Friends of the University may have noticed a familiar name on the Forbes “30 Under 30” list, released in January. Alumnus Corey Owens (’06) made a drastic change in his career to align his passion with his profession, and his efforts are certainly earning some attention.
After landing a job with Facebook in 2010 and serving as the social media giant’s manager of global public policy in Washington, D.C., Owens decided his skills could be put to better use fighting for an up-and-coming product he believed would be the next big thing. In March 2013, he left his job at Facebook and relocated to San Francisco to start work as the head of global public policy at Uber, a company that connects riders with high-quality drivers through a smartphone app.
“I had reached a point in my career where I really wanted to fight for something that I wanted to use, and Uber felt like that magical product,” he said.
Founded in 2009, Uber launched its first city–San Francisco–in 2010 and has since grown into a global company with millions of users in more than 80 cities and 30 countries around the world. Owens describes Uber as offering luxury rides at affordable costs. Instead of waiting for a taxi to drive by and flagging it down, Uber users can request a car through their smartphone and track its progress to their location.
Any company that experiences rapid expansion needs to be aware of its environment, which is where Owens, who earned his master’s in political management from George Washington University in 2008, shines. When Uber expands to a new city, he is on the front lines, working with local leaders to clear any legal hurdles that might arise, allowing the company to establish roots in the market.
Forbes took notice of Owens’ commitment to excellence and placed him among the “30 Under 30” to watch in law and policy.
“I’m really flattered and humbled, but I think the most exciting part of it is the recognition of the really cool stuff we’re doing at the company,” Owens said. “It’s about a growing company with a big idea, so as much as it’s a recognition of me, it’s a recognition of the work we’re doing at Uber.”
Owens has always been a bit of a trailblazer, so his work with forward-thinking companies like Uber and Facebook should come as no surprise to those who know him. After starting at Truman as a communication major in 2002, he eventually became one of the first students to apply for and declare an interdisciplinary studies major. He ultimately injected philosophy and political science classes into his communication course load and created a major he called rhetoric and power.
“It’s an exhilarating experience to learn about something you care about, and any kind of program that allows you to customize your learning experience to your needs and interests will set you up for success,” he said.
To that point, Owens’ résumé speaks for itself. He has also occupied positions at the American Civil Liberties Union and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. In addition to his major, he attributes part of his professional success to the opportunities made available during his time at Truman as an avid member of the debate team and a disc jockey for KTRM. Owens can foresee a time when his former college town will cross paths with the company where he puts his skills to use today.
“Uber is technology that is on the right side of history,” he said. “It is not a question of if Kirksville will have services like Uber, it’s a question of when.”