Bridging the Physical World with the Magic of Tech at UberEats

Bridging the Physical World with the Magic of Tech at UberEats


UCLA Anderson alumnus Sergio Gonzalez (’14) strikes the balance in his pick of cities

August 25. 2023

  • UCLA Anderson alumnus Sergio Gonzalez took some business detours before becoming head of territory operations for UberEats in California and the Pacific Northwest
  • A civil engineer, he never imagined he would work on the business side of tech until UCLA Anderson taught him management strategy
  • He went on to launch UberEats Mexico and then was offered his pick of roles in a West Coast city of his choice

For Sergio Gonzalez (’14), managing operations for UberEats is one giant balancing act among the restaurants and the drivers, the drivers and the consumers (aka “the Eaters”), growth and profit. On the macro level, According to Gonzalez, the leadership at Uber says the job is ultimately a balancing act between the tech world and the physical.

“The movement of things around cities is very physical and tangible,” Gonzalez says. “But the magic of clicking the button and getting food delivered to your door? I just love having a part in helping people go anywhere or get anything across the world.”

Gonzalez is now the head of territory operations for UberEats in California and the Pacific Northwest, but the path to getting there required a balancing act of his own. From Mexico to UCLA Anderson and back to Mexico again, he learned to combine his different skill sets and ambitions to end up in the fast-paced tech world he’s come to love.

Originally from Monterrey, Mexico, just south of the Texas border, Gonzalez studied civil engineering as an undergraduate at Tecnológico de Monterrey with a goal of starting his own business in real estate. He graduated about a year before the 2008 financial crisis but managed to find quick success refurbishing residential and commercial spaces, and he eventually partnered with a real estate developer to build some bigger projects.

All was good for Gonzalez until a big deal fell through. He realized he needed more business training.

“My undergrad was very technical,” he says. “I didn’t get any good business classes. It was very much about construction and the actual engineering piece. So I started my own business without having any accounting or financial background. That was my reasoning for doing the MBA.”

Before touring several schools on the East and West coasts, Gonzalez initially imagined himself learning the ins and outs of running a business at a school in a small town in the Northeast. He never imagined he’d be working in tech in California one day. But after visiting Anderson, he changed his mind. He wasn’t prepared for the cold winters of the Northeast and he fell in love with the diversity of industries in Los Angeles.

Gonzalez’ entry into Anderson couldn’t have been more picture perfect. Waitlisted at first, he found out he was accepted while in the Maldives on vacation.

“It was a stressful time. Uncertainty, no job, no Plan B,” he says. “But I woke up by the beach, the view was beautiful, I opened my iPad, and the email was there. Anderson said yes. That was definitely a day I celebrated.”

When Gonzalez arrived in Los Angeles, however, reality set in. He was hyper aware of his “very non-MBA background” compared to some of his classmates, and his first few interviews with tech companies were duds. “I think I got laughed at during one interview,” he said. “It was a humbling experience.”

But in no time, he found himself catching up and learning the skills he’d need to succeed. A turning point came during a class with Professor Jason Snyder called Special Topics in Management: Tools and Analysis for Business Strategy, for which he also served as a teaching assistant. In the class, he was introduced to statistical software and learned advanced analysis skills and how to tell a story through data. Gonzalez credits this class with launching him to where he is today.

“Being an expert on your topic and knowing the data inside and out, but then being able to communicate it and build a narrative on top of it — that’s what’s made a big difference overall in my career,” Gonzalez says.

After graduation, armed with the business background he lacked the first time around, he returned to Mexico. But instead of going back to his own business in Monterrey, he decided to go into consulting work in Mexico City, working for Booz and Company and Strategy&, part of the PwC network, as an associate and manager.

Then in 2019, just months before the pandemic would change the nature of food delivery, he made the leap into tech as the general manager at UberEats North Mexico. He arrived just a few years after UberEats debuted in Mexico, and the company was growing like wild.

“I got to launch UberEats in a lot of cities in North Mexico, from setting up the proper geo in that city to starting the outreach with restaurants and potential delivery partners, and setting up all the configurations so that it works once you turn the switch,” Gonzalez says. “It felt very Uber 1.0, like a startup, very growth-oriented.”

When the pandemic struck, ridership was affected, layoffs struck and more pressure was placed on food delivery. With Mexico already expanding at a rapid pace, Gonzalez was able to move up into an even bigger role as the head of strategy and planning for UberEats Mexico. With his consulting background, he felt more comfortable in this role, but also found it more intellectually challenging.

“I worked across a bunch of industries as a consultant, and you don’t always get the chance to make a business profitable while it’s just growing through the roof,” he says. “That was my task coming into the new role. Now we’re growing, but we have all this profitability pressure since our mobility business is struggling. It was a very interesting task. How do we spring to profitability and make the Mexico business profitable? And how do we do that in a quarter of the time?”

Gonzalez and his team were able to do this by diving deep into the data and finances and finding places where they could save a single cent on a trip. Multiplying that cent by their enormous volume of trips made a big difference.

Emerging from the pandemic, Gonzalez had plans to stay in Mexico and settle near his family in Monterrey, but life took another turn for him when UberEats approached him about a job on the U.S. West Coast. He got to choose which city he wanted to be in and settled on San Francisco, where Uber first launched in 2009. In March 2022, he began his new role.

Gonzalez keeps up with the fast pace he was accustomed to in Mexico, but he says he enjoys more work-life balance now and has more opportunities to work with the tech and engineering side of the business as they roll out new products. But he always remembers the impact of his work in Mexico and the possibilities that bridging the real world and the tech world can bring.

“You can see how, with tech, you can come and change the dynamics and the balance in the city and create new opportunities,” he said. “You used to order from the same pizza place and their own delivery partners for years. And now you can have all these new selections that get to you in 30 minutes.”