Photo courtesy of Ashlee Tran
Some folks prefer to come to work, do exactly the job they’re told to do, and leave. Ashlee Tran isn’t one of those people.
Tran holds dual roles managing mobility services and partnerships at Getaround, a tech-driven carsharing platform that’s garnered more than 5 million users since launching publicly in 2011. She’s created both positions, more or less from scratch. After initially joining the company on its Business Development team, Tran saw an opportunity to evolve the nature of her impact. Getaround not only approved of her role transition, but actively helped to make it happen.
“Getaround’s culture is rooted in a growth-mindset — there are many team members who have switched roles and found new paths within the company,” she explained. “As you might imagine, being the first in a multi-faceted new role is both mentally stimulating and challenging. I have a lot of autonomy in dictating the definition of successful performance. I own the scope of my responsibilities and manage them as I see fit.”
From building a totally new business unit, which is dedicated to connecting enterprise car suppliers with new uses for shared cars, to managing Getaround’s partnership with Uber (more on that later), Tran has found no shortage of sovereignty in her day-to-day job. The fluidity of her work, she says, is “exhilarating.” But of course, crafting a career path in previously uncharted territory comes with its share of learning opportunities.
Luckily for Tran, Getaround is a company that sets innovators up for success by supporting its team members in taking risks. Recently, she spoke with Fairygodboss about the ways that culture of support has helped her make big moves, why a finely-tuned elevator pitch is crucial to advancement, and how she stays grounded in a constantly evolving role.
Tell us a bit about your role. What are your priorities/main responsibilities?
I have two primary roles at Getaround, a carsharing platform powered by our Connect® technology which lets drivers rent and unlock cars shared by others nearby. In the first role, I’m building a new business unit to connect larger, enterprise forms of car supply with new uses for shared cars, such as ridesharing. The work is wide-ranging, as we’re essentially a startup within a startup. I help answer questions like: What’s the go-to-market strategy for our enterprise product? How can we improve the way we support larger fleets using our existing platform? What are the right financial inputs into our P&L? What should our team’s structure look like?
Second, I manage our program with Uber, an important partner in developing new uses for carsharing. If you don’t have access to a car but want to drive with Uber, we have a selection of cars that are connected to the Uber Driver platform through a unique product integration. I lead the cross-functional team bringing that product to life — from launching it in new markets to working with product on our roadmap with Uber to figure out how we can provide the most value to drivers.
How does it feel being the first person at your company to serve in this role? What are the challenges of being the first person to assume a particular position? What about the advantages?
As you might imagine, being the first in a multi-faceted new role is both mentally stimulating and challenging. I have a lot of autonomy in dictating the definition of successful performance. I own the scope of my responsibilities and can manage them as I see fit. For example, when we expanded our Uber partnership into nine major markets, there was no roadmap. I inadvertently become the expert in the room, and that allowed me to be a trusted advisor to senior leaders in the company. At the same time, this opportunity also comes with accountability. When a market launch stalled due to my inexperience with that geography’s regulatory requirements, I owned the delay, business impact, and decision to pivot.
The fluidity of the role is exhilarating, but it can often be difficult to articulate what I do, both internally and externally. Right now, my job entails a little bit of everything, and my title can be a bit vague (what is a “Sr. Program Manager, Mobility Services” anyway?). Hiring for my team can also be challenging; there is a lot of ambiguity in the team’s work, so candidates have to be willing to go on a bit of an uncharted adventure toward a very exciting (but evolving) opportunity.
It helps to put a stake in the ground and articulate a vision for your role and team. That vision can evolve, but having a perspective early on makes it easier to shape and explain your role, both internally and externally. Having a finely tuned “elevator pitch” has helped me better convey what I do and why it is important.
How is your experience as the first person in this role a reflection of your company’s overall culture?
I originally started on Getaround’s Business Development team managing partnerships, including our relationship with Uber. It was immediately clear that my role’s success was dependent on factors outside of my immediate purview — from vehicle operations to product and more. I knew I needed to get more actively involved with building our enterprise business and that Getaround would better benefit from my role change.
All of this was made possible due to a few different factors: 1) I was able to demonstrate my commitment and capabilities from my first few months in my previous role, 2) I had exceptionally supportive managers on both my old and soon-to-be-new teams, and 3) Getaround’s culture is rooted in a growth-mindset — there are many team members who have switched roles and found new paths within the company.
I first made my pitch to my now manager, highlighting examples of how I already had provided value to his work and asking directly about how I could fill a critical gap on his team. Once I got his greenlight, I went to my then-current manager. This was actually the more difficult conversation — I essentially was asking to leave his team (with which I would need to continue to work!). I framed the conversation to highlight how both teams’ goals are aligned, and provided some initial thinking on how I might manage the transition. I was lucky that he was not only understanding, but supportive. From there, it was actually pretty smooth sailing; the three of us worked together to develop a transition timeline and clearly announced the team change to the rest of the organization.
How do you approach integrating your personal life and your career? Do you have any kinds of boundaries in place to separate your time in office vs. out, or any particular self-care routines that keep you feeling grounded?
My previous job as a consultant often required me to travel four days a week, so I learned a lot about how to find sustainability in high-intensity roles. Research shows that work-life flexibility is not only about having personal time, but also having predictability — e.g., I don’t mind working a few late evenings if I know I can protect every Thursday night. Working at a startup is full of mental pivots and unforeseen problems, so I work to create as much predictability as I can. I never schedule major meetings on Mondays (which will generate weekend work), and I book all of my fitness classes in advance to force a workout schedule. I also set expectations with my team on working with me, such as please don’t schedule a call with me at 8:30 a.m. because I am more of a night owl than early bird!
Additionally, I aim to get seven square hours of sleep every day. I used to pride myself on running at full speed on just a few hours of sleep but have since changed my perspective after reading some incredibly compelling research on the power of sleep. Routines are not normally in my nature, but I have been working hard to create parameters, as work can fill every inch of space if you let it.
What’s your No. 1 tip for women who are looking for jobs right now?
Negotiate. Embrace your worth and be comfortable with tension. Many people resist what might be an uncomfortable conversation to ask for more. While companies (especially startups) have salary limits or similar, you can get creative with your offer to make sure you’re getting value. Remember that you have many different levers to pull, including cash compensation, equity, benefits, signing bonus, annual bonus, start date, etc. The worst they can say is no, and you’ll leave money on the table if you don’t at least ask.
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