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Career as Uber executive drives Meghan Joyce

Meghan Joyce said she takes an UberX nearly every day.
Meghan Joyce said she takes an UberX nearly every day.Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe/Globe Freelance

Like other millennials, Meghan Joyce lives in the city, doesn't own a car, and takes Uber everywhere.

But she's no ordinary passenger. Joyce is the ride-hailing company's 31-year-old East Coast general manager, based in Boston.

Joyce, who grew up in Braintree, joined Uber in 2013 back when there were only about 200 employees. Today, the startup boasts 5,000 employees, more than 1 million active drivers globally, and, according to Bloomberg, a $62 billion valuation — more than the market cap of General Motors.

"I felt like I was getting there late," recalled Joyce, who hadn't even graduated from Harvard Business School when she started at Uber.

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Turns out her timing was impeccable. The Boston office itself has mirrored the rest of the firm's meteoric rise, with nearly 70 employees and well more than 10,000 drivers. The number of trips has doubled over the last year to about 2 million a month.

I had a chance to catch up with Joyce last week, tooling around the city in an UberBlack as the company gears up for its busiest night: New Year's Eve. This year, if you don't like Uber's dreaded surge pricing, you can reduce costs by sharing rides through "UberPool." The company is also offering a special New Year's Eve deal — "MegaPool," a trolley service groups of riders can share.

Joyce's first Uber ride made a lasting impression. At the time, she was living in Washington, D.C., and working as a senior policy adviser for US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner when Uber rolled out in the capitol.

"My very first ride I took with this incredible driver who told me all about how this opportunity was helping him put food on his family's table in a way he had never before and how much this platform meant to him," Joyce said. "And I thought, 'This is something really special.' "

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She became not only an avid rider but also an advocate. When DC considered kicking Uber out of town, Joyce lobbied her city councilors. DC eventually passed new ride-hailing regulations.

After a year at the treasury, Joyce left for Harvard Business School. She had done stints in the private sector at both Bain & Co. and Bain Capital, but Uber stuck in her mind as a place she'd like to land after graduation in 2013. When she applied, the company was in need of a general manager in Boston.

She got the job and started a few weeks before receiving her MBA. In May, after two years as the Boston GM, Joyce was promoted to run Uber's East Coast operations, which include Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, and Atlanta.

Meanwhile, Joyce has become a familiar fixture on Beacon Hill. She has been fighting a backlash from the taxi industry, which is pushing lawmakers to impose strict regulations on ride-hailing services. Uber and its competitor Lyft have also come under fire for treating drivers as independent contractors instead of employees.

Joyce takes an Uber just about daily, and her preferred mode is UberX — in which passengers are picked up in regular cars. Her favorite part of the ride remains talking to drivers.

And she really gets to know them. She recently attended the engagement party of one longtime Boston driver. Another time, she woke up to a text from a driver who had sent a photo of his newborn daughter.

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"Those moments and those memories are so incredibly touching to me," Joyce said. "It reminds you of why we all do this — to be able to help people support their families and have this kind of flexible work."


Shirley Leung is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at shirley.leung@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @leung.