BACKSTORY: Uber’s Frans Hiemstra
We question Frans Hiemstra, GM at Uber Sub-Saharan Africa
What’s your one top tip for doing a deal?
You need to map the organisation so that you understand how your key counterpart fits into it. And then build on your relationships with those beyond that counterpart.
What was your first job?
My first weekend job was at 13, when I worked at a boating club at Hartbeespoort Dam. I was petrol attendant, boat washer and jet ski mechanic, and I even launched boats. My first professional job was as an articled clerk with Deloitte.
How much was your first pay cheque, and how did you spend it?
It was for R5,500. I bought my mother a gift, and the rest went to rent and drinks at my favourite pub at the time — Vasco’s in Green Point.
What is the one thing you wish somebody had told you when you were starting out?
Don’t take yourself so seriously; it’s OK to make mistakes and it’s always an opportunity to learn.
If you could fix only one thing in SA, what would it be?
I would work on reprioritising and successfully executing education, especially in the ICT sector. In many other countries children have access to high-end technology in classrooms and are being set up to be competitive in the future. This contrasts with SA children, who are being sent into the future with a major disadvantage.
What’s the most interesting thing about you that people don’t know?
I competed in the Presidents Trophy Air Race in 2005. It’s a two-day event, navigating with maps only. I was the pilot and my friend was the navigator.
What is the hardest life lesson you’ve learnt so far?
Swallow your pride and be quick to admit to your mistakes.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Patience, in the sense of waiting for things to happen to you. If you can, go and get what you want.
What is something you would go back and tell your younger self that would impress him?
I am married to a TV star.
Was there ever a point at which you wanted to trade it all in for a different career?
Yes; I traded in my career as a management consultant for a position at Uber 5½ years ago. At Uber you need to live with the benefits and consequences of a decision, whereas in consulting you might be proposing a great solution but you can’t follow through to its implementation.
If you were President Cyril Ramaphosa, what would you change, or do, tomorrow?
We need to prioritise education now and in the future. Had we done this years ago, perhaps the impact of this lockdown on learners could have been much less than it is now. I would put the strongest leaders in charge of education, call on the private sector to step in, and take decisive action to set up children for success.
The harsh lockdown restrictions have emphasised the inequalities between the rich and the poor. The vast majority of learners are now missing out on classes, while those in private school have the facilities to enable them to study at home. Put your strongest leaders in charge of education, call on the private sector to step in, and take decisive action to set up kids children for success.
Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments?
Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.