Uber has lately been in the news for all the wrong reasons. But the June hiring of Bozoma Saint John as the company’s first-ever chief brand officer was a breath of fresh air.
At TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco 2017, I’m going to sit down with Saint John to discuss what it’s going to take for her, and some of Uber’s other new hires, to turn around the company. The turnaround process has already begun, though, most notably with the employee-driven overhaul of Uber’s performance review process.
“I’m not afraid,” Saint John said in an interview with Gayle King last week about Uber’s troubled past. “I’ve never been afraid of anything, and I see potential. I see opportunity.”
As chief brand officer, it seems that Saint John’s job will be to revamp the public’s perception of Uber and help turn it into a company people feel proud to be involved with, and proud to use. Her role is essentially to tell a new narrative about Uber.
Before joining Uber, Saint John made a name for herself at Apple, where she led the company’s global consumer marketing division for Apple Music and iTunes. Saint John joined Beats Electronics only a few months before Apple bought the company for $3 billion. Before that, she spent several years at PepsiCo doing music and entertainment marketing. But it wasn’t until Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in 2016 when the masses began to understand her talent.
Saint John’s employment at Uber came in the midst of the company’s scandals around sexual harassment, management issues and toxic culture. While she does not condone certain things that have happened at Uber in the past, she told King representation is important to her and that she wants to see change from the lens of diversity and inclusion.
At Uber, Saint John wants things to be great for “people of color and for women — for us to be able to show up at work, do our best work and be appreciated for that work,” she said.
In March, Uber released its first-ever diversity report. Uber, like many other tech companies, is predominantly white and male. What surprised me, though, is that Uber fares slightly better than Facebook and Apple when it comes to female representation. Uber also has pretty solid representation of people of color, in comparison to other tech companies.
But, as with all tech companies, a lot more work needs to be done in order to achieve equal representation. Meanwhile, Uber is still lacking many executive leaders. I imagine some of those leaders (like a CEO and CFO) will be in place by the time Disrupt SF comes around in September, so I’ll be sure to chat with Saint John about the company’s new leadership and much more. You can get your tickets here.