Jodie Austers journey from emergency doctor to UberEats boss
When Jodie Auster was visiting hospitals around Victoria, learning to become a doctor, she probably never guessed that one day she'd end up in Silicon Valley — and then lead the Australian arm of one of the world's hottest start-ups.
Today, Jodie is Australia and New Zealand General Manager of UberEats, one of the world's most-recognised disruptors, based in Melbourne, a city where foodie culture is king.
But getting there was a long and winding journey that included changing career paths, going back to study and a rollercoaster stint in Silicon Valley.
Jodie began her professional career as an emergency doctor in Melbourne, after her training took her to more than 10 metropolitan and regional hospitals in departments as diverse as intensive care, psychiatry and paediatric orthopaedics.
Wanting to gain the skills and confidence to transition from medicine to business, Jodie joined Melbourne Business School to study an MBA with the help of a Helen Macpherson Smith Fellowship — a scholarship provided by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust to foster more women leaders in management, awarded each year since 1990.
"Doing an MBA at Melbourne Business School was a complete game-changer for me. It really allowed me to move from a very specific degree in the practice of medicine and opened a whole world of opportunities," Jodie says.
The surprise of start-up culture
After graduating in 2009, Jodie travelled to India, Cuba and the US to soak up diverse landscapes and cultures and relax, but not for long. She spent the next two years as a consultant at Bain & Co's Melbourne office, working on problems from call centre performance to effective decision making for large teams.
That's about when she received a call from a new start-up called Scoopon.
"I was really not at all aware of the tech world, the start-up world, when I was at Bain... that call opened my eyes to this entire new world, and the first day that I walked into the office at Scoopon I just felt relaxed. I felt at home. I felt like I was somewhere I could really be myself, and so that was the beginning of a really exciting journey for me in this start-up ecosystem."
Moving to Silicon Valley
After a stint as General Manager Operations at Scoopon, Jodie moved to San Francisco in early 2013 to work in Silicon Valley, the global heart of tech innovation, and joined another start-up called Thumbtack.
"My partner Rachel, who's American, wanted to go and spend some time in the States. It took me a little bit to say yes to that, but when I did... it's a lot of leaning into the opportunity and being willing to go on the adventure."
Jodie was Thumbtack's 25th employee and joined as Director of Customer Operations, before moving onto Head of People Operations and leading the company through a period of enormous growth and transformation.
"We raised, I think, $270 million in venture capital over that time, and each of those fundraisers brought us to the next stage of growth. I could not have written a better Silicon Valley story to be part of."
Coming back home
After three years overseas, a new opportunity presented itself back in Melbourne — to lead the local arm of a new start-up changing the way people enjoy food.
Jodie ended 2016 by becoming the General Manager of UberEats Melbourne, and started 2018 with a promotion to oversee not just Melbourne but the Australia and New Zealand region.
"I've got a really interesting team here in Melbourne at UberEats who have some amazing migrant stories in their families that have shaped them as humans and made them ambitious. When you hear those stories, you start to understand the passion and motivation that comes from them as humans."
Jodie Auster was honoured at the Melbourne Business School's 2017 Annual Alumni Dinner, where she received the Outstanding Recent Alumni Award. Nominations are now open for this year's awards. Click here to nominate an outstanding alumnus.