Uber’s CTO Thuan Pham is a leader who likes to work hard and have fun doing it.

Born in Vietnam, he, along with some family members left the country and initially went to Indonesia but ended up in the U.S. in 1980.

He attended MIT, graduated in 1991 and held leadership positions at HP Labs, Silicon Graphics, DoubleClick, and VMWare from 1991 to 2013.

It was a whirlwind, and he wanted to take a year off to decide his next career move.

The Power of Appreciating Differences & Healthy Challenges

Pham was clear about his work environment philosophy:
The company must have a big mission.
He must like the team (smart, motivated, passionate).
He must like his boss.

Enter Uber. An Uber board member encouraged Pham to meet with Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. After many hours of discussions (which turned into hours of interviews), Pham found that he and Kalanick were very closely aligned. They didn’t always agree, and that was okay.

They were able to reach mutually acceptable decisions, appreciated their different perspectives, could challenge one another, and shared what they were passionate about. So much for taking a year off!

They knew there would be many challenges as well as some mistakes in a company growing as quickly as Uber, but lived the motto “The quicker you fail, the more you learn, and the better you become if you get to survive and grow.” They knew they had to take risks!

Wow. We wonder how many more work environments would thrive if team members could disagree with one another (and their boss), if differences were appreciated, and if healthy challenges occurred (for the good of the company), without repercussions.

Pham shared:

It’s the hardest job I’ve ever had – but that’s why it’s the most fun job I’ve ever had. Every day I get to do new things, and every day I feel like I’m getting better in some way.

He also shared his life lessons.

Thuan Pham Life Lessons

  1. It doesn’t matter how smart you are, there are always people smarter than you.
  2. Push yourself toward new fields and new problems to solve.
  3. Never allow yourself to be comfortable.

What are your life lessons? Do you work hard and are you having fun doing it? We hope so!

Excerpts from:
Bloomberg Business November 14-20, 2016