaves together. When pandemic restrictions began, I opted to focus on Kenya operations and support the then General Manager (GM). When the GM transitioned out of the business in late 2021, I took on the reins as interim GM before interviewing and getting confirmed and formalized in January of this year.”
What are the most interesting challenges you need to solve?
“One of the most interesting pieces we are consistently solving across functions and business lines in Kenya is how cash-heavy the market is. For Uber Eats, we currently have a cash market for a majority of our transactions. This is because a primary payment method in Kenya is mobile money, largely dominated by one of the largest mobile money networks in the region. Switching users from cash to digital has multiple benefits including reduced transaction costs, making customers stickier, and creating stronger cases for partnerships. Solving this and all the functions it touches is always exciting and provides a blueprint for accessing other markets with a similar cash profile to ours.”
How do you identify and how do you bring your full self to work every day?
“Living in my authentic self is really important to me. That means showing up even, and especially when, it’s hard to do so. I believe there is so much growth when there is a reluctance to get out of your comfort zone and you do so anyway!
I’m living authentically when I’m energized in the morning and manage to remain engaged throughout the day. I’m a non-traditional morning person, meaning I taught myself how to be a morning person and it sets the tone for the rest of my day. I start by prepping the night before by quickly scanning my emails to identify priority tasks for the next day. I also prepare any equipment, breakfast items, and clothing. I try to get up relatively early in the morning and spend those first few minutes in bed, detoxing any anxiety and a quick scan of both my work and personal emails, as well as any performance metrics I have my eye on to catch any red flags that would need to be addressed that day. This sets my mind at ease to continue the rest of my morning routine undisturbed by curiosity.
To be human is to be imperfect and I definitely spend at least 10 mins scrolling social media. I’m a big believer in a morning workout to help get your momentum going especially on days where you have really long behind the desk/problem-solving days.
The other thing that helps is to ensure your personal processes are efficient really helps create the space for a balanced workload and energy levels. This could include keeping your email at <10 by having a scanning and prioritization approach, trying to keep meeting heavy days together to get at least 1-2 days of focused work days, optimizing meetings with specific agendas, or keeping all stakeholders in the loop of any critical decisions and movements.”
Any tips for people looking to join Uber?
“Be prepared for a learning journey. Have an open mind and get stuck into everything you come across, with varying degrees of focus and effort, of course!”
Interested in joining us? Explore our open roles at Uber Eats →