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Driving Uber

Alum talks about her company’s strategy and plans and hiring women

Salle Yoo is not one to let boundaries hold her back. As the general counsel for online transportation network company Uber, Yoo (LAW’95), who joined the company in 2012 as its first lawyer and 102nd employee, played a key role in the creation of a regulatory framework that allows Uber to enter markets and introduce new products. From her vantage point, she has helped to disrupt the transportation industry and spur a fundamental shift in the way people get from point A to point B.

The status quo prior to Uber, says Yoo, had people driving their own cars, which she calls “assets that are generally at rest 95 percent of the time.” The leap ahead lands on the Uber model, one that in her words “connects consumers to affordable, on-­demand transportation providers, provides millions of flexible earning opportunities, and via its uberPOOL and uberCOMMUTE products, reduces the need for personal automobiles.”

The company claims that in the first seven months of 2016, it eliminated approximately 312 million automobile miles—that adds up to 6.2 million gallons of gas and 55,560 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

Uber—the German word means “over” or “beyond”—has come to epitomize not letting boundaries hold you back. The six­-year-­old company’s ability to get over and beyond traditional business models and mind-sets, regulatory hurdles, and lawsuits has helped to make it the world’s most highly valued private company, with an estimated worth of more than $62 billion. Uber now operates in more than 425 cities in 72 countries, where its smartphone app connects riders with drivers that show up within minutes and generally charge less than taxis.

“We are in 72 countries,” Yoo says. “Having a diversity of perspectives and experiences helps us scale as a truly global team.”

Uber is Yoo’s day job. On her own time, she helps erase the barriers that prevent women, and minority women in particu­lar, from scaling the partner ranks of law firms, barriers that, according to the National Association of Women Lawyers, have limited the number of female managing partners in the country’s 200 largest law firms to three. Yes, three.

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Art Jahnke

Art Jahnke can be reached at jahnke@bu.edu.

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