The Black Attorney Working Behind the Scenes to Keep Uber Accessible

"I'm passionate about creating opportunities for financing for individuals who may otherwise be overlooked."

Roshida Dowe is not your average attorney. She started her career through a niche legal practice, specializing in auto financing while working for BMW. After some soul-searching, she came to the conclusion that working for Uber would allow her to evoke change in a more direct way by reducing the barriers to entry for drivers while helping them gain access to vehicles. She took that leap of faith to work with the ride-sharing company and doesn’t regret it one bit.

Black Enterprise caught up with Dowe to find out why she felt it was so important to attach her name to a company that’s had its fair share of hiccups and controversy.

Auto Financing Attorney (Image: Roshida Dowe) Auto Financing Attorney (Image: Roshida Dowe)

Black Enterprise: Can you talk a little bit about your background?

Roshida Dowe: I was born in England to West Indian parents, raised in Southern California, and then moved north after high school to attend UC Berkeley where I fell in love with the Bay. I left to attend the University of Virginia Law School and then spent 10 years in Columbus, Ohio, with people whom I love dearly, and winters that I will forever hate. I am also a certified yoga teacher and believe in self-care above everything.

Black Enterprise: The process of helping drivers get into cars seems super interesting. What exactly does your job entail?

Dowe: I am a consumer finance lawyer who specializes in auto finance. In my current role, I provide legal advice on various aspects of the leasing process and support Xchange Leasing Showrooms with the process of leasing cars to drivers—from drafting contracts to reviewing marketing materials and managing related regulatory issues.

 

“Everything Is Faster in Tech”

Black Enterprise: Being on the legal side, what is the major difference between working for a traditional auto manufacturer and a tech company based on transportation?

Dowe: Everything is faster in tech. Leasing is regulated by state and federal law, so the basics of what I do now are similar to what I did at BMW Financial Services, but the speed at which Xchange Leasing comes up with new ideas to optimize the customer experience surpasses anything I have ever seen before. As a lawyer, this means that I have to pivot from one project to the next swiftly, creating challenges that make the role more interesting and the days move fast.

Black Enterprise: With all of the bad publicity that Uber’s had going on, what made you want to get involved?

Dowe: I joined the company in April 2016 because it was a cutting-edge place where I could engage in challenging, interesting work. Since then, there have been a few down moments for the company, but what you don’t usually hear about are the good moments that keep employees motivated and passionate about Uber and Xchange Leasing’s business mission and their personal mission.

I’m passionate about creating opportunities for financing for individuals who may otherwise be overlooked by big banks, so Xchange Leasing is a great fit for me. My sense of fair play comes into everything I do, and I always come at issues and potential changes from the consumer’s perspective, considering how it might impact their daily lives. Regardless of what is going on in the news, we still have customers to serve and I’m here to help make sure that the leasing experience continuously improves so that we can be better than we were yesterday.

 

Building Strong Relationships Despite Low Diversity

Black Enterprise: Given that the diversity numbers are pretty low, is the black circle, especially women, tight at Uber? If so, how do you all help support each other?

Dowe: There will always be room for improvement in diversity, but I was pleasantly surprised that some of our numbers are higher than our peers in the tech industry. Most of the black women at Uber are used to working in environments where they are the only minority in the room. That has been my experience my entire career. I have found that the only way to make it through an environment like that is to form strong relationships with other people who understand that experience. The circle is tight at Uber; I feel like I have a family there. The black employees at Uber have an employee resource group, but there is also a lot of informal support. We have group lunches and happy hours or we’ll just grab our laptops and meet in the cafeteria where we all focus on our individual projects—our roles may differ but we still get moments to immerse ourselves in the blackness. We do it for the culture on a daily basis.

Black Enterprise: If other POC, specifically blacks wanted to be involved in the Uber ecosystem, what are three things that you would recommend to them, especially when it comes to company culture?

Dowe: First, and probably most importantly, I would tell them to bring their whole selves to work. Being authentically you is crucial in all work environments, and it’s especially important in a workplace that can ask a lot of you. I don’t mean that you need to tell your co-workers everything about your life, but you have to be true to yourself. I’ve been spotted dancing in the building multiple times because when the right beat drops, I dance. Are other people dancing? No. The way I look at it though, if they didn’t want employees dancing in the hallways they wouldn’t play music! I dance in the grocery store when I hear a good song, so I’m not going to leave that at the revolving doors, I’m bringing it in and I’m dancing in halls. I wouldn’t be happy if I had to stifle that inside. We all deserve to be happy at work. Find your happy and bring it to work with you too.

Second, remember why you are here. What are you passionate about? If you cannot align your passion and your purpose with your job, it’s probably time to look for other opportunities. This company gets its share of bad press, which can be demoralizing, so it’s helpful to remember why you walk through the door every day. Uber can have a bad day/week/month, but we still have a commitment to our customers who are leasing cars from Xchange Leasing and I’m helping them every day I show up.

Lastly, remember that no one else in the organization is better than you. I had this conversation recently with a co-worker who felt out of his league. We hear all these stories about how selective tech is and how they only hire the best and the brightest. Some tech employees use that as confirmation that they are indeed the best and the brightest while others allow doubt to creep in, wondering if they really deserve to be here. I asked my co-worker if he felt like he could do the job that he was hired for, and he said he could. In that case, I told him, you belong here. You’re not faking it, you have the skill set, you have the qualifications, and you can’t let other people make you feel like you don’t belong.