Inside Uber India: Driving right talent at speed

Uber’s recruitment plans for the right talent at its India R&D center is on a high momentum as we seek to hire skilled professionals mainly with expertise in data, full-stack infra developers, data science/ML informs Apurva Dalal - Site Leader, Uber Bengaluru tech center.

Apurva Dalal, CTO, Uber India
Headshot of Apurva Dalal, Courtesy: Uber India

The main drivers behind India’s digital transformation journey is undoubtedly its engineering workforce. However the ride has just begun, and there are several bends in the road.

As the layoff wave effects thousands of workforce, the other side tells a different story. According to a 2018 Nasscom report, AI and big data analytics segment was short of around 1.4 lakh candidates across various sectors in India.

Another report by LinkedIn highlights that data science, UX design, AI and cloud are the most in-demand technical skills. To figure out ground reality as we approach 2020, I Ubered to the Bangalore R&D center of one of the leading cab aggregators in the country.

Getting a ride in minutes to having food delivered at your doorstep, engineers at Uber have made it all possible. Beneath to what looks like a simple process to customers, lies complex algorithms designed and maintained by engineers at Uber’s innovation center.

Globally, Uber has its presence in 700 cities across 63 countries. In early 2016, the company marked its presence in India as well. 

Uber established two R&D centers in India– Bangalore, and Hyderabad. 

From six people in the team during inception, Uber Tech Center in Bangalore is now a team of over 250 engineers, doubling every year in terms of employees. Today, both the centers together have over 500 employees.

ComputerWorld India visited Uber R&D center in Bangalore, which is considered to be in its growth phase. The center has plans to further fuel its rapid expansion growth, including hiring more engineers with broad and niche skillsets. 

Apurva Dalal - Site Leader at Uber Bengaluru tech center gave a rundown of the company’s recruitment plans and the skillsets they mainly focus on.  

Apurva Dalal, CTO, Uber India Headshot of Apurva Dalal, Courtesy: Uber India

If there’s a choice between hiring a few with high bar (skillsets) to hiring more with lower bars, we prefer the former one. For the kind of innovation we do, it’s important to get the right foundation, and hence we need to recruit the right talent.

Apurva Dalal, Site Leader, Uber Bengaluru tech center

Dalal mentions, “‘Expertise in data’ is the major skillset Uber R&D is currently looking for. We are also looking for developers for front end (Web/React/Js), Android, iOS, full-stack infra, AI, ML, Data, and backend distributed systems.”

Interestingly, the job of a full-stack developer has shown a tremendous increase in terms of employment and stands strong at 2nd position, according to a report by Indeed.

Read more: India’s highest paying tech jobs and the skills that rake in the big bucks

Uber R&D in India is looking to hire a lot of professionals but they are selective as well. “Besides the first checklist for developers on writing clean code fast, we evaluate them on designing and problem-solving skills along with their cultural mind. We want people with founder’s mindset – to take a problem end-to-end and solve it,” he says, hinting preference to full-stack developers.

Instead of hiring a bigger team, Uber’s motto has always been to hire a better-skilled team. Uber has set its bar high – only five to ten percent of the tech talent makes the cut – to the company’s rolls.

Uber R&D India is hiring professionals with expertise in data, developers for frontend and backend (Web/React/JS), Android, iOS, full-stack infra, AI, ML, Data, and backend distributed systems, Full-stack developers, data science/ML experts, research and product design experts.

“We want to build a solid engineering unit in India, but we are in no haste. If there’s a choice between hiring a few with high bar (skillsets) to hiring more with lower bars, we prefer the former one. For the kind of innovation we do, it’s important to get the right foundation, and hence we need to recruit the right talent,” he clarifies.

Apart from engineers, the Uber tech center is also looking for product management, data science/ML, and research and product design experts.

Uber tech center is recruiting at all levels. Through an extensive campus recruitment program, it hires graduates based on their programming skills. It also invests heavily in internship programs to gain the best employee conversations.

Lateral hiring too is on the table for Uber and its agnostic about prior programming languages. The headhunt is mainly for skillsets that include design/architecture, building for efficiency/reuse, collaboration, communication, and leadership skills.

Uber Tech center highly invests its time in upskilling of employees. Constant learning happens with its tech innovation culture. A dedicated learning and development team works with engineers on functional skillsets like android, iOS, and ML. Employees are trained on softer skillsets as well – how to collaborate, communicate and present better.

“Learning also happens through mentorship programs – we pair up senior and junior engineers for projects. We also have weekly/bi-weekly tech talks, where senior engineers share their experience,” Dalal elaborates. 

- Apuva Dalal, Site Leader, Uber Bengaluru tech center

In-House Development & Collaboration with Start-ups

Dalal also shed light on the technologies that the center has been working on – UberLite. This India grown app with a 300 millisecond response time saves space and is built especially for low connectivity areas. Launched in June 2018, UberLite has been made available in over 30 countries globally.

Another focal point for the India team has been to launch a self-service automation platform for UberEats. Customers seek quick resolution, and what can get better if it’s self-resolvable and quicker. 

Before the implementation, the customer had to get in touch with one of the executives at Uber help center. Alternatively, they had to fill out a form explaining their issue in detail, a long process that didn’t go well with the customers. Post-implementation, the customer is guided through a series of screens that give immediate solutions to their problems. 

Talking about startups, Dalal says that Uber has invested in them in the past, and have had M&A activities with them as well. 

“Our DNA is that of start-up, and we think it is important to be collaborating with other start-up – one way we do this is by meetups. We invite engineers from start-ups to our facilities to be part of our tech talks. We had over 200+ engineer who came here to listen to a Tech talk on how we build UberLite,” he explains. 

Dalal believes that the meetup programs help both ways, “They come to know how to be Uber and we get know how to think like a startup and be agile.”

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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