I'm so happy to be working with Uber once again. This time around we’re talking about diversity, inclusion and Uber’s Asian Heritage employee resource group (ERG). Being Asian myself, of Filipino descent, I was thrilled to take on this opportunity. I went to San Francisco to interview Anurag Agarwalla, Head of Innovation, who is of Indian descent to tell us more about why he is so passionate about the Asian Heritage ERG. The mission of the Asian Heritage ERG is to celebrate and promote the wealth of Asian ideas and culture throughout Uber. I'd love to add that during this interview, Anurag and I became really great friends. He's down to earth, passionate and wasn't afraid to hold back. So, let's get on with it! ENJOY.
A Conversation with Anurag Agarwalla of Uber

Denny: Please introduce yourself.

Anurag. My full name is Anurag Agarwalla and I work for Uber.
Denny: How long have you worked for Uber?
Anurag: I believe it was November of 2016.
Denny: I'm sorry, I forgot to ask, where were you born? Were you born in India?
Anurag: I was born in Los Angeles. I visited India every summer.
Denny: That's amazing. What is your job title at Uber and how did you get that position?
Anurag: My title is Head of Innovation. (I had to interject again and mention how that's the coolest title.) I got the job... kind of by a mistake. I was actually hired to work on an internal collaboration tool and by the time I started that project I moved to another team. So, I was like this smart dude looking for a problem and I realized I wanted to empower people with really good ideas who didn't know how to code at Uber. That was my mission, I told myself... I want to go find someone in Cusco, Peru who's got a dope idea and just build it.

Denny: Wonderful! Please keep going...
Anurag: So my goal was to empower these people with really cool ideas. The thing that I think struck out to me was noticing this idea... San Francisco just became really high and mighty in that year. It was cool, people do really cool stuff here, but there are creators and builders everywhere.
Denny: I completely agree. Go on.
Anurag: When there are so many voices coming at you, how do you know which one to listen to? I think that was kind of a thing for me.
I was like, "Hey, that's what I want to figure out and that's why I kind of want to go for the mechanism where anybody who had a dream at Uber could just make it happen."
Denny: That's great because it makes you feel like you really are part of the team. That's awesome. We are best friends now! Haha, next question. ERG, what does it mean?

Anurag: Employee Resource Group. It's really a term for people who have something in common, whether that’s a belief, culture, etc. It's an opportunity for them to form a community with like minded people, get to know each other, and feel supported.
Denny: So you, being Indian, you are Asian...
Anurag: ...which is super weird by the way,  I didn't realize I was Asian.
Denny: I know, people sometimes forget India is in Asia. Just like how people forget that Filipinos are as well. That's why I think it's great that we are both representing Asia. How does it feel being an Asian man and being the Head of Innovation for Uber?
Anurag: I think it's cool. Indians have done really well in a lot of areas. We've been lucky in that way because culturally we are sort of groomed in that way. That Asian mentality. I think there is a level of academics valued in our culture, so math and science and things that are new tend to be challenging. So there became a space where Indians had the opportunity. I don't even attribute it to me. I think of the OG's who came to Silicon Valley back in the 70s, like my dad. That dude was really smart in India with only 7 bucks in his pocket and he made it happen.
Denny: I understand. I was born in the Philippines. Raised the same way, raised to be respectful, hustle. I think it's built in us. You see our parents struggle and it humbles you. I feel like we should keep that going too. It's the American Dream. It literally is. I think, us being minorities...we make the American Dream.
Anurag: I wanted to make a T-shirt that says 'Son of Immigrant.' Every person in this country is a son or a daughter of an immigrant.  That's what real America is. That's the kind of thing I want to share with people.

Denny: Could you give me a background on how and why Asian Heritage came to be, from your perspective?
Anurag: There are 2 reasons. The original creation of it. There's a gentleman with the name of Doug Ma, who use to work at Uber. Doug's story was that he was the founder for Asia Pacific. He was this Asian guy who's American born. Doug is kind of one of the most awesome people I know. He's an OG. This was at a time where I felt like we all just needed some momma’s cooking, so we came up with the idea for my mom to come to Uber and book some traditional Indian food.

My mom was down to cook all these dishes that I grew up with and purposely picked food that people weren't exposed to. It's essentially Indian food that you don't see on the menu of restaurants. So she programmed recipes and made food for the entire San Francisco team - about 4000 people. She came up with the whole thing. We gave her a tour of the kitchen. We put on the projector " WELCOME MRS. AGARWALLA. " She was a guest of honor. And you know, I just feel like you understand that love is communicated in a lot of ways but when you can't communicate love through words...you do it through acts of kindness. That’s exactly what she did and that inspired a much larger movement of the Asian Heritage ERG.
Denny: How has Asian Heritage enhanced your experience working at Uber?
Anurag: It gives you a superhuman power because in it feels like people listen to us.

Denny: And why do you think that is?
Anurag: Being very insular is the opposite of what we want. In order to get to the next level as a company, we know that we need to double down on diversity and tap into diverse talent to make it happen.
Denny: I mean, walking into that building today, I see it's very diverse. I think it's equal men and women and a lot of different backgrounds. It's good, It's going the right way. You're there to keep it that way.
Anurag: Yeah. I'm like the keeper.
Denny: Lastly! How has Asian Heritage empowered you as a professional? As an individual.
Anurag: So when you're given a platform and people listen, it gives you the ability to be your authentic self because everyone is unique. And so, the ERG allows me to be just that. I'm the crazy idea person. It's just who I am. Literally who I am around my family is exactly who I am at work. There is zero thought that goes into anything else and that has carved out a very special role for me to just go and be a creator and truly innovate. Because when you shed that idea of " what am I? " and you start to letting go of these unnecessary things in your head, that’s pure creativity.
Denny: What advice would you give to people who don't have that confidence?
Anurag: Just do it. Yolo. What's the worst that can happen?
Denny: I like that at Uber everyone has the right to say something. Everyone is equal, everyone is good. Do you have any last words?
Anurag: Just Be Yourself.
Denny: You know, I agree with you. That’s exactly what I preach. Because you know, fashion and menswear is an art form for me, but not a lot of people see it that way. I don't want people to necessarily dress like me but I want people to dress however they want and just be themselves. You are perfect. You are amazing. You are a genuine person. We need more people like you.




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