Three Minute Squiz With… Natalie Malligan

Natalie Malligan is the General Manager of Uber Air in Australia. She’s the woman charged with making the company’s ambitious urban aviation plans a reality with Melbourne slated to be the first city outside the US (in Dallas and Los Angeles) for Uber Air’s exciting trial. On the side, she’s an entrepreneurial jerky fan with two little girls. Please welcome Natalie to this week’s Three Minute Squiz. 

How and where do you Squiz?
Maybe TMI, but on my phone when I’m breastfeeding my 7-month-old daughter, which unfortunately is often in the middle of the night!

Where did you grow up?
Gymea Bay, in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire. A beautiful place in the world!

What was your first job?
I was a checkout chick (I’m sure that term is probably not PC anymore!) at Woolworths in Westfield Miranda and then in Caringbah. It was a very exciting time – to be earning my own money in the lead up to Christmas when I was 14-15yo.

You are leading one of Uber’s next big tech projects – urban air mobility. Was running such a high-level futuristic project a goal of yours? What advice do you have for those climbing the ladder?
To be honest, I never dared to dream that I would be lucky enough to be leading Elevate at Uber. I don’t under-estimate how much luck plays a part in these things – being in the right place at the right time. However, there’s obviously also an element of hard work that goes into capturing these opportunities when they arise. I remember watching a documentary about Melanie Perkins, the founder of Canva, on a flight not too long ago. I don’t remember Melanie’s exact words, but she said something along the lines of not always being the smartest person in the room, but that her competitive advantage is that she can ‘out-effort anyone’. That resonated a lot with me. If I look back on my student days and my career so far, I think that the success I’ve had has been highly correlated with my willingness to stay up later and push harder than many others (although probably not Melanie!).

Disruption has been a buzzword for the last bit of time, and Uber is used as the example. But change can be met with resistance… How do you open minds to the benefits of innovation?
Change is scary – it’s a normal part of human instinct to resist change. A really important part of my job is being able to take technical information and transform it into language and a story that is understandable for non-technical people (like myself!). You can engineer the greatest invention in the world, but if no one can understand what it is, how it operates, or what impact it will have on them, then it won’t get off the ground. Communication and public education in digestible language is key.

One for the parents – what’s your advice to them about making sure their kids are ready for the new economy?
STEM! The landscape of jobs is changing, and will continue to change at a rapid pace. I think parents need to think beyond the typical careers of their generation, and really encourage their kids to embrace STEM subjects and career paths, as this is where the jobs of the future will be. I know I’m going to open up a can of worms here – but as a parent, I’m also supportive of using technology relatively liberally in classrooms, as being able to navigate their way around technology will be table stakes for the next generation.

Safety is a big thing for Uber. What’s one feature on the ridesharing app that we should all be using?
Top of my list would be the ‘Share My Trip’ feature. This is an awesome tool which not enough people turn on in the app – it allows you to share your trip details, including route and ETA, automatically with family and friends in real time, even if they themselves don’t have the Uber app. You can also choose just to have it set up for evening trips. We invest heavily both in processes like background checks and 24/7 support, and in-app technology like GPS tracking and selfie ID checks for drivers – but the Share My Trip feature is a great way of giving your loved ones peace of mind.

What do you do in your spare time?
I have two daughters who are 7 months, and 3yo. They are the light of my life, and take up 99% of my time outside of work at the moment. When they’re asleep though, I am usually doing some kind of side hustle. My husband and I founded a healthy beef jerky company – KOOEE! – that he works on full-time, and I’m also in the process of writing a children’s book with my mum (a retired English teacher) and starting a kids sunglasses company with a friend. I think entrepreneurship is a little bit addictive!

Your first album?
Either the Spice Girls or Aqua in the 1990s – I got them both around the same time, and way later than my peers!

The best piece of advice your mother gave you?
I remember when I was particularly stressed during exams at law school my mum told me, “It’s a choice, you know. You don’t have to do it!”. At the time I thought this was a ridiculous suggestion, as there’s no way I could not show up for the exam! But over the years I’ve reverted back to this advice quite a few times when I have felt particularly stressed. It gives me some perspective that, if I’m truly unhappy with how things are playing out, I always have the option of walking away. Very few things in life are irreversible.

What’s your worst and best habit?
I haven’t owned a TV since 2012. It wasn’t a conscious decision – when we moved to the US we just never got around to working out Cable TV there, and haven’t bothered since. Not having a TV means I am pretty productive in the evenings. But on the flip side, it means I don’t do a lot of relaxing, which I definitely need to do more of!

What would you say is the most currently overlooked news story Australians should know about but don’t?
I read Jodie Auster’s Three Minute Squiz the other day, and her thoughts on packaging and waste. Piggybacking on that, I’ll share a quote I heard recently which really blew my mind. A senior government official said to me that “packaging and waste are ‘the smoking’ of this next generation… packaging/waste will become just as socially frowned upon as smoking has become in the current generation.” I love this comparison!

This Three Minute Squiz is presented by our partner at The Squiz, Uber. 

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