To kick off my new year, I took a little trip south of San Francisco to visit with Taj Alavi, Global Head of Brand at Uber. She had invited me to breakfast to meet her and her family – which includes her husband, two children, a dog and two chickens. Now that’s an offer I couldn’t refuse!
What was supposed to be an hour breakfast turned into a three-hour fascinating journey with Taj. We talked about everything from how she got to lead Global Brand for one of the biggest companies in the world to how she juggled her full family life to her tips for balancing being direct and being nice. We also touched on the impact of her Iranian culture in how she approached her role as a business leader, and what she had to change to finally “own her informed voice” unapologetically.
Beneath her warmth, lies a viper-smart business builder. Having risen up from medical school aspirations to Clorox to Intuit to Instagram to now Uber, every move she made ensured she fully leveraged what she learned and took it one step further.
Tune in to hear Taj’s incredible journey and how her life motto of “build, not break” reminds us all that we are part of a bigger story.
Heard on this Episode: Taj's Tips for Success
Build, Not Break
We have a motto in my family. We build, not break – you build yourself on your own merits. And maybe that's reflective of my management style, but you want to coach people to be their best on their own. And not because you're a hero, but because you're a part of a bigger story and you all have a responsibility to be your best. Because when we're all our best, it adds up and the team wins. Teams don't always win if there's one real great star who just swoops in at the end.
Find Out What You Love
I found myself wanting to recharge my brain. So I made this really brave decision – I made it with my husband and my family. I said, I think mommy needs a break. I think I want some time to remember what I'm in business for. What are the other things I can do? Can I start my own business? Can I be an advisor even more than I've been? And so, we made a hard stop and I took about five and a half months off. … And in this process, I realized I love to be a change leader.
I really spend the time to understand the data. I always lean into questions like ‘what are we solving for? What does success look like?’ And then as we kick things off, ‘are we still solving for the same thing?’ If not, let's go back and check ourselves. I think that appetite for pressure testing that thinking and instilling that in my teams has allowed us to stay nimble enough and aware enough so that when we launch things, they're not what I decided or not what we declared someone wanted us to do as a team, but really what the business needs.
Be an informed decision-maker. And folks who I’ve worked with for a long time will know that I would say to be a data-driven decision maker, but when there's no data, have criteria to make decisions. Because having worked in hyper-growth companies or companies craving change, there's no time to talk about a six-month plan. You have a window of opportunity – and whether it's at a CPG company or hyper-growth tech company like Uber – value time, what you know, and be a person who will drive things forward.
Own Your Contributions
When people call me a brand marketer, sometimes I cringe because I'm a business builder. I don't think of myself as someone who's ‘here for the brand.’ Actually, I'm here to build the business. Whether it's in service of a vision of a founder or the CEO's objectives, I am in it to own it. … I believe deeply that every dollar counts. I believe every idea has to be tested. Will this drive us forward? Will they bring more value to our audience, because that's an enormous responsibility that everyone should feel.