Zak Haitkin, Lyft: Human Intelligence is the Most Valuable Intelligence

Over the past five years, Zak Haitkin has worked his way from Driver, to Customer Support Representative, to roles within the Competitive Intelligence team, and today, he is the Senior Strategy Analyst on the Competitive Intelligence team, making integral observations and leading change within the company.

Improving People’s Lives

Before he found himself working in the HQ, Zak was behind the wheel of a fuzzy pink mustached Lyft car picking up passengers and experiencing the company’s motto firsthand. Zak believes his experience during this time gave him a passion for the company and hands-on experience that still assists him in his role today. “There were a couple of reasons I was compelled to work for Lyft. The first was the mission statement. It’s changed a bit over the years, but the current iteration is, ‘Improving people’s lives through the world’s best transportation.’ Our cofounders, John and Logan, have never wavered from that, and from the beginning, I felt like I was participating in something groundbreaking.”

Building Relationships, Gaining Information

Zak’s ability to glean information from his personal experience and the people he has met is compelling. These interactions are an important influence on his daily tasks. “I’ve always felt that hard work and being productive are two things that make me feel best, but helping other people is the underlying piece of that. I measure my success by how well I support the people around me.”

Zak has worked his way up the ladder at Lyft and made connections with people in several departments. He has found these relationships to be mutually beneficial. “In my current role, I work with local teams, and none of them actually report to me. I get to utilize the relationships I’ve built to manage with influence.”

Supporting Your Team

Much of Zak’s job is trying to get information from drivers and local teams. He builds relationships with his co-workers by supporting them and that helps him get the information he needs. Zak’s desire to support others allows him to be a successful leader. “First, I look to see where I can assist other people. I seek out places where things are not functioning as well as they could. Then, instead of trying to solve the problem, I find the people that are working on the problem and try to help them.”

He asks a lot of questions and comes into the situation without any preconceived solutions. “So often, we look at a problem for so long, or too close, that we fail to see things outside of the scope of what we’ve already discovered. A fresh perspective can help us overcome that.” Zak will enter a situation and ask, “Can you describe to me what’s going on?” or “Can you talk to me more about what you need?” Only then will he start to make judgements and offer solutions. “I usually have predetermined ideas in my mind, but I actively work against that to not let that cloud what I’m trying to do, which is ultimately to help people succeed.”

Allowing Others to Support You

The rideshare industry is still new and trending. The media does a great a job reporting the types of incentives Lyft’s competitors are implementing. However, Zak has found that the best Competitive Intelligence is local Competitive Intelligence.

“Having sources on the ground, having willing drivers and passengers in that market, ready to report back to us, that is the best way to get accurate information. As we grow, it will only become more important that we interface with someone on the ground wherever we go to be able to capture the local insight.”

Zak admits this is sometimes the more difficult route. His team must incentivize people to gather information, which costs both time and money. It’s important the information they receive is accurate and consistent. He has found getting it from sources on the ground to be the most effective.

Getting Creative with Your Sources

He also encourages people in similar roles to get creative in how they collect data. “I participate in Facebook lounges and driver boards on Reddit. In these unique places, I can get anecdotal feedback about some product or feature.” He drops the information he finds into Sharpr and refers to it when the need arises.

“When you absorb everything around you, you build your networks and connections even further. If you’re going to be successful in the intelligence world, human intelligence will never go away. All the data in the world will never tell the story the way human intelligence can.”

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