Andy Bowie, Founder of My Auto Shop
Andy has had a rather unconventional career, starting out as a glorified ski bum, working for Facebook and then progressing through to becoming the General Manager of Uber Eats New Zealand. Now out on his own and one of the founders of My Auto Shop, Andy provides some insight into his career as well as some advice to anyone considering tech as a career path.
How would you explain to your Grandma what you do?
Umm... I basically wear many, many hats (laughs). Most of the hats (laughs). My Auto Shop is a business I co-founded last year in the super unsexy industry of vehicle maintenance and repairs. The easiest way to think about it is the AirBnb of getting your car fixed. It is injecting tech into a pretty ancient industry to make car maintenance easier.
Was working in tech something you dreamed about when you were younger? If not, what was?
Not at all! When I was at high school, I was set on running a ski mountain. That dream is still very much alive!
“The logic being that I may as well study business whilst I "business".”
Tell us a little bit more about your career journey?
After leaving high school, I set up a ski coaching business that oscillated between Wanaka and Colorado in the respective winters. At the same time, I decided to go study business at the University of Otago; the logic being that I may as well study business whilst I "business" (laughs).
This was my life for just over seven years and looking back it was pretty great. However, after the 2014 Winter Olympics, I decided I was done with ski coaching. My life was pretty cool but there was always this pressure of “get a real job” floating around.
I moved back to Auckland and after knocking around a bit, looking at consulting, banking, insurance, and a bunch of other industries, I realised that none of it really cranked my handle. I went to a friend of mine who had this video production agency that was growing really quickly and basically offered my services as a sales manager, solely on commission. The idea was this would give me a title in an interesting industry and give me some cred.
This helped lead me into working for a little remote sales team for Facebook in Auckland. I did that for about six months and then I heard the guy that was launching Uber in New Zealand speak at a young entrepreneurs event at Simpson Grierson, the law firm. Everyone was wearing a suit and I was the guy wearing the t-shirt (laughs). Very quickly, I was like "this Uber thing sounds pretty cool."
I reached out to him and ended up going through a pretty rigorous interview process. The next thing I knew, I was knocking on taxi drivers doors at 5 pm in the afternoon on a Friday asking if they had heard of Uber, which most replied "no". Oh, how times have changed!
After reaching a stable state in this region, Uber began to consolidate operations and the New Zealand team was by and large absorbed into the Australian team. This provided the opportunity for me try my hand out on my own, trying to create a better experience for people servicing their vehicles.
Can you share some insight into your transition into working at Uber?
It ended up being this sort of career journey or discovery phase over seven or eight months. I looked at a bunch of different companies and struggled for a bit of work, then fortunately I found this Uber thing and I was like "man, this is pretty cool."
I guess there were two fortunate parts. One, the business was growing, so if you jump on board with a small business there is a chance the business grows really big and you grow with it really quickly. Kind of like climbing aboard the rocket ship rather than climbing a ladder at a static big corporate. You take the risk that the rocket might blow up, but at the same time, it might shoot you to the moon.
Then the other element was very much like, there is no playbook, go build and create, test, and learn. That gave a lot of room for people to hustle and try new initiatives. The beauty of it was that you saw someone else in another team around the world doing these amazing things and then all of a sudden they were getting promoted really quickly. It made you realise that if you put in the work then you will get the result. So I worked pretty hard.
What do you like about working in tech?
For me, I think it is the freedom to create and move at a faster pace. In a tech company, you can be a young person that has ideas and if they are good they are listened to and implemented. You have real input into how the company grows. I feel like in a corporate environment, most young people are there to “do”. Slog away until they have proven themselves before they are taken seriously, which would not have suited my personality.
“I think there is a difference between saying “I get shit done” and being able to prove that you get shit done.”
What kind of people attributes do you think are key to be successful in tech?
At Uber, I found out after I had been hired that they had recruitment criteria called PURE. I can't remember what the first three letters stand for (laughs), but the fourth was entrepreneurialism as a characteristic trait. Effectively, what they were looking for was that someone has the ability to take initiative and start something from nothing.
To add to that, I think there is a difference between saying “I get shit done” and being able to prove that you get shit done. In my experience, I could talk to starting a ski business and range initiatives in the ski industry to demonstrate this. It was less relevant what industry I had been in, more what your personality traits were and how you could prove that.
They were hiring people from all different walks of life, with the premise that everyone was going to have to learn pretty fast.
Do you have any advice for people looking to get into working in tech?
Everyone is different, right. My advice would be to spend time researching different industries before jumping in. Talk to a variety of people to learn what makes them tick and see what resonates. Read and listen to stories of other people that have gone through the same process and eventually you will find a general direction that gets you excited. Also bear in mind that you might have to be creative to get to the place that you eventually want to get to.
Lastly, what do you think are the main attributes employers in tech are looking for?
The number one for me is initiative. How can you demonstrate to an employer that you can take on tasks and figure out how to do them to a high level without having to be handheld? A good employer will recognise this and will help nurture you. You’re not expected to know everything but having an attitude to learn and try is important.