From drug addiction to Uber intern to powerful Uber exec at age 30, Austin Geidt's life is already the stuff of Valley legend

Uber Austin GeidtYouTube/FortuneUber exec Austin Geidt

At 30 years old, Austin Geidt’s life is the stuff of Valley legend.

Five years ago, she saw some tweets about about a startup looking for an intern. The startup was Uber.

It was 2010 and the economy was rocky. Jobs (even internships) were hard to get and her resume was “blank,” she told the audience at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Next Gen Summit in San Francisco on Wednesday.

She reached out to Uber’s CEO at the time, Ryan Graves, who told her to put together a presentation about herself. Having struck out so many times, she went all in, loading her slide deck with humour and pleading with him to give her a shot.

And she became employee No. 4. As an intern, she did everything from cold-calling potential drivers to handling support calls.

Today, she’s one of the company’s most powerful execs, running the team that expands Uber into new international markets. And with Uber’s news on Thursday that it’s raised another $2.1 billion and is worth $62.5 billion, her stock options have made her a very wealthy woman.

But it was a surprisingly painful journey to get here. One that she’s just started talking about publicly. 

When she was 19 and in college she had a drug problem, she says.

“I had a drug addiction. I got sober, I’m 10 years sober,” she said. “I was in a very dark place. It was a moment of stepping back with my family [and realising] I don’t like who I am, just physically, spiritually, emotionally, I was just really sick.”

She went to rehab but it really took her a few years to heal. She left school during that time and returned, sober and 25, to graduate.

But she “was super insecure about feeling behind,” she said. “I was a sober, 25-year-old senior. Which was a super different experience.”

It seems as if a high-pressure job at Silicon Valley startup, especially one as watched as Uber, would be a dangerous amount of stress for someone newly healed from addiction.

But the opposite is true, Geidt says. Although she loves the job and the company (“I live and breathe Uber”), the rehab kept her grounded and gave her managements skills.

It taught her to be honest and direct, to turn feelings of being overwhelmed into small, manageable steps to have a “sense of humility” rather than “feeling self-important,” she describes.

But ultimately, it keep her focused on the important stuff in life.

“I’m so proud of the work my team has done at Uber and the work I’ve done at Uber. But it’s not the proudest thing I’ve done, right? I’m more proud of being sober,” she says. “I just have perspective.”

Here’s the full interview.

 

 

 

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