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