Thuan Pham, who fled Vietnam as a child and became Uber’s CTO in 2013, is leaving the company
Thuan Pham, hired as Uber’s chief technology officer by former CEO Travis Kalanick back in 2013, is leaving the company in three weeks, the ride-share giant revealed today in an SEC filing that came out just as The Information reported that massive layoffs at Uber are being proposed to preserve some of the company’s dwindling capital reserves.
The outlet suggests the discussed cuts could impact upwards of 20 percent of Uber’s 27,000 employees, roughly 800 of whom could theoretically come from Pham’s engineering team, which currently comprises 3,800 people.
Said an Uber spokesman to The Information’s Amir Efrati: “As you would expect, the company is looking at every possible scenario to ensure we get to the other side of this crisis in a stronger position than ever.”
Uber has been hard hit as much of the country and world remains at home, awaiting a vaccine for — or at least more testing around — COVID-19. Last Thursday, Uber said it expects an impairment charge of up to $2.2 billion in the first quarter due to the outbreak and for revenue to nosedive by $17 million to $22 million in the quarter. (The company will report its first quarter results next Thursday.)
Pham has meanwhile become the longest-serving top executive at Uber, outlasting not just Kalanick, who was forced to resign as CEO back in 2018, but also the members of Kalanick’s so-called “A team” of trusted advisors. Included in this circle: Ryan Graves, who was one of Uber’s first employees and a board member of the company until last May; Uber’s former head of product, Daniel Graf, who has since started his own company; Eric Alexander, who was Uber’s president of business in Asia and was fired in 2017 over his handling of a rape investigation in India; and Emil Michael, Uber’s controversial former SVP of business who left the company in 2017, though it remains unknown if he resigned or was fired.
His career at Uber might have ended in 2017, after former Uber engineer Susan Fowler publicly accused Pham and Uber’s HR department of ignoring her complaints about workplace sexism. An external investigation cleared him, however.
Pham — who was recruited by Kalanick from VMWare, where he’d spent the previous eight years — stood to make more than $200 million from Uber’s IPO last year, according to Business Insider. At the time, he owned 5.4 million shares.
His is an American success story. At age 12, Pham escaped Vietnam with his mother and brother in a fishing boat that was reportedly carrying dozens of other refugees. After first spending 10 months at camp in Indonesia that he has described as having no sanitation and offering only a tarp over their heads, his family later arrived in Maryland and Pham, an excellent student, wound up studying at MIT.
Pham would go on to nab a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the university before being drawn to job in Silicon Valley, at the research lab of Hewlett Packard.
He only stayed three years. In an extensive interview with CNN in 2016, he said grew “bored” at HP so joined Silicon Graphics, whose cofounder, Jim Clark, would later cofound Netscape with a young Marc Andreessen.
“It was a significant move,” he told the outlet, “but I broke my mom’s heart. She thought I was reckless. In her view, I should have stayed to build a career at a stable company like HP for 30 years and retire with a gold watch.”
Pham spoke at a startup event in February, roughly one month before the Bay Area instituted its shelter-in-place rules. You can check out the talk below.