Child­hood in Colorado in­flu­enced Saint John

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - The Den­ver Post By Ethan Mill­man

Uber’s first chief brand man­ager, Bo­zoma Saint John, has a lot of work to do restor­ing the shine to the ride hail­ing com­pany that has been dogged by al­le­ga­tions of gen­der bias in the work­place and pub­licly out­ra­geous be­hav­ior by its ex­ec­u­tives.

But Saint John, who grew up in Colorado Springs, says she’s up to the task.

“I want things to be great for peo­ple of color and for women,” Saint John said in a CBS This Morn­ing in­ter­view with Gayle King on Fri­day. “And it’s not go­ing to be easy. There are go­ing to be lots of chal­lenges, I’m sure there will be frus­trat­ing days, I’m sure there will be times I cry, but I’m hope­ful. I can see the larger pic­ture.”

Be­fore she took the job at Uber last month, Saint John led Ap­ple Mu­sic’s global con­sumer mar­ket­ing di­vi­sion, and be­fore that ran Pep­siCo’s mu­sic and en­ter­tain­ment mar­ket­ing di­vi­sion for three years.

Dur­ing the in­ter­view, Saint John also talked about grow­ing up in Colorado.

She de­scribed her tran­si­tion to her new job in Sil­i­con Val­ley as sim­i­lar to her ex­pe­ri­ence im­mi­grat­ing to the U.S. from Ghana when she was 12.

‘It feels like the im­mi­gra­tion story,” Saint John said, not­ing that when she im­mi­grated to Colorado Springs, her fam­ily was the first Ghana­ian fam­ily in the city. “But by the time I went to col­lege, there were four or five fam­i­lies who were there. I feel the same way now. I’ve al­ready seen it hap­pen. If I’m there and peo­ple can see me, maybe you’ll come along too. This is a call to ac­tion, I’m right here.”

In Colorado Springs, Saint John was un­daunted by her dif­fer­ence — a tall, black woman, as Gayle King de­scribed her — and quickly be­gan to learn about her new com­mu­nity and so­ci­ety.

“I turned it into an op­por­tu­nity to get to know the peo­ple around me,” she said. “Study­ing pop cul­ture, watch­ing TV shows, watch­ing movies, lis­ten­ing to the ra­dio. At school I could talk about what other kids were talking about. Maybe I wouldn’t seem so strange if I con­nected with them on the level they were used to.”

Saint John is tak­ing on a role as brand man­ager in a time where her com­pany’s im­age needs a sig­nif­i­cant change.

Uber fired 20 em­ploy­ees amid nu­mer­ous sex­ual ha­rass­ment claims, and just days af­ter Uber ex­ec­u­tive David Bon­der­man re­signed af­ter mak­ing a sex­ist joke dur­ing a com­pany meet­ing on sex­ual ha­rass­ment, chief ex­ec­u­tive Travis Kalan­ick stepped down.

Ja­son Kempin, Getty Im­ages

Bo­zoma Saint John, Uber’s first chief brand man­ager, said she hopes to be an in­flu­ence to peo­ple in her new role at Uber. The com­pany has faced re­cent scru­tiny and has fired 20 em­ploy­ees fac­ing sex­ual ha­rass­ment claims. There have also been prob­lems with ex­ec­u­tives.

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