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Speaker Series: Future of Work with Uber

Through continued conversations with large, blue-chip companies, Founder and CEO Sravan Ankaraju has heard several recurring themes expressed by many of our potential recruiting partners on the Future of Work.

Given our output, strong diversity, and veteran presence, Divergence Academy is uniquely positioned to spread awareness on several of these topics. In this first installment of our new Speaker Series, we sit down with Michael Pett, Head of Military and Veteran Programs at Uber.

Founded in 2009, Uber Technologies is one of the world's leading rideshare service companies offering a wide range of services including: ride-hailing, food delivery, package delivery, couriers, freight transportation, as well as electric bicycle and motorized scooter rentals. Today, the company’s operations span over 10,000 cities worldwide, grossing over $14 billion annually.

Uber has since launched Veterans for Uber, an initiative geared towards empowering and supporting Uber’s community for military veterans, retirees, reservists, National Guard, and their families.


On shaping the future of work through ‘earn and learn’ apprenticeship models

The biggest military veteran partner community falls under under-represented persons. They usually get left behind when we speak to cybersecurity, AI, or developers. There are a lot of programs that are out providing entry-level skill sets, but they're not necessarily walking these veterans through the process of how to get into companies like Uber.

I'm very, very fortunate to work alongside Divergence to solve that problem, because apprenticeships and apprenticeship models give us the avenue to grow our talent organically. These programs provide the user that time to ramp up and really fine tune their skill set, learn the company’s culture and value systems, while getting all of that in a hands-on way.

We hope to create opportunities that will accommodate both those who are still serving and those that are looking to make that transition [into the corporate sector]. At the end of the day, you can only do so much reading and researching online. You [begin to] really understand how a company operates by getting your hands dirty. So as we look to build that best in class, we’re gonna lean in on our partners and really find out what's working, go back, and make those adjustments.


On the driving force behind the desire to implement an apprenticeship model

Business ultimately controls how your headcount is forecasted. Unfortunately, we’re all in the middle of COVID right now, and that has affected a lot of businesses. Uber has done amazing things throughout the pandemic. We really doubled down on Uber Eats, and we hope to become the premier leader in [all things related to the] movement of goods and services. Currently, we’re very involved in the rollout of vaccinations.

With all of that said, there will be a lot of opportunities to bring in new developers and new folks with respect to cyber. And we will continue to need our partners like Divergence to make sure we have a steady funnel of folks from this specific community to ensure we continue to change the way the composition looks.

Uber is really looking to make big, bold bets to change the internal composition of the company. We know that under-represented persons (URP), specifically within technology, are usually very low. The only way to drive sustainable change is to have organic growth, through programs like apprenticeships. That is where you can really put your foot on the gas and implement change.


On apprenticeships as a mode to both attract and retain IT talent

Here in the US, [when you call] someone an apprentice, they might be working in steel or electric. In tech, we’ve had different apprenticeship models. It goes back to creating opportunities for pivot.

We know that, specifically within the military veteran community, this is a great entry vehicle for them to gain access to corporations that have tech talent, because they fall under a certain classification. We know that the numbers are extremely low with respect to URP. So we are making strides to work with local academic institutions and be a part of other external organizations to focus on URP talent.

At the end of the day, [apprenticeships are] a great way to have homegrown talent. They've learned skill sets, we then get to introduce them into our culture, and then have them grow internally. It's a great way to prevent “talent tennis”, which vey much exists in the marketplacewhere we're taking folks from competitors, or they’re leaving our shop to go to our competitors.

This is a great way to show [veterans] that they are welcome and that we support and care for them. It's a URP community, so we need to make sure they're involved in a high-touch process from start to finishfrom mentoring and sponsorship to the involvement in our employee resource groupsso they can feel right at home.

What I have tried to do with all of our folks that come on board is to walk them through the same process they felt when they got to their first active duty installation. They're taken to the barracks, shown where the chow hall is, given their SOP (which I call an “Uber Guide”), and introduced to their leads. And we have regular check-ins. 

I think it's super important to not only show how much you support [these veterans] and the changes they're making but that you're there for them and support them even after they've started.


On being a veteran and Uber employee

As a veteran, it's hard to erase 21 and a half years of serving. As much as I tried, it's hard to remove myself from that thought process. For somebody that is in [corporate Uber], it's important to know that there is no such thing as a normal day.

We are a builders environment. The folks that come to work here are passionate about change. They’re passionate about technology, and they're constantly learning from each other. Our teams work in a collaborative environment where they're always sharing information. We're constantly adding tools to your skill set so you can continue to learn and grow. This isn't one of those situations where you're going to be a back-end developer and that is where you will permanently stay.

Because of the pandemic, people weren't travelling as much. So folks that were assigned to our mobility platform also assisted with the ramp up efforts [for our Eats campaigns]. Because folks were working from home and spending so much time at home, a collaborative environment was always encouraged. We really value the ability to be agilewhich most veterans and partners are, especially those that grew up in the military community.

Through collaboration and working cross-functionally, we got our objectives and goals completed. Now we're ready for the next one. It's a very hungry environment.


Discover more about the Future of Work

Gain further insights from our one-on-one discussion with Uber’s Michael Pett and learn more about how the future of work is taking shape today.