When Andrew Levy walked through the doors of Uber HQ in San Francisco in 2015, he was well aware of the daunting task—and the unparallelled opportunities—that awaited him. Uber reportedly had gross bookings (total fares charged to app customers, before the drivers get their cut) of $3.63 billion in the first half of 2015. So when he became the Global Careers Brand Lead at Uber, Levy led a team dedicated to crafting the reputation, perception, and sentiment around working at Uber as well as working to attract high-caliber talent who are a healthy mix of “fanboy/fangirl” and “hard worker.”
His biggest coup during his first year at Uber (his 1 year work-versary is this month)? Creating a killer employee value proposition from scratch, in-house and for free. That’s right, utilizing employee surveys and Glassdoor reviews, he managed to aggregate data from their dozens of offices across the globe to settle on a clear understanding of the company’s unique offerings, associations and values as experienced by employees. From Nairobi to New York, Philly to the Philippines, he managed to rally employees to tell a unique, authentic and honest story about what it’s like to be an employee at the ride-hailing giant.
[Related: Read Employee Reviews About Working For Uber]
And how the heck did he work his way to such a remarkable position at just 31 years olWe got the inside scoop from Levy at this year’s Glassdoor Summit where he spoke to hundreds of enthralled HR professionals about creating an EVP. And he managed to do this fresh off of a flight from Tokyo. Here’s what Andrew Levy divulged about Uber’s employee value proposition, how he recruits for culture fit, and how he landed such a one-of-a-kind gig.
On hiring talent at Uber:
“The obsessive love of product and the buy in to our brand is something we look for in applicants to Uber. But it also goes beyond that. We get people in the door who are insanely qualified and really want to work at Uber, but if there isn’t that spark and they don’t fanboy or fangirl at us a little bit, that feels a little weird. It’s not that we’re used to it; it’s that the work is hard, we put in long hours, you really have to buy into what the company is doing and you really have to love the product. If we don’t get that sense organically from you, then that’s a red flag.”
On how they spot the red flags or evaluate candidates:
“We’re very much a value based company and there are 14 values and they are embedded into the interview process. The panel will get different ones that they test for, through behavioral questions, et cetera. Since it is so ingrained in the company and in the process, it becomes very clear if a candidate has those qualities.”
On crafting Uber’s employer brand:
“Uber is growing insanely fast. It seems like every couple months it’s a different company. So based on the tenure of the employee and the tenure of the recruiter, they may have a different experience or a different way of talking about what they think Uber is. One of the first projects I did when I came in a couple months ago was to craft an employee value proposition. It’s not employer, it’s employee.
Creating the EVP was one of the first things we did. Because, as I mentioned we’re a culture and values driven company and we have a strong CEO with a strong presence, we wanted to make sure that the quality of work matched what we were selling and checking in on that on a regular basis. We did a large research project around the values to see which ones were positively experienced in work, and which ones weren’t. One of the things that popped up in our data was that the ability to recharge wasn’t necessarily there. The growth story that we were selling—numbers, numbers, numbers—that we were the hottest company and we were growing, was different than what employees valued. What came out in the data was the impact story is what mattered most to employees.
The impact that the company has at the city level to improve people’s lives in the city, make transportation easier, improve city congestion—that’s what employees really cared about. They also cared about internal impact, like what working at Uber could do for an individual’s career in terms of learning and development. In a short period of time, employees could learn more here at Uber than anywhere else. That was insanely valued by employees. Basically, what we found is that the story from the top, wasn’t what the people in the middle and at the bottom, the workers, and everyone is experiencing. We had to make sure that the people coming in the door really loved the true aspects of the company and were okay with the fact that at a hyper-growth company you’re going to work a lot. Augmenting that message and being honest about it really helped.”
[Related: What the Heck is Employer Branding]
On building company culture:
“I can’t speak to drivers because my vertical is just employees. But one of the big things that’s hard about a company as big as Uber with offices everywhere with unique presences and very unique environments tied to the communities they’re in, is to present those offices and the people that work there in a local way in terms of the overall story of Uber. So what I just did was to roadshow. I went around from office to office to build content and build community through the stories of employees in their own words. I used the data of our EVP to formulate the right questions and to tell the truth. We don’t want employees to tell us what they think we want to hear. We want them to be honest and to have their stories roll up into the larger Uber story. When we first started, we kind of did the fun, quirky thing of a Silicon Valley company. But now we’re growing up.”
On his career journey and becoming Head of Careers Brand:
“I have a really weird career journey. I’m a PhD dropout in the philosophy of science, which has so much to do with employer branding. Then, I started in PR, so I took my science background and started talking about science in normal people words. It was there that I saw that there was a PR problem in the conversation around jobs, then I started working on that. Organically, I moved into the recruiting space doing PR and advertising around jobs. That was 8 years ago before employer branding was a thing. I fell into it sort of, but I love it. It’s what I’ve been doing ever since. There’s no straight path. I’ve had some really crappy jobs in my past. But it’s about the ethics and the passion behind the person that really pops up. At Uber, we don’t necessarily care about background, we don’t necessarily care about education, it really is what you do. There is a bias towards action and people who show that they can get shit done.”
On his first job:
“My first job ever was I broke down cardboard boxes at an art supply store when I was 14. It was super fun and stupid and kind of a waste of time. This was in McClean, Virginia. I just needed money to go to the movies with my friends. My first real job in the corporate world was at a PR firm and I was basically a grunt: counting media mentions and collecting clippings. I actually cut out newspaper articles and it was the most infuriating and humbling and tiring job ever. I was miserable but it taught me to be humble; to say ‘Yes you’re smart but put in the time and work, and you’ll get somewhere.’”
On lessons learned:
“Some of the hardest decisions early in your career are knowing when to quit. I dropped out of PhD and I quit a job without another job, which is highly unrecommended. Sometimes you just have to trust your gut. Sometimes it’s just the best thing.”
Missed Glassdoor Summit? Download Andrew Levy’s Presentation on How Uber Built an Employee Value Proposition From Scratch