Uber's corporate culture fixer is now leaving

Frances Frei, the Harvard Business School professor hired nine months ago to work on the beleaguered company's culture, is departing. That was fast.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
2 min read

Frances Frei is leaving Uber to return to teaching full time at Harvard, as well as develop an independent executive education program for companies.


Uber hired Frances Frei, a Harvard Business School professor, in June to help clean up its company culture. And now she's leaving.

Frei is moving on to develop a "first-of-its-kind executive education program" and then will return to teaching full time at Harvard, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi wrote in a memo to staff on Tuesday, which was obtained by CNET. The news was first reported by Recode.

"The idea is to marry her lifetime of experience coaching companies with some of what she learned on the front lines at Uber," Khosrowshahi wrote. "With a focus on women and underrepresented minorities."

Frei was at the ride-hailing company only nine months, but it was a tumultuous time for Uber. After two internal investigations found a chaotic company culture filled with gender discrimination and unprofessional business practices, former CEO Travis Kalanick was ousted along with nearly two dozen other high-level executives. Khosrowshahi was brought on in August and largely has been seen as the adult in the room, but the company is still dealing with past messes.

When Frei joined Uber, she was tasked with helping coach Kalanick and other executives on being good leaders. Her official title was senior vice president of leadership and strategy. Once Kalanick left at the end of June, her role expanded to managers and other employees.

Frei famously wore an Uber branded T-shirt to work everyday. Part of the reason, she said, was to represent Uber. The other part was to gauge people's reaction to the company.

An Uber spokesman said Frei has agreed to continue advising the company, which she did for several months before she was hired, as well as continue teaching the Harvard Executive Education program she designed.

"Frances has made an incredible contribution to Uber at a critical time in our company's history," the spokesman said. "From building and running a first-of-its-kind leadership and education program to helping our new leaders be set up for success."

Frei said she learned a lot while working for Uber and has seen the company transform over the last nine months, according to her farewell memo, which was obtained by CNET.

"If I look back on why I joined and when, it would have been impossible to imagine that we'd be where we are today. And it's exciting to think where you'll be nine months from now ... the sky's the limit," Frei wrote in her memo to staff. "I'll miss everyone here, but I also can't wait to apply everything I learned to my next project -- while wearing an Uber T-shirt, of course."

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