I have been between jobs the last several weeks, and was looking for a way to make the time productive.  Let’s be honest, there is only so much time you can spend scanning the job boards and meeting with recruiters for coffee or lunch, without getting bored and looking for a better investment of your time.  As a result, I decided I was going to try to drive for Uber.  I have used the service while traveling, and have found the experiences normally positive.  As such, I wanted to see what the experience was on the other side of the seat, and spend some time as the driver.

You can actually become an Uber driver in one visit to an Uber Office, if you have the time to be there for a couple of hours.  You have to have your vehicle inspected, and in Colorado, you have to have a medical inspection.  Uber will provide you with those services if you choose.  From there, you download the application to your phone, and turn it on.  I had my first passenger about 30 minutes after I left the Uber Office. 

Since I was doing this with a purpose, I was intentionally looking to improve certain skills, and communicating with a stranger (think “Networking”), was one of the first skills to put into play.  While there are a lot of ways you can apply project management skills to the role of an Uber driver, I will discuss three basic project management skills as examples.

  1. You have to manage your time and plan effectively
    1. Uber lets you be your own boss. You can earn money as a driver as easily as a simple switch on an iPhone application.  There are a lot of advantages to this model, but there are also challenges and opportunities.  There are bonus windows, where you earn extra money for rides that start in certain locations.  If you can plan your schedule around being in those locations, you can earn twice as much for the same rides.  You also need to learn the areas where there are large numbers of drivers, and try and avoid those during slow times.  How about special events?  Knowing when those events start and end, can give you an advantage in pickups and drop-offs for attendees of those events.  Chasing those heat maps on the Uber application to get the 1.2 to 3.0 rate boosts are not always a smart idea either, as they can appear and disappear quickly.  I have found you can place yourself into a boost area, and just as easily be called out of it for a passenger that is close by.
  1. You have to be able to generate conversation
    1. Picking up a passenger can be a very simple thing. You should ask the passenger’s name, and make sure they know yours, to ensure you are picking up the right passenger, and they are getting into the car of the correct driver.  Now, that gets them into the car.  What do you do then?  Do you take the opportunity to start a conversation with the passenger?  Can you read the body language of the person to see if they even want a conversation?  Some passengers will jump into your car and stare at their phones and will not acknowledge or respond to any attempts to start a conversation.  Others will not only respond, they will engage eagerly and will actively participate in conversation and while it may be short lived, it can be a very positive experience in your day.
  1. You succeed as a Servant Leader, not as a bystander
    1. Servant Leadership is a key skill for any PM, and for an Uber driver. During my first day as a driver, I picked up a passenger who was using a walker to get around.  I got out of the car quickly, helped her into the car, and loaded her walkier into the car.  When we got to her location, I got out quickly, got her walker over to the car door so she could get out easily, and then walked with her up to the office and opened the office door for her.  She told me that no driver had ever done that, and left me a 5-star review on Uber with the comments about how I had opened a door for her.  Such a simple gesture and it made a positive impact on her day. 

Through it all, I have found it to be a positive experience, with some definite learning experiences.  I have tried a variety of things to see how I can use this time and experience driving with Uber to improve my skills as a leader, people manager, and project manager. 

This may be a unique idea on improving my project management skills, and while it may not be for everyone, I think it is a simple way to use my time more effectively and improve on skills that I use every day in what you might call my “Normal Job” within the Project Management fields.  If you are in the Denver area, and you use Uber, who knows, you might end up in the back seat of my little Toyota Camry.  If you do, mention you read this article!


Tell me your thoughts in the comments and let’s open a dialog. I would be excited to hear other opinions on this topic.

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Don Clarke

Don Clarke

Co-Founder: Project Management for Today

As a Co-Founder of the pmfortoday.com website, Don Clarke has over 20  years of experience in the Project Management / Program Management space.  Having worked for a variety of companies over the last 20 years, he brings a strong base of knowledge in the industry.  Establishing or helping redefine multiple PMO's during this time, there is a unique perspective to his approach to developing the value of a Project Management Office (PMO), as well as his approach to leadership development within the organization.  Having been privileged to have multiple career defining mentoring experiences, Don realizes the importance of sharing that experience and giving back to the organizations where he is engaged.


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