How I Hired My Uber Driver… and The Thin Threads of Life
Last week, I posted an announcement that one of my employees is taking on a new role as the Athena Channel Manager. Almost two years ago to the day of that post, we hired this employee after I met her as my Uber driver. Since the post, many people have asked me for “The Rest of the Story.” Well, here it is—but more importantly, this is about what I call The Thin Threads of Life.
It was January 2016, and I was attending the JP Morgan Conference in San Francisco. To save a few bucks, I stayed in an Airbnb outside of the downtown area, where the cheapest rooms are $500 a night during the conference. On the third day of the conference, I was heading out to my first meeting of the day at 7 am. My Uber pulled up in a Ford Escape. I opened the back-right passenger door, hopped in, and was immediately greeted with a very friendly “Good morning,” from a young female driver.
“Good morning,” I replied, and we pushed off on our 20-minute ride to Union Square. I soon came to learn my Uber driver, Allie, was offered a job that wouldn’t start for another few weeks. Looking for a change of pace between jobs, she “test drove” Uber for a while to make sure she could pay her bills before resigning from her previous job. That decision was the first strand of the Thin Thread that put us together in that Ford Escape that morning.
It turned out Allie was in sales, and I was in the process of building out our sales team. I was deep into evaluating different compensation structures: base salary, commissions, bonuses, etc. I thought to myself, What a great opportunity for me to add a few more pieces of data to my research.
“Do you mind if I ask you a few questions about your sales comp? I don’t need or want to know actual figures, just the structure.” “Sure, I don’t mind at all.”
Allie went on to tell me about her previous comp package, and the one at the job she was about to start. She also gave me a general idea of the actual numbers. I think it was prefaced by something like, “I don’t mind, we’ll never see each other again.” Little did she or I know at the time.
With about three minutes left in the ride, I said, “Have you ever considered switching industries? You’re very sharp, and it seems like for the same amount of effort, you should be able to reach a much higher comp in another industry. I know some folks in town in the healthcare IT space, I’d be happy to introduce you.” After about a two-second pause, Allie said, “Sure, I’d really appreciate that.”
A minute later, we pulled up to my stop and I handed Allie my card, “Send me your resume and I’ll share it with some friends.” At 3 pm that afternoon, I received one of the most well-written resumes I’ve ever received, with a super-nice thank you note and a very well-thought-out cover letter about why Allie was interested in healthcare IT. This was the second strand of this Thin Thread of Life. Wow, I thought, I wish we were hiring a West Coast rep!
I read the resume again and thought, Hmmm, maybe she’d be interested in the Inside Sales rep position we have open. I forwarded her e-mail, with the following note to our HR lead: “Cheryl, you’re not going to believe this, but I got this resume from my Uber driver this morning. Please give it a quick review and let me know what you think.”
Ten minutes later, I received the following response, “OMG, she sounds terrific!” A week later, Allie was in our Hoboken, NJ office for a day of interviews and we offered her a job on the spot. The last strand of this Thin Thread of Life was complete. Allie Berner was now a member of Team Epion.
A week before, Allie wasn’t looking for a new job and I wasn’t looking for a West Coast-based Inside Sales Rep. We were connected through the intersections of time, location, and circumstance. What if she hadn’t offered a friendly hello when I sat down in her car? What if I had buried my head in my laptop during that ride? What if I hadn’t asked her to participate in my “comp research?” The “what ifs” could go on and on, even in this simple, relatively brief connection. Call it fate, call it luck, I call it a Thin Thread of Life.
How many Thin Thread stories do you have in your life? How did you meet your spouse or significant other? How did you land your last three jobs? How about your biggest client? I’m not sure if these are typical, but here are some other Thin Threads in my life:
- I met my wife when I caught the garter and she caught the bouquet at a mutual friend’s wedding. Fast forward five years later, after I met Mother Teresa in Albania, and we were connected again. I’ll save the “Rest of this Story” for another post.
- I met our COO after a mutual friend suggested we should know each other because there was an overlap in the projects we were working on.
- I met our company’s Product Manager during an elevator ride to the third floor of a building… and, we were going to different floors.
- Our lead investor and current board member and I met at a lunch table at a major conference.
- Our Director of Engineering sat next to me in an accelerator program called Healthbox.
- I met our Head of Implementations after I participated in a panel at a startup event in NYC.
- Our first two developers won a Hackathon I attended on a Sunday afternoon – because I was curious to see what Hackathons were all about.
- In 2012, I met Tim O’Brien during a break at a conference. Tim introduced me to someone he worked with named Kyle Armbrestor, who told me about a partner program he was starting called “More Disruption Please.” Kyle said, “We’re looking for a check-in partner.” Today, Tim and Kyle are senior leaders at the company I hadn’t heard of until that day. You may know the company. It’s a small startup located outside of Boston named athenahealth.
I could go on and on with my Thin Thread stories—but that’s not the point. The point is you all have your own Thin Threads of Life. I’d love it if you would share some of them with me. Send via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you give me permission, I’ll follow with a post of the top five I receive. Maybe I’ll even make an ongoing project out of this and put them in book format someday.
The driver behind posting this story is to remind everyone to be open to the Thin Threads in your life. You may not notice them when they first appear—after all, they are Thin! But I promise you, if you stop and look for them, they’re everywhere: in your past, in your day today, and certainly in your future.
I hope you have a chance to meet the star of the Thin Thread story who led me to write this post. As a reminder, her name is Allie Berner and she’s now our Athena Channel Manager. Perhaps there’s another Thin Thread in the making by you reading this article and connecting with her. Her e-mail address is email@example.com. When you connect with her, you’ll know why I was impressed.
Here’s to the next Thin Thread in your life!