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Uber’s director of operations is stepping down to focus on board position

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Ryan Graves was briefly Uber’s CEO

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales/The Verge

Uber's first employee, former CEO, and current head of operations, Ryan Graves, is stepping aside from day-to-day activities at the company to focus on his role on Uber’s board, according to a company-wide email that just went out.

“In the past 7.5 years of building Uber, I’ve learned so many different lessons, one of which is the fact that people who embrace uncertainty and change have the best grip on reality,” Graves writes. “In the middle of September, I’ll be embracing another big change on my journey with Uber and will transition out of a full-time operating role to focus on my role as a Board Director.”

In his role as a board member, Graves will aid in the search for Uber’s new CEO. That search is in a bit of a rut, which reports of meddling by former CEO Travis Kalanick and a dearth of female candidates. In June, Kalanick was forced to resign after a barrage of self-inflicted scandals cast doubt on his ability to continue to lead the company. Since then, a number of potential candidates have passed on the offer to step into his place. Uber has said it hopes to have a new CEO before Labor Day.

In the email, Graves stressed how important the next CEO was to Uber’s future, and that he hoped his own decision to leave the company as an employee wouldn’t distract from the search.

“So, why now? Well, there is no great time for a move like this one,” he writes. “But it’s really important to me that this transition doesn’t take away from the importance of the onboarding process of our new CEO, whoever they might be. My hope is that ensuring my transition is known and planned for well before our board's decision on CEO it will help to make it clear to our team and to our new leader that I will be there to support however I can.”

Graves is generally a well-liked figure at Uber. After serving a brief stint as Uber's first CEO from 2010 to 2011, Graves handed the reins to Kalanick and eventually assumed the role of Uber's president and VP of operations. But during the scandal-plagued first half of 2017, some employees complained that Graves was missing-in-action. Uber’s first head of human resources, Renee Atwood, reported to Graves, not Kalanick, throughout her tenure. This led to questions about Graves’ role in fielding complaints about sexual harassment that led to a company-wide investigation that eventually took down Kalanick.

In the email, Graves’ only reference to the litany of controversies at Uber was to say that he wished Uber had “taken more time to reflect on our mistakes and make changes together. There always seemed to be another goal, another target, another business or city to launch. Confucius said that reflection is the noblest method to learn wisdom, and fortunately, our new found reflection and introspection has become an asset to us and we have evolved and grown considerably.”