Starting My Trip As Uber’s Head Of Communications For Southeast Asia

HeadCommsSEA

Just a little over a year ago, I started my trip at Uber to lead communications for Singapore and Malaysia. A lot happened and I was proud to notch several key wins within my first year.

Now, one year later, I begin the next leg of my trip with Uber!

Following a search that included internal and external candidates, I’m superpumped to begin my new role as Head of Communications for Southeast Asia. In this role, I will be responsible for the Communications teams based out of Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.

I am thrilled to grow my career in one of the most exciting companies on the planet! Even with everything that has recently happened – the truth is, we’ve only just begun. As a company, we are making definitive progress as we continue to focus on profitability. In Southeast Asia, there is so much more potential to realise even when you consider our transport and UberEATS businesses alone!

We will focus on growing Uber as a sustainable business in the region: serving riders and consumers; driver-, delivery-, and restaurant-partners; as well as other key stakeholders – by helping Southeast Asia’s cities unlock growth and mobility with Uber’s smart innovation.

Are we there yet? Do we have everything figured out?

Like I said, we’ve only just begun.

Some of the most enduring and respected companies of our time have gone through their own version of a ‘redemption journey’ – and it is a privilege to play a role in this chapter of Uber’s story.

Here’s to the exciting ride ahead!

 

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Reflecting On A Great First Year At Uber

UberDayNight

In what feels like a blink of an eye, one year has passed since I started my trip with Uber (or, in Uber-speak, this is my first Uberversary)!

At my interview, I said I wanted to join the most interesting company in the world… and, boy, what a breathtaking ride it’s been so far!

I’ve been blessed with amazing colleagues, and we are working together to solve some of the most interesting problems in the world today. Some of these opportunities are unprecedented and groundbreaking; we’re writing the playbooks as we go along because there are none. Some of these opportunities also defy convention – we’re rewriting the rules that have long been overdue for an overhaul.

Among some of my proudest moments in the past year alone has been:

There’s a whole lot more, for sure. It’s practically been an adventure from week to week. Nonetheless, it’s been a 6-star ride so far and I’m looking forward to what’s next. Here’s to more Uberversaries ahead!

 

If You Can’t Afford To Learn From Your Own Mistakes, It’s Cheaper To Learn From Others’

mistakes

I’m a firm believer that it is alright to make mistakes in the workplace. It’s the best form of education – as long as you’re willing and able to afford the tuition.

The tuition comes in many forms: a financial cost, a negative impact to your career or reputation… well, you get the idea.

So, if you can’t afford to learn from your own mistakes, it could be cheaper (and safer) to learn from the mistakes of others.

The Sound Of Empowerment

leighuberbeethovenlaunch

This week was one of my more awesome weeks on the job at Uber: publicly launching app update features for hearing-impaired driver-partners in Singapore and Malaysia!

This is the kind of technology-changing-the-world awesomeness that I signed up for!

Internally codenamed “Beethoven” – after the master-composer who was deaf himself – these app features are designed to help hearing-impaired driver-partners earn an income to support themselves and their loved ones on the Uber platform. To develop these features, Uber’s research team invited hearing-impaired partners to participate in feedback sessions to learn what we could build that would improve their experience.

You can find out more about how the app works here.

In the course of preparing for this event, I really had my paradigm changed and many misconceptions broken – especially when I went through the research on road safety in the case of hearing-impaired drivers. Did you know, there was no evidence indicating a higher risk for deaf and hard of hearing drivers? The majority of the relevant information we receive to drive is visual, and there is no evidence to suggest that deaf drivers are at an increased risk for a crash.

  • “Deafness does not in any way limit a person’s ability to drive a car or other vehicles. Consequently, a deaf driver does not constitute a risk for safe traffic. There is no evidence that deaf drivers are involved in more car accidents, or are at any more risk on the road than those with normal hearing.” – World Federation of the Deaf
  • Almost 100 countries around the world – in Africa, Middle East, Asia, Europe and the Americas – allow deaf people to obtain driver’s licenses. – World Federation of the Deaf survey reports
  • “Evidence from the private driver’s license holder population does not support the contention that individuals with hearing impairments are at an increased risk for a crash.” – 2008 ECRI Report
  • In October 2014, the US Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced that deaf truck drivers were allowed to obtain commercial drivers licenses (CDL) and attend CDL training schools. – FMCSA

The greatest highlight for me (and others in the team) was the stories of the driver-partners themselves! In Singapore, I got a chance to hear Andrew’s story and meet a really bubbly guy called Roland, who has conducted almost 3,000 trips and even runs a WhatsApp group to support other deaf Uber driver-partners (check out this video of being driven around by Roland here)! In Malaysia, I was introduced to James, a 3D designer in Petaling Jaya who decided to earn some extra income by becoming an Uber driver at night.

All of them were great examples of resilience and character, who overcome their “different-abledness” to become providers for themselves, their loved ones, and to be a productive member of society. At the end of the day, isn’t that what we all want to have an opportunity to do?

To our hearing-impaired driver-partners, thank you for being part of the Uber experience. This week has really been a blessing to me to be learn from and be inspired by all of you!

More pics from the events in SG and MY available here.

Obsolescence Makes VCR Manufacturers Press Stop

The news that the world’s last manufacturer of Videocassette Recorders (“VCR”) will manufacture its last VCR has gone around the world. 40 years after the first VHS video cassette recorder was manufactured, Japanese consumer electronics company Funai Electric – the last known company making the devices – is ceasing production of its VCR products. The company cited declining sales and difficulty in obtaining the necessary parts as reasons to cease production. At its peak, the company sold 15 million VCRs per year, which has since dwindled down to 750,000 units in 2015 (Frankly, still an astonishing number! Who knew that three-quarters of a million people still bought brand new VCRs?!).

The news caught my attention for a couple of reasons.

Recorded Nostalgia

First of all, I was hit by a wave of nostalgia. When I was growing up, we had limited screen time (television, not tablet). My mother would record our TV shows during the week and we’d watch them during the weekend; after homework and revision, of course. Or that time when my friends discussed the first time they saw what was on the tapes dad had hidden away. 😉

I also remembered the “accessories” industry that sprouted around the VCR and VHS tapes. Who didn’t have some sort of VHS tape rewinder placed near their TV stand?

Remember these?!

Fast Forward To The End

Secondly, I was impacted by the fact that obsolescence has claimed yet another victim. Very specifically, it reminded me about the following clip from the movie, Other People’s Money, starring Danny Devito.

The bit when “Larry the Liquidator”, talked about obsolescence with the example of “the last company around […] that made the best goddamn buggy whip you ever saw” is especially powerful for me.

This company is dead.

I didn’t kill it. Don’t blame me.

It was dead when I got here. […]

You know why?

Fiber optics. New technologies. Obsolescence.

We’re dead, all right. We’re just not broke.

And do you know the surest way to go broke?

Keep getting an increasing share of a shrinking market. Down the tubes. Slow but sure.

You know, at one time there must have been dozens of companies making buggy whips. And I’ll bet the last company around was the one that made the best goddamn buggy whip you ever saw.

I turn to this scene time and time again whenever I think about my career or the brands I am working with (see: “Brands Will Last Forever… Right?” and “A truly innovative agenda and prepping for jobs that do not yet exist“).

Sometimes, it’s not just about product excellence or an endearing (even enduring) brand. Or, if you think about it from a career perspective – it’s not about your productivity or your personality.

It’s about whether you can successfully adapt to defend your place in this world.

Or, as General Eric Shinseki, former U.S. Army Chief of Staff puts it: “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”

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