In this fascinating, wide-ranging Nomad Futurist podcast, Sarah Keller talks about how following a series of interests including business, project management, standards, and data centers led her to becoming Head of Technology Sourcing and Supply Chain at Uber. She shares her insights about the current state of the global supply chain, and her assessments of future challenges in the space.
After an initial interest in opera, Keller became a business major as she felt this would be helpful in whatever career she pursued. She fell in love with technology during her first job in online banking. Initial roles morphed into project management in the standards space, and then into the data center world.
“I got really excited working on data center standards. I learned the data centers more from the software stack, how to deal with configuration management, security, networking standards…before there were any kinds of standards.”
Keller went on to hold leadership roles at Google, Facebook, and Workday prior to joining Uber. As she transitioned from job to job, Keller followed her interests, and was not afraid to take chances.
“I was open to following a flow — an interest string rather than a career path. That made a huge difference, not only in my actual career success, but also in my happiness level.”
Keller expresses concern over the current state of the supply chain ecosystem where a focus on “just in time” has led to dangerous degrees of instability. Given the reality of disruptions caused by Covid as well as the current geo-political scene, the West’s access to essential technologies on which our lives our predicated could be undermined.
“…not just servers…our phones, our smart TV, our smart refrigerators and our smart cars…and all those promises of how IOT works … it's all built on this house of cards. Right now, things are a little bit dicey!”
She also talks about the growing awareness of how the supply chain affects the bottom line.
“This is a great time to be a supply chain person because everybody's interested in supply. It is a terrible time to be a supply chain person because everybody thinks that they could do it better.”
Keller believes the situation opens an opportunity to bring back manufacturing to the US.
In response to the challenge of lack of resources in the tech and data center space, Keller believes we need to change our narrative:
“If every one of us started making slight shifts in our hiring practice, in our community engagement, we would see a massive change in the number of people who knew what we did, who understand that this is a really viable career path. And you'd start seeing more diversity and more incoming talent.”
For those getting started, Keller emphasizes the importance of adaptability:
“The skill is looking, adapting, being curious, being open, being open to being wrong and adapting quickly. Because if you fail quickly, you're always going to succeed.”
Sarah Keller is the Head of Global Technology Sourcing and Supply Chain at Uber and is responsible for strategic sourcing and supply chain activities for all Infrastructure, IT, and custom Uber ODM products. In this capacity, Sarah develops strategies that support Uber's technology platform which is at the intersection of lifestyle and logistics that is revolutionizing the way people connect with their cities around the world. An industry veteran with more than 15 years spent providing best in class leadership, Sarah has held numerous positions managing global hyperscale infrastructure, supply chain and supplier strategy.
Prior to Uber, Sarah has been in leadership roles in Operations and Engineering teams for companies including Facebook, Workday and Google. Sarah participates in several industry initiatives related to Women in Technology, STEM Mentorship and Innovation Forums. Sarah is also on the Board of Directors for Kids At Hope, a 501(c) foundation focused on developing educational outreach and successful outcomes for children.