Working for Uber – Interview with Glion alumnus, Gauthier van den Eynde
Name: Gauthier van den Eynde
Company/title: Operations and Logistics Manager at UBER
Graduation year: 2010
Program: BA Hospitality Management with Finance and Revenue Management
Gauthier van den Eynde ’10 found a great niche for his hospitality business expertise working for Uber as an Operations and Logistics Manager. In this five-year-old, ride-sharing company that was valued at USD 18.2 billion by investors in 2014, Gauthier has experienced first-hand the immense potential that the sharing economy holds for those who have a drive to innovate and revolutionize the service industries.
Gauthier left Glion in 2010 with a Bachelor Degree in Hospitality Management with Finance and Revenue Management and a strong desire to expand his horizons. He had a special interest for the world of innovation and entrepreneurship. First, he worked at the Swissotel in Osaka, Japan as a Food and Beverage Analyst to expand his cultural vision of the world. Later, he joined a young startup called HotelTonight, a San Francisco mobile-native startup where he worked to launch the European market.
“HotelTonight was the perfect opportunity for me to combine innovation and technology and hospitality/tourism,” he says, “At HotelTonight, I discovered a new world, the startup world, where managers and founders are usually under 30, where decisions are made very quickly by very talented people and, most importantly, where the desire and drive to change the world is in the DNA of every person. We live, breathe, sleep, and eat for the product that we build, for our vision.
I was launching the App in a dozen countries, calling and convincing hundreds of hotels, making partnerships, helped to hire the rest of the team, attended startup events, build up processes, and launched marketing initiatives. I loved the really strong desire of HT to bring something innovative, to be ahead of new trends and willing to remain the leader in its segment. This aggressive style, so common of the startup scene where everything goes so quickly, was definitely something for me.”
After 2.5 years at HotelTonight, Gauthier’s interest in startups and apps led him to Uber, the sharing industry’s most controversial company, where he became an Operations and Logistics Manager. While HotelTonight and Uber were launched approximately at the same time, Uber’s exponential growth attracted him like a magnet. He explains:
“For those of you who don’t know Uber: Uber is an app that connects people who are looking for a ride with people who are ready to drive them to their destination, at a fraction of the price you would pay for a regular taxi. Uber was the company I wanted to work for, here are the reasons why:
I followed my passion. Although I was hesitant to enter the travel sector and I realized that it might be hard to come back to hospitality, I was convinced that working for Uber was what I wanted to do.
It’s growing fast. There are few companies in the world that are growing as fast as Uber and with such high ambitions: Uber wants to revolutionize urban transport, globally.
Uber has been growing two times faster than Google and it opened in over 50 countries, over 300 cities and raised more than USD 5 billion in less than 5 years!
It’s a revolution, which is quite inspiring in terms of motivation and participating in such an event. Nowadays, I never have to explain the company I work for and people really get interested in the vision and what we are trying to achieve. The visibility we have while working for this company is just awesome.
It’s about the startup spirit. Since working for HotelTonight, I’ve followed tech news closely, I’ve learned to like the risk and opportunity of innovation, the entrepreneurial spirit that drives these startups and their strong vision.”
To describe his current role and responsibilities, he summarized:
“At Uber, when you work in city teams (outside HQ, engineering or functions (e.g. legal, HR, policy, comms etc.), you only have two jobs that reflect the needs of the business. The first is about supply (operations and logistics), and the second is about demand (marketing). I decided to go for operations as the technical/numerical aspect of it sounded more appealing and challenging for me.
In terms of daily work, I work in a team of three. We tackle operations and areas of development which are split amongst us: subscription and onboarding of drivers on the network, security and safety, product adaptations, market efficiency, and customer support. The challenge that I am tackling right now is to make sure we have enough people subscribing to the network as partner drivers, so I am currently focused on launching or optimizing different marketing initiatives (online ads, radio, print).
In terms of what I like most, I would say that the people are the greatest thing about working for Uber.
Working for a company like Uber means you learn everyday because you work with some of the finest minds out there, all united by the same desire, motivation and dedication. We all work hard, late, during weekends or holidays but we don’t care because, for us, there is no alternative; this is how it should be and we never lose sight of the ultimate goal: to revolutionize urban mobility!”
Since Uber uses the best features of digital apps and the sharing economy, Gauthier is gaining new skills and knowledge in the company.
“Indeed, Uber has been very successful since the beginning and the experience I am gaining is huge. If I have to summarize, I would say that working in this kind of environment teaches you to think strategically about innovation, to question the status quo, to think about the future value of a business model, and to prove your hypothesis with data while always keeping the customer needs in mind. Now, more than ever, the consumer experience is at the core of the tech revolution we are experiencing. I realize that being encouraged to think critically, to look to the future, and to innovate, is not only super exciting but also the greatest chance I have right now.”
When asked how the learnings from Glion prepared him for this work, and how his experience with customer service and hospitality culture has been useful, he said:
“There is no particular type of studies that can guarantee success in startups and you will often find people from very different backgrounds. Nevertheless, all of them will have the same drive, ambition, passion and the vision to change the status-quo of their respective industry, think differently and build new great products. It’s a real all hands on deck philosophy where your drug becomes progress, to see things moving quickly.
As for Glion, I definitely recognize that the quality of its education got me where I am today. Glion played a big role in my personal development by opening my eyes and increasing my curiosity about the outside world. I often ask myself if I could have done this if I had followed a traditional study path in Belgium.”
At Glion, I really liked the applied learning courses because they reflect the mentality of a lot of fast growing companies of today: “thinking is good, doing is better.”
If you can manage the execution of a nice concept in la Residence (a campus restaurant), manage a team, control your finances, customer satisfaction, marketing while being very cautious of learning from your mistakes, quickly, then you are on the right track for success. I really recommend a book called the “Lean Startup” by Eric Ries for anyone who wants to understand the startup culture.”
In conclusion, Gauthier summarized his experience at Glion with one concise statement, “Glion does not guarantee your success; it puts you on the right path with the right skills. Then, it’s up to you to make the most out of it, live your life fully, take risks, enjoy it and be curious!” When it comes to his future, he remains rather open, “I’ve learned to adapt myself to a fast changing world and to grab opportunities when they were passing by. Uber is five years old… so 10 years from now is, for me, like a trip from Earth to Pluton at the speed of light! More realistically, I’d like to be an entrepreneur myself again sometime in the future.”
Photo credits: Uber