This is part two of our mentor interview series for GITxFB Startup Success Factors Bootcamp 2017. Look out for more interviews coming soon! To get a chance to learn from these successful entrepreneurs and veteren industry leaders, sign up here. Application deadline extended to 23rd June.
Part one: Be inspired by Delegate Co-founders, Melissa Lou and Jacqueline Ye
Part three: Finding Your Ikigai with Spinta Co-founder Ketki Sen
Part four: Taking the Leap of Entrepreneurship, Crystal Koh
Is there anyone out there who has not heard of Uber yet? Probably not. The ride-hailing app has taken the world by storm since it was first launched in 2010 and has since expanded into 570 cities across the globe.
Undeniably, the tech company has helped millions of commuters around the world through their innovative products and impeccable customer service team. Girls in Tech is thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with Maita Gaerlan, Senior Community Operations Manager for Southeast and North Asia, who makes it her life’s mission to improve every Uber customer’s overall experience.
Life as Community Operations Manager at Uber
Maita had always been drawn to Uber’s product, having had her fair share of hair-splitting experiences dealing with the infamous Manila traffic. She routinely experienced heavy traffic in the city and had less flexibility with her commute options, since she normally shared the family vehicle with her mother, brother and cousins. On why she joined the tech giant three years ago, she revealed, “I connected well with [Uber’s] vision because it was something that impacted me on a day to day [basis].”
Being part of the Community Operations team, Maita makes sure that the user experience is always top-notch – from the level of support they receive to the improvements in the product itself. One of her major projects is to build and manage the Community Operations teams in each country in the region. “This allows us to really have a local voice that could champion the Uber user in that country,” she added.
From Beauty to Tech – the big leap
Maita began her career in L’Oreal Philippines as a marketing specialist. After graduating from university, she joined L’Oreal’s Management Trainee programme and eventually rose to Marketing Manager where she handled marketing operations for a hair care brand. She later realised that her passion didn’t lie in Marketing nor in beauty products; instead she wanted to resonate closer with the product and the customer and that’s how she ended up in Uber Community Operations.
Going from a big corporate setting to a tech startup albeit a giant one like Uber, there’s bound to be differences. Maita recalled, “L’Oreal and Uber are alike [in the sense that] a junior can have major responsibilities on his/her plate and the visibility that comes with it. On a global level though, that’s where I think the difference is more apparent. Global > Region > Country is how it worked in L’Oreal. Nothing would move without the approval of the high tiers. In Uber, it’s Global <> Regional <> Country <> City – each with a good degree of autonomy to do what they need to do for the betterment of the product/ customer experience.”
Being empowered is key
What Maita likes most about working in a tech start-up like Uber is the feeling of empowerment and constant learning. “The work is always challenging – I’ve never been comfortable in the last 3 years of being at Uber,” she revealed.
She also likes that no matter your role or seniority, you feel welcomed to contribute your ideas to the team. “There’s no such thing as hierarchy. So long as you have an idea backed by good data, you can feel free to speak up! And they will trust you to get things done,” she further added.
Challenges and Sexism allegations at Uber
Nevertheless, the job comes with its own set of challenges especially for Maita who came from a marketing background. She recalled, “Knowing NOTHING about a challenge given to me – Uber’s good at doing that. It’s in being resourceful and determined to get the project done that has allowed me to stay in the company for 3 years despite most of my responsibilities having been very different and new to me.”
Given the recent criticisms of sexism at Uber, I could not help but ask Maita on her views. She answered, “I’ve personally never experienced sexism. I’m grateful, however, that issues have surfaced because there would be people in my company who could have been experiencing this silently. I’m glad that the company is taking steps forward to ensure that this doesn’t happen to anyone. I’m positive about the moves forward because it could only get better for us as a company to address these and get the full endorsement of top level.”
Don’t be afraid of challenges, yet keep to your values
Finishing off our chat, I asked Maita if she has any advice for women who are considering an entrepreneurial path. She simply said, “Be nice, but bold.” You can be rest-assured that Maita will be doing just that to reach her goal of making “every Uber user to feel like they’re being heard.” Thanks Maita!
This article is written by our awesome volunteer, Fritzie Dy.
Fritzie is an aspiring writer with a strong interest in disruptive technologies and anything tech-related. A Finance professional by day, she loves to read and write about how innovation and technology are re-shaping the industry, especially in the area of Fintech. She is also deeply passionate about increasing women’s empowerment and visibility in C-suites and the tech startup scene. Besides work, she loves to travel and is a self-proclaimed polyglot.