I started off as a driver, in January 2014. I was just doing it for some part-time work. A friend had told me about it. She was seeing how it changed her life because she had on a little side hustle, driving to supplement her monthly expenses.

I was a grad-school student, and my wife at the time was a stay-at-home mom, and our oldest was 6 months, so I felt like this was a great opportunity. I started doing Lyft part-time, working full-time at my other job as a sales representative. I was in grad school, too, at Benedictine University out in Lisle for public health.

After three, four months, I started driving full time. That was where it all changed. Lyft made me a mentor because I had good driver ratings, and then I became a (contracted) recruiter.

They were starting a temporary office, and they needed some driver mentors, and that’s where I connected with a lot of people from headquarters, which is in San Francisco.

I’ve been a full-time community associate for about the last 14 months. It’s a mixture of a lot of things. Seventy percent of my job is support issues. I come to our hub, which is right here at the Irish American Heritage Center, and I help drivers.

It can be from simple things like, “I just need to change my phone number” or “I need some new stickers and signs or whatever,” to more complicated issues regarding pay. Or maybe a driver got de-activated, which is always tough to deal with. Sometimes it’s for the good. We want to keep the best out there.

Part of my job, too, is studying the competition. Uber is our main competition, but we still have other key players that are coming into the market. It even goes with delivery services, everybody that has some type of app that’s similar to what we do. I’m not at all intimidated by Uber. We try to focus on what we do right and build that. We don’t let it bother us because we are growing, and that’s what it’s about. There’s plenty of room in this rideshare market.

I still try to drive about 20 hours a month. I drive a Hyundai Elantra. I also help out with Express Drive, which is a program we offer where applicants can rent a vehicle through our partnerships, which are GM and Hertz. I do that about one day a week. I also help out at community events and any type of driver trainings we have.

Hopefully by late summer, early fall, we’ll have our (permanent) driver hub. We did just sign a lease; it’s a building right off I-90/94 and Irving Park Road. I’m really excited about that because we’ve been nomadic for the last three years.

Our focus is Chicago and building this market. In Chicago, full-time, we have 14 employees, including me. We also have a shared space downtown, and our marketing team and our general manager are there. We have 1,500-plus full-time employees nationwide.

When I first started as a driver, everything was in San Francisco. The fact we can make a lot of rules here and take ownership and do things ourselves has been very awesome. I really believe in the mission and the culture. I’ve built a lot of friendships. I’ve seen growth, and I’ve seen things happen, and I want to be a part of this.

I embrace hot pink now (Lyft’s signature color). At first, I was like, “I don’t know.” But now I love it. My kids love it, too!

When I had Zion, my now 6-month old, I was able to take a month off and get paid, which was huge. They were really supportive of me.

I see how Lyft changes lives with the extra income it brings to a lot of families. There are people who literally haven’t worked in a year or two and are embracing Lyft and getting hope.

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