Frances Frei, who was hired to fix Uber’s broken culture and put its controversial former CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick on the right path, is leaving the company.
“When I got here, my goal was to train and teach executives how to manage better, but it became super apparent that the training needed to go way beyond that,” she said in an interview today. “As soon as the executive team was calmer, I turned my attention to 3,000 managers, whose jobs grew well beyond their skills, which I think was the real work.”
Frei was hired last June as SVP of leadership and strategy.
“[Uber] feels for me, given all the bad circumstances, as sanded, and that it is ready to have some education painted on it,” she said in an interview. “My goal is to make this a world-class company that can be proud of itself in the end, rather than embarrassed.”
Here are the memos that Khosrowshahi and Frei sent out to the staff at the all-hands meeting about her departure.
After nearly a year of leadership coaching and building a first-of-its-kind executive education program at Uber, Frances is leaving to develop … you guessed it … another first-of-its-kind executive education program before returning to teach full-time at Harvard. She’ll provide more detail in due time, but the idea is to marry her lifetime of experience coaching companies with some of what she learned on the front lines at Uber, with a focus on women and underrepresented minorities. Luckily for us, it won’t feel like she’s gone too far, since she has agreed to stay on as an advisor and will continue to teach the Harvard Executive Education program she designed. Since day one, Frances has been a breath of fresh air — an academic among techies, a coach for leaders, an enthusiastic instructor, and a patient listener. Because of her, Uber now has a world-class corporate education program that thousands of you have attended, and an enthusiastic partnership with one of the best universities in the world. I’m personally grateful for all of her hard work and I look forward to our continued partnership.
Thank you, Frances!
“Thank you Dara, for the kind words. And to all my friends here at Uber — thank YOU for such a terrific experience and for being my teachers throughout the last nine months. If I look back on why I joined and when, it would have been impossible to imagine that we’d be where we are today. And it’s exciting to think where you’ll be nine months from now … the sky’s the limit! As I prepare to head back to live full-time on the East Coast, my heart is full. I’ve been inspired to see the Executive Education program (which happens to be the Harvard Business School “case method” approach) ripple through an organization at an unprecedented pace, scale, and absorption. I’ll miss everyone here, but I also can’t wait to apply everything I learned to my next project — while wearing an Uber t-shirt, of course.
As Dara said, I’ll still be around, and you’ll hear more from me on next steps as we grow Uber’s Executive Education program even further. I look forward seeing you “on the wall.”
With deep respect,
Frei will serve as an adviser to Uber as she embarks on her own project to devise a leadership development program for executives centering on women and minorities. She plans to return to Harvard Business School upon completion of her new initiative.