We continue our monthly feature, “Upfront & Personal”, a column created by Rose Ors that brings “the person behind the title” to the forefront in interviews with some of the most influential members of the legal community.
Tammy Albarrán, Deputy General Counsel for Uber, talked to Ms. Ors, the CEO and Founder of ClientSmart, about operating with integrity, traveling the world, and not forgetting where you came from.
Rose Ors: What are you most proud of about the way you lead your life?
Tammy Albarrán: I am proud to live my life with integrity and humility. One helps me sleep at night and the other helps me be aware of both my strengths and my weaknesses as well as the value others bring. These traits help me both at home and at work. At home, I have three children I’m trying to raise to be self-aware, to stand up for what is right and to always be kind. I was raised by two Mexican immigrants who instilled those values in me and my three siblings. The way I lead my life ensures I don’t forget where I came from, and I don’t forget the values I was brought up with.
At work, integrity is paramount because at Uber our North Star is that we do the right thing. Leading with humility helps me value the contributions of each team member and helps me foster an environment where everyone feels safe and included. Our mantra within the legal department is that we operate with integrity, transparency, and accountability.
Rose Ors: That was not always the case at Uber.
Tammy Albarrán: Well, I’ve only been at Uber for a year and a half. But as an outside attorney, I worked on the external investigation of Uber’s culture, which was headed by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
We did a deep dive into the culture at Uber and recommended many changes. I then had the opportunity to join Uber and Tony West, our Chief Legal Officer (and someone whom I’ve known for 20 years), to help the company continue with the implementation of those recommendations. It has been extremely satisfying to help Uber evolve into a company with greater integrity and one that is more responsible, transparent, and accountable for the actions we take.
Rose Ors: What other aspects of Uber’s cultural change do you find personally rewarding?
Tammy Albarrán: The company has placed diversity and inclusion at the forefront. It’s something that is a priority for the company and also for the legal team. It has been personally rewarding that eight of the 14 leaders on our legal team are women and six are under-represented minorities.
I think it’s important we’re building these diverse teams because, as you know, research has confirmed that diverse teams drive better results.
Rose Ors: How has the legal department been able to achieve such diversity?
Tammy Albarrán: We have to be very intentional in our hiring. I am very involved in our recruiting process, and I interview almost all of our candidates before an offer is extended. This helps ensure we maintain high standards, but it also helps me spot when we may not be doing so well in recruiting diverse candidates. It allows me to step back and ask, “Hey, I haven’t seen any women come through from this particular team. What’s going on?” Or, “Why aren’t we sourcing more diverse candidates?” In one instance, we re-drafted the job description because we thought the wording may have been skewed toward men.
We also are committed to increasing the pipeline of diverse lawyers for ourselves and for the law firms we work with. We are participating in the Law in Technology Diversity Collaborative; and we hired six 1Ls who split their summers between Uber and six different law firms that do a lot of work with us.
We also are working with Diversity Lab on a number of initiatives, including a diversity program for our outside counsel that we’ll be launching very soon.
Rose Ors: Shifting away from work, what is your favorite pastime?
Tammy Albarrán: My favorite pastime these days is cheering on my three children on the basketball court, soccer pitch, volleyball sideline, softball or baseball field.
Then when I can find the time — which is usually on my drive into the office — I enjoy listening to a good podcast. I recently listened to The Dropout about Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes. I’m currently listening to Season 2 of Slow Burn.
Rose Ors: If anything was possible, how would you spend the last year of your life?
Tammy Albarrán: I would love to travel the world with my family. In my current role, I oversee our global markets, and I’ve had the opportunity to travel quite a bit to places I never had even imagined I’d get a chance to visit in my lifetime. Several that stand out are Cairo, Dubai, Hong Kong, and Tokyo. I have to say that visiting so many diverse cultures has been eye-opening for me.
On one hand, we have technology that has, in certain ways, made the world seem a bit smaller. It has helped us connect more globally, but to be honest, it cannot replace experiencing these cultures in person. It feels surreal to be driving through the streets of Cairo with these enormous, ancient pyramids in the background while you ride alongside the locals on their camels. It was incredible.
Rose Ors: What would you want your children to take away from that year?
Tammy Albarrán: I’d want them to take away the fact that the world is a lot larger than how they experience it. I want them to be more cognizant of different cultures and how people experience things differently. I think it would help them in, again, being kind and remaining humble as they grow older.
Rose Ors: What advice would you give a newly appointed Deputy General Counsel?
Tammy Albarrán: I would give them the same advice that I received, which is to not only spend a lot of time learning the business, but also listening to the business.
When I first arrived at Uber, I did just that. I met with our business leaders and got to know them, understand their needs, and understand how they have experienced our legal department. What are we doing well? Where are the opportunities to improve on client service? How can we be better partners to the business?
The process of meeting with the business, learning the business, and listening to the business has helped me build trust with our business leaders — critical to anyone stepping into such an important role. If you can foster a deep relationship of trust, it will go a long way when you have to make a difficult decision or take a hard line — you’ll notice that the business will actually follow your lead.
This interview has been edited and condensed by Rose Ors.