Uber's new brand chief on joining the company: 'I describe it like when you fall in love'

Bozoma Saint John's love affair with Uber started with a car ride.

ByABC News
October 10, 2017, 2:09 PM

— -- It started with a car ride; Bozoma Saint John had an "incredible experience" riding in an Uber at the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas.

Saint John described how her relationship with the ride-sharing company unfolded on an episode of ABC Radio's "No Limits with Rebecca Jarvis."

She said she mentioned her great experience in an Uber car to her friend Arianna Huffington, who also happens to be on the company's board of directors. Huffington suggested that Bozoma, an executive for Apple at the time, send her praise straight to Uber’s then-CEO, Travis Kalanick.

That praise turned into an eight hour conversation and the seed for Saint John to become Uber’s first Chief Brand Officer was planted.

"It is a two-way street," Saint John said. "It’s like, I had to choose Uber and Uber to choose me.”

She explained that her affinity with the company developed almost like a romance.

"I describe it like when you fall in love and you can’t explain it to somebody else why you love that person," Saint John continued. "That happened to me, and I swear that is the God's honest truth."

The new chief brand officer described her position at Uber as ranging from the creation of commercials to promoting partnerships.

Being both physically and psychologically present in any task she undertakes is of the utmost importance to her.

"I feel an urgency that I didn’t feel before, I want to be present," Saint John told Jarvis. "It makes me very aware, you know, of the conversations that I’m having.”

Key moments in Saint John's life shaped her career. Her story began in Ghana, where she was born and lived until she was 14.

"When there are extremes, you remember those things, you know?" she told Jarvis. "Feelings or smells or sounds, things like that. So that’s what I remember from that time, because I was 5 when the coup happened in Ghana."

But not all the memories were simple. Her father had been part of the government that was overthrown and he turned himself in after the coup -- and right before her 5th birthday.

"He told me that he had to go on a trip, and that he would miss my birthday, which was unheard of," Saint John said. "What I didn’t know then –- obviously I was 5, who was going to know –- but what I know now as an adult is that was probably one of the most difficult things, because he did not know if he was going to be back."

Saint John has spoken with her father about their time in Ghana since then, saying that the lessons she learned from him were key in helping her cope when her husband passed away in 2013 and their daughter was just 4 years old.

"I’m a mother now and I’ve had to deal with very difficult things with my daughter," she said. "So even getting his perspective and his advice on how you communicate to someone who is so young really difficult lessons is actually really a blessing."

"Even though we went through that, and it was quite a devastating time, it’s been a really good lesson for me in my own parenting," Saint John added.

In her family and professional life, Saint John said she tries to bring those experiences to the table every day. In her fifth month as chief brand officer, that’s exactly what she says she is doing.

"Bring your whole self to work because, that way, you can bring full ideas and the wholeness of your unique abilities," she said. "Without being able to bring your full self, then how are you going to contribute in any kind of meaningful way?”

Hear more of Bozoma Saint John’s interview on this week's episode of "No Limits With Rebecca Jarvis," available on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play Music, Spotify, TuneIn and the ABC News app.

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