When I decided to apply to Uber, I had no idea how exhausting it would be. I was just another regular Uber rider in awe of the changes in the way people move around that was revolutionized by Uber. I had just finished my master’s degree when Uber finally came to my city. As I was paying off my student loans and applying for work, I was counting every penny I spent. I had a spreadsheet where every expense was entered and tabulated carefully. Before going to interviews, I would research the cheapest way to get to the place where I needed to be. I plotted so many routes that I could draw the map of my city from memory. I jokingly mentioned to my hubby that Uber would be lucky to have me. He looked at me and said “why not?”
At first I was taken aback. Uber was under intense scrutiny at that time by government regulators because taxi drivers and operators were complaining. In fact, hubby, a seasoned lawyer, and I had a heated debate the other day about Uber. He took the side of the taxi operators while I argued for Uber. Of course, we never settled the issue, but I see where he was coming from when he asked “why not” and was still miffed because he found my arguments convincing (although he did not tell me outright – he hates to lose arguments). I thought if I could convince my irascible husband, then I had a good chance of convincing Uber too. But first, I had to do a lot of research to prepare myself. Uber’s interview process had become legendary, and I was about to learn if it was a mere urban legend or it was accurate.
I had always believed that preparation is key to landing any job. When I first entered the job market, I had two approaches: 1) job-based, and 2) company-based. The first involved looking for positions that I wanted to secure, and the second was looking at the companies I want to work for. After 2 jobs and a master’s degree in my belt, I now basically use approach #2.
The first thing I learned about Uber is that it has a very competitive screening process. Their written exam is rumored to be the hardest in the industry. You had to be really good in Excel, at a Jedi master level, to ace this test. I found this course helpful. I have a reasonable understanding of Excel and this course helped me move it a notch higher, hopefully enough to earn me a spot at Uber.
I caught up with the history of Uber. I had a passing understanding, but it helps my confidence level if I know more than a Google’s worth of information. The more I read about Uber, the greater my desire to work there. Uber’s progenitors understood the problem, and although the solution is not perfect, it’s pretty clever. Politicians have been debating about the transportation problem for decades but their solutions are nowhere as innovative as this ride hailing app. But first I had to pass the interviews.
Lots of them. I had an initial interview which consisted of the usual interview questions and some very technical ones. My research carried me through all these – from one-on-one to panel interviews. But more than that, it was my passion that pushed me. You really have to want it to get it. This is truer with Uber because to get through all those questions, you need to understand their app. And for good measure, I rode Uber to my interviews and took down last-minute notes. My hubby was amused because he has never seen me prepare as much as I prepared for Uber.
If you are the impatient type, Uber is not the place for you. They take their time before hiring. This had to be the longest I spent in trying to get into a company. After every interview, I would freeze every time my phone rang. After several weeks, I finally got THE CALL I was waiting for.
I was in seventh heaven! I was told to come in the following day to put my John Hancock on the employment contract. After putting down the phone, I called the hubby to tell him about it. And all he asked was “are you going to take it?”
Pros and Cons
As usual, his question gave me a pause. I was so focused on Uber’s interview questions and the process that I forgot to think about the final prize – an Uber employment. So, I went back to my notes once again to weigh the pros and cons of working for Uber.
For one, it’s the fastest growing tech company with worldwide presence. When I say presence, I mean physical presence, not online presence. It serves as a bridge between cyberspace and the real world. In one stroke, it created its own niche, one that is close to everyone’s heart. I want to be part of an exciting industry, one that I can be proud of. I’m not that young, but still young enough that I still dream of making a difference in this world. Uber fits that bill.
Not that other tech companies are not changing the world. But most of them are so out there that you sometimes forget they exist. The likes of Google and Microsoft are close only to those people who work in computers all day. Despite what they want you to believe, there are still a lot of people who have passing contact with them that it does not occupy their thoughts. Mobility, on the other hand, that’s something that touches a lot of people every day. Even those who work at home must still go out and use some sort of transportation to go to the grocery, place of worship or to restaurants.
