Uber’s Bo­zoma Saint John Is Bring­ing A Touch Of Hu­man­ity To Sil­i­con Val­ley

ForbesWeekly - - FRONT PAGE - BY ALEXAN­DRA WIL­SON, FORBES STAFF

Bo­zoma Saint John is the first to ac­knowl­edge that she is not the typ­i­cal tech ex­ec­u­tive. She won’t be caught in a hoodie, she isn’t a man and she isn’t white. But as she kicked off the Un­der 30 Sum­mit with a bomb­shell key­note, she made one thing clear: Sil­i­con Val­ley will be the one adapt­ing to her, not the other way around.

“I don’t think it’s any se­cret that there’s a lack of di­ver­sity in Sil­i­con Val­ley,” she said. “But that to me is ac­tu­ally quite beau­ti­ful. It al­lows me to be fully me be­cause there is no one else to look at and say: “Oh I should be more like that.””

Saint John has a tough job ahead of her. She joined Uber in June as their first Chief Brand Of­fi­cer fol­low­ing a series of scan­dals in­clud­ing al­le­ga­tions of ram­pant sex­ual ha­rass­ment and drug use, in ad­di­tion to per­sonal scan­dals for co­founder and then CEO Travis Kalan­ick. Saint John has been pre­sented as the one-woman pow­er­house to save the com­pany’s rep­u­ta­tion.

Ad­dress­ing the pre­dom­i­nantly fe­male crowd of over 500 en­trepreneurs at MIT, Saint John en­cour­aged au­di­ence mem­bers to fol­low their gut and never shy from risk.

“Even now, when peo­ple ask me: ‘Why did you take the job at Uber?’ I say be­cause my gut told me to,” she said. “There is some­thing to be said about tak­ing the risk. We all know that is where the great­est re­ward is.”

Saint John ex­plained that she is used to stand­ing out. As the daugh­ter of two Ghana­ian im­mi­grants who even­tu­ally

set­tled in Colorado Springs when she was twelve, she never looked or acted like her peers. But her mother in­sisted that she stay true to her cul­ture and em­brace her unique iden­tity.

This is key to her ap­proach to chang­ing the cul­ture prob­lem at Uber and across Sil­i­con Val­ley. In ad­di­tion to pro­fess­ing her undy­ing be­lief that hu­mans are in­nately good, she em­pha­sized that it is the nat­u­ral in­cli­na­tion of hu­mans to find com­mon­al­ity with one an­other. Ac­cord­ing to her, em­brac­ing hu­man­ity will save Sil­i­con Val­ley from it­self. “The last [ad­vice] that I’ll leave you with is about hu­man­ity… in my job now, that is what I’m try­ing to bring: Some hu­man­ity to tech,” she shared. “If you are in a hir­ing po­si­tion, hire some­one that is noth­ing like you. We keep look­ing for the com­mon­al­i­ties, but find some­one with com­mon­al­i­ties that are noth­ing like you.”

Read more from Forbes’ 2017 #Un­der30Sum­mit in Bos­ton.

Uber’s Chief Brand Of­fi­cer Bo­zoma Saint John speak­ing at the Forbes Un­der 30 Sum­mit.

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