An Interview with Allison Barr Allen, Head of Global Product Operations on the Money Team at Uber
I spoke with Allison Barr Allen, Head of Global Product Operations on the Money Team at Uber.
Allison attended Northwestern University, where she initially sought to pursue medicine. Following graduation, she joined PwC in their healthcare consulting practice and intended to attend medical school after. But once she began working, she realized she was more excited by the corporate and professional environment than she was about jumping right back into school.
Her brother was a self-taught frontend developer who was very involved in startups at the time. Inspired by his work, Allison began exploring the startup landscape more broadly and left PwC to join Uber in Chicago in 2014.
Allison’s first role at Uber was in driver operations where she gained exposure to all aspects of the core business and was involved in tasks ranging from driver support to communications to marketplace planning to on demand deliveries. She found that drivers were able to generate income more quickly, opening up financial empowerment opportunities for previously underserved populations. Even seemingly minor payment details, such as the frequency of payment delivery (with Uber paying weekly rather than the biweekly industry standard), had major positive implications for current and future drivers. Allison quickly realized that payments were a critical element behind Uber’s transformative business and sought to be further engaged in the department.
With this realization, Allison moved to the Money Team at Uber in San Francisco where she started as a Product Operations Manager for Driver Payments, launching Uber’s first Driver Debit Card with Instant Pay and helping align business strategy and product planning. Now, Allison manages a Product Ops team of 11 across Payments, Risk, and Financial Products, who focus on operationaling global business strategies. This includes launching and scaling diverse products, such as such as new payment methods for riders and drivers (e.g. Apple Pay), internal payments tools, compliance initiatives, and financial products.
Allison shared her advice and insight on accelerating career trajectories, leading teams, the importance of corporate culture, and work life balance:
Prioritize and be proactive. Rather than mindlessly putting in endless hours of work, identify and engage with the projects with highest business impact where you can add the most value. When you find a problem or issue, even if it is outside of your explicit focus, think through solutions and demonstrate your proactivity through providing thoughtful recommendations.
Invest in building relationships. Much of success in business comes down to having genuine, meaningful relationships with other teams within your company and other people in the field more broadly. Carve out time deliberately to cultivate and grow these connections. When leading others, make an effort to understand your team and what motivates them. Make sure their work is aligned with their goals, interests, and strengths to optimize their experience and output. Show your team the impact they are creating and how their value add fits into the big vision to help them find greater meaning and direction in their work.
Be intentional in creating diverse teams. Culture ultimately comes down to hiring good and genuine people, but frequently, the best talent may not necessarily be the easiest to find. Women generally do not apply for jobs as proactively as men. It may seem easiest to hire from your direct network and look at the most vocal, visible candidates, but it is crucial to be more intentional through looking outside the immediately obvious areas and reaching out to promising candidates who may otherwise not think to apply. In this way, you create diverse teams with well-rounded skill sets.
Get operational experience. Immerse yourself in the fast paced, diverse work of startups. In these roles, you gain unbeatable hands on experience in a wide range of tasks and types of problem solving. These ultimately help you better understand yourself and craft an ideal career path. To find promising startups, look for ones that have recently raised a Series A or B from top investors and, of course, one with a mission that resonates with you.
View career progression as a marathon rather than a sprint. Too often, there is a glamorization of sleep deprivation and competition for the greatest number of hours worked. While work life balance may mean different things for different people, ultimately, the resulting burnout is the most likely result. Very quickly, you will begin to see diminishing marginal product of hours worked. Instead, focus on improving a little each day to sustain yourself, your team, your work, and your life. Pick what you are most passionate about in and outside of work and prioritize these pursuits.
Allison highlights the importance of taking a balanced, engaged, and people driven approach to crafting our career and life paths. Let us know how you are creating and inspiring similar perspectives on leadership and professional development in your teams and workplaces!