In partnership with Uber, I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking to Naomi Ogutu. We clicked right away and had so much fun chatting. You would think we knew each other for years! She is a lovely woman from Kenya who came to America 6 years ago. We spoke about her amazing experience as an NYC Uber Driver and how quick and easy they made the on-boarding process for her. As a mother of three, a wife, and woman who wears many hats, Uber has given Naomi greater career flexibility and freedom. Even though I love and ride Uber almost daily, I never really took the time to think of how it has helped so many drivers as well. Read my interview with her to hear all about her experience!
Me: I would love to hear about your experience moving from Kenya to America.
Naomi: When I lived in Kenya I was an assistant professor and also ran a bookstore supplying MBA books to students. In addition I also have my masters degree in marketing and a diploma in business administration. So when I came to New York City they really embraced us as new immigrants and you’d be surprised how much they helped us. The former Mayor Bloomberg had a program for skilled immigrants that prepares you for the job market in America and the transition process. They helped me get a job at Con Edison working as an administrative assistant. Then after that I worked at NYU.
Me: That’s sounds awesome! What made you decide to change careers and drive with Uber?
Naomi: When I worked at my previous job at NYU I felt like something was missing. I wasn’t very happy and satisfied. In my culture we say “I felt like a wild cat.”
Me: Oh I’ve never heard that one before, *laughs*.
Naomi: *Laughs*, a wild cat means you can’t be tamed. I just wanted to be out and free.
Me: That’s exactly how I felt at old my job when I was working in Corporate America. Now I blog full time, but before that I was working a 9-5 in an office and I felt the same way. I felt caged in and I just wanted to get out and do my own thing. So I can totally relate.
Naomi: Yes everyday I used to stare at the window and think to myself “I need to get of here.”
Back home in Kenya as a professor, I didn’t have to sit in the office all day. And even though I did like my job at NYU and I learned a lot, my heart wanted to get out.
So one day, I met this Uber driver who is also from Africa [Senegal] and we became very close (I now call him brother-in-law because his wife is also from Kenya like myself). So we kept talking because I was so curious about Uber and I heard it was a great opportunity for people who have other responsibilities and want to make money. And I was like “wow, I’m a mother, I’m going to school, I have this work and I need flexibility”. At the time I was writing my capstone for my MBA and I really needed a break, so I said, “this is it!” I asked him about Uber and he said, “Listen, you don’t have to worry about anything. After you apply for a TLC license Uber will help you along the way.” So I went to the website and filled out the form and within a few short hours I received an email back from Uber advising me on what to do. Once I applied for the TLC license, I went to the Uber office and they set me up right away.
Me: That’s amazing and sounds so fast. What did you have to do next to start driving?
Naomi: Uber actually saved me a lot of cost, seriously. They have this program called the “Fast Lane Program” and it’s like a “one stop shop”. I got a free physical and the doctor was right there in their office.
Me: RIGHT in there office? No way!
Naomi: Yes! It was interesting to find all those services for free and I was very thankful. Then the same day I went to my 6 hour defensive class. This one at Uber was very amazing because the trainer was very focused on higher level driving and taught us how to handle passengers, traffic rules, and so on. It was the best training even for your own personal driving. The staff at Uber is very friendly and helpful. All the time there is somebody there holding your hand and taking you from one step to the other, so there is a lot of support when going through the TLC process.
Me: Yes it sounds like they were super supportive and made the process very easy. Do they help you get a car if you don’t have one?
Naomi: Yes, Uber helps you get your inspection and registration for your car and if you don’t have a car they have partnerships with leasing and renting companies. Another option is “Lease To Own” where you can use a car that is ready and prepared to drive. When you go there you tell them you are driving with Uber and they set you up with a car right away, no credit check or anything. If you want to rent they do an arrangement with the car rental company so that for the first two weeks of driving you don’t have to pay!
Me: How is the revenue for you compared to your other jobs?
Naomi: The money is good! If you utilize your time very well you can make good money, and if you position yourself in a good place you’ll get riders. It helps me pay my bills better than before.
Me: How do you like the flexibility?
Naomi: The flexibility is great because I have three kids. They’re 17, 14, and 11 so they need me as a mom. Now, if there is a PTA meeting tomorrow, fine! I start by 6:00 am in the morning and by 2:00 pm I’m done. Then I can go to the PTA meeting and have dinner with my kids. So there’s a lot of flexibility and it’s amazing. I really don’t know of any job where there is this much flexibility and you can still make money.
Also sometimes when I have to go shopping to Macy’s for example, I go online and there is something called destination filter so you can filter to where you want to go (you can do it twice a day). I can tell Uber “match me with riders going to Macy’s in downtown Brooklyn” and then I’ll be driving to go shopping but I’m also making money while doing so.
Me: So you can use your money you made while driving to shop! That’s perfect.
Me: Wow well I learned a lot about Uber, and I feel even more confident in it knowing how much they invest in drivers like yourself. It definitely makes me feel safer as a rider! They made it so easy for you and it sounds like you love it.
Naomi: Oh of course. I love what I do. I know I have all of this education and I do want to utilize all of this in the future, and so the experience that I’m learning from this is so great! I’m learning people skills, management of my own finances, time management, and I am my own boss.
Me: Yes! You’re an entrepreneur!
Naomi: I’m an entrepreneur. And in the future whatever project I want to pick up, this job is going to help me a lot. To me this is really amazing, 100%.
Now I’m going to the New York coding school. So I’m accumulating all of this knowledge and experiences and I know that in a few years I’m going to be far much better than I was when I started. Uber gave me an opportunity to develop myself while making money at the same time. I’m not losing out on my bills and at the same time I have all this freedom and flexibility. I thank Uber for that.
If you want to check out Uber’s Fast Lane program you can find out more here!