Also, if you look at it, Uber has a lot of potentials. When it was first conceived, it was just a ride hailing app. It transported people to different locations. These days, it’s also being used to deliver goods around the city. They are not only challenging the taxi services, they have confronted delivery companies too. Who knows who else they will challenge tomorrow? There’s a universe of possibilities and I want to be part of it.
Previous and current employees are one in saying that Uber is great place to work. You are surrounded by the best and brightest, although I have to take this with a grain of salt since it may sound like bragging. On the other hand, I went through rigorous screening that only the best can withstand, IMO. It stands to reason that there must be some truth to it. I do know that whatever we do at Uber will have an impact which will be felt up to the rider level.
At the same time, during my interview, I was assured that I would have sufficient independence in my projects. No one will stand over my shoulder while I work. They are results-oriented, and therefore, as long as you do your responsibilities they couldn’t care less if you were balancing on your head while you did it. The pay they offered is not bad too. It’s always nice to know your $ equivalent, and it’s even better when it’s better than what you think.
On the downside, almost all the employees have complained about the lack of work-life balance. HR is slow to recruit that work piles up fast. They work long hours and even during weekends and holidays. Flexible hours or not, there’s not enough hours to do all your work. One complained that she spent a lot of time waiting for someone else in another city to finish part of the project. She expressed her frustration as she always had to play phone and email tag with fellow employees who were in other parts of the world. Uber grew too fast that some of its systems have yet to catch up with it.
That night, I had a lot of thinking to do. I tossed and turned all night. I had talked my hubby’s ear off during dinner, and so I let him sleep while I decided on my next step. Basically, it came down to whether I was ready to accept that I was going to be too busy to have a life outside of a career.
I have 3 school-age kids. It took all my willpower and a lot of juggling of schedules just to finish my master’s degree. My kids have become used to dealing with their harassed and absent-minded mom. They’ve seen me try to unlock the front door with my car keys, shop with 2 different shoes, and make coffee without the coffee grind. Oh, and they laugh so hard whenever they remember me stuffing the pacifier in my hubby’s mouth instead of the baby’s. So, what would be different if I work at Uber? At least I get paid doing it. Plus, I would like to think that we have all learned to balance our busy schedules with family obligations. If I talk to them, I’m sure they will cooperate, albeit reluctantly. In the morning, I was ready to face the world with my decision.
We celebrated the signing of my employment contract at our favorite restaurant. I was told to report for work two weeks later. I thought that I had 14 days to rest, but I realized that I wanted to hit the ground running. Call me a suck-up but these are the things that I did before my first day:
Level up my Excel skills
There’s a reason why Uber tests are skewed to test Excel skills. If there’s one thing that Microsoft did right it was to build this powerful spreadsheet program. I anticipated that I would be using this tool at Uber a lot, and therefore, it would help if I knew it like the back of my hand. If the workload is as they say they are, then I will have no time to master this on the job.
I scoured the bookstores and the internet for books and courses. I found a few of them, and decided to start from scratch. If you passed the Analytics part of the exams, you don’t have to do it, but that’s my process. When I build on my skills, I go back to the foundation to see if they are strong. For the nerds (you want to work for Uber, admit it!) like me, you will enjoy plumbing the depths and heights of Excel. Math is an art, and if you do it right it will bring you joy.
Learn productivity skills
I was still hopeful to maintain a work-life balance even if I was working at Uber. One employee wrote in his review of Uber that he was able to do it, and that it was a matter of balancing your schedule. I’m no stranger to this balancing act, having done it as a mother, student and wife before. But this would be a lot easier if I had the right skills and productivity tools.
When I was interviewing for various jobs, I had the opportunity to reflect on the interview question “what are your weaknesses”. I knew I had the tendency to procrastinate, that I was more of a sprinter than a marathoner when it came to work. Of course, during interviews with Uber, I tended to downplay this weakness. But I had to be honest with myself and accept this failing if I were to do something about it. Thank God I had the good sense to take the time to learn the interview process, otherwise, I would not be where I am today.
There are several books on ways to improve your productivity. The world has come a long way when it comes to careers, and you can find a book on any topic. I selected one book and read through it. I hope that I have learned enough to help me cope with my Uber workload.
