For two weeks straight, Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick called Thuan Pham every day.
The former VMware executive had met with Kalanick and their first one-hour meeting turned into two, Pham told GeekWire in an interview. Kalanick is nothing short of intense, so that interview turned into a two-week straight phone marathon with the pair talking one-on-one over Skype for 30 hours.
Kalanick sent Pham a photo of a list of topics he wanted to talk about, and then the two would get on a Skype call and go through it.
“We’d pick each topic and drill all the way down. One topic could be how to hire and fire people. Another was about project management and engineering management,” Pham said. “…I had my view and he had his, and because he’s an engineer by training as well, we just jammed like that.”
The 30 hours of quizzing felt less like an interview and more like a discussion between two colleagues, Pham told GeekWire. On one call, Kalanick just stopped talking and switched the discussion to offers.
“It dawned on me afterward that he wasn’t looking for someone that shared his view — he was looking for diversity of thought, someone who could challenge him and who he could challenge,” Pham said.
Thankfully, sealing the deal on the job didn’t take the same 30 hours of interrogation that Kalanick had put into it. Instead, Pham says he took 30 minutes to think about it, then Kalanick took an hour to make some calls on his end. That was it. Pham was brought on as CTO and has since grown the engineering team from 40 people to 1,200 in three years.
“Everything moves super fast at Uber,” Pham said. “Once we decide to do something, we just lean in.”