Understand the business model of Uber
I have said this time and again, Uber has succeeded in revolutionizing the way we move around. As I rider and a student of business, I often wondered how Uber makes it work. Their business model is not only unique it has plenty of potentials. No one has created its own niche this fast. Its competitors are merely following Uber’s footstep and has yet to catch.
I am sure that once I start, I will be asked to find ways to solidify Uber’s hold over the niche it has created. It’s difficult to be number one, everybody is gunning for your position. You run the risk of falling down every day. There’s no way up, and your job is to stay where you are. I could not have studied their business model in school because it was not yet in existent at that time. I can jumpstart the process by reading up and learning before I start work there.
The advantage of using a unique business model is that you make the rules. At the same time, it’s scary as there is no model to copy and/or compare your own. If I want to own my projects, I should understand the model and think of ways to make it better to protect its spot. I know that there’s time enough to do that when I come onboard, and that it would make better sense to get a feel of how the other team members feel, but it would complete the circle if I could study the model from an outsider’s point of view.
More importantly, Uber’s model is under attack from the industries it has infiltrated as well as government regulators. Every city that it enters offers resistance to it. While the rules that Uber allegedly violates in every city is different, the problem is the same – it is stepping on the toes of other people. And these people have no qualms about complaining to the authorities. The business model can stand some refinement so that it’s entry to my city can be seamless.
Learn new business terms
You don’t have to memorize business terms, but it would help if you understand what people are saying without you rushing to the dictionary every other minute. Uber likes to foster a relaxed environment, but this does mean that the people there are not professionals. I have been working since I graduated from college so I have a working knowledge of the business language. Nonetheless, I anticipate that there are new words unique to Uber’s niche which I must learn.
Study the competition
During the interview, there was a discussion of Uber’s competitors. There are several wannabes in the field, but the one that they are watching closely is Lyft. While it mirrors Uber’s business model, it has attracted a lot of financiers that it could afford to adjust quickly to the demands of the market. It’s still a capitalist world, and money paves the way to a lot of opportunity.
The best way to study the competition is to use its service, and the best time to do that would be right now, before I start working for Uber. After all, it would be downright scandalous to ride Lyft to the Uber office. Lyft might know something that Uber missed, and that is why it has attracted attention from investors. I should see it from the point of view of the rider as well as the driver. It’s a fun experiment that will provide me the opportunity to learn about Uber’s biggest competitor.
But Lyft is not the only one storming the gates of Uber. There are small competitors who are operating in a few cities that have shown some success. Uber should not discount the small ones. Considering that they have thrived alongside Uber, there must be some things they are doing right.
You are most likely reading this article because you are interested in working at Uber. Not surprising. Uber has caught the attention of a lot of people because it’s service affects almost everyone profoundly. Transportation is a huge problem for most cities, and it’s interesting when someone finds an answer that seems to work. At Uber, you will be a part of something exciting. This was my main reason for joining. If that is what you seek, then go and apply.
Nonetheless, I should warn you that the path to Uber’s door is not straightforward. You have to really want it if you hope to get in. Otherwise, the amount of work that you have to do will put you off from continuing with your dream. I did a lot of research about Uber before and during the interviews. Stress was my constant companion after every interview. Did I answer the questions correctly? Could I have given a more definitive answer? It reminded me a lot of those post-finals dread that I felt in college. I hated those post-mortems. If that is not your cup of tea, then move on. Uber is not the place for you.
It’s also not for people who don’t know how to deal with stress. I don’t know how the stress levels in Uber compared to other companies, but it’s definitely up there. You will have to give up a lot of personal time especially in the beginning. No weekends or holidays for you for the foreseeable future. You will probably go home late and tired almost every night. If you don’t know how to prioritize, then Uber is not for you.
Finally, if after hearing all that you still want to join Uber, then it’s time to buckle down and work. Preparing for the recruitment process at Uber is hard work. You cannot rely on the usual books on how to deal with interviews that are on the market. You need help that is tailored for Uber applicants and from people who have gone before you. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Here’s a course that will help you distinguish yourself from all the other applicants. You need all the help you can get.