When 28-year-old Faizan Ahmed isn’t driving with Uber, he’s studying at university in hopes of running his own real estate and real estate business.
Ahmed lives in Birmingham but is originally from Pakistan and moved to the UK when he was just 18 to gain more qualifications. To make ends meet while in college, he took a job as a security guard at an auto parts distributor. He worked long hours with little flexibility in his shifts and had no time to pursue his academic ambitions.
In 2016, however, Ahmed quit his full-time job and started driving with Uber, where he could choose his own hours. After two years, he had saved enough to start a degree in business management at the Birmingham campus of the University of Suffolk. Thanks to the flexibility of work, he was able to study and work simultaneously. He is now in his final year.
Being able to choose his working hours has given him the freedom he needs to earn while learning, says Ahmed.
“You can activate the app at any time and earn money,” he says. “I can work the hours I choose and progress towards my future career. I am about to finish my studies and bought my own house a year ago. I really enjoy my life, and it all comes from working with Uber to be honest.
Ahmed “was very afraid of Covid-19”, he says, and stopped driving for a year during the pandemic. Now back behind the wheel, he tends to work eight or nine hours with Uber on Saturdays. He chooses to split this into two shifts, allowing him to spend quality time with his wife and parents between shifts. “Flexibility is a great thing to bind my family together,” he says. “It helps establish a connection between me and my wife.” Otherwise, he adds, his job “could have a bad impact on my relationship.”
Flexibility is one of the top qualities valued by Uber drivers, according to research from business consultancy Public Firstwhich shows that drivers place three times more importance on being able to choose their own schedules than the general public when looking for a job.
In addition to his weekend job, Ahmed says being able to work short shifts around his university between 9 and 5 a.m. weekdays helps him supplement his income. He also increases his driving during college vacations, which helps him save for busier study times. “It’s money that I can keep for the future, like during exam periods,” he says.
He adds that, in his opinion, Uber’s hourly rate is higher than other similar jobs. All Uber drivers are guaranteed to earn at least the National Living Wage (NLW) of £9.50 per hour, from the time a driver accepts a ride until the ride is complete. Drivers routinely earn more than this during busy periods, but if a driver’s weekly earnings are less than the NLW after expenses are subtracted, Uber brings drivers back with an NLW payment.
But it’s not just the flexibility or the money that Ahmed enjoys driving with Uber. He says the best thing about it is the fact that he meets such a wide range of people and feels like he’s constantly learning about different customs and cultures. Public First research shows that drivers are more satisfied with their work, enjoy their work more and are more likely to learn something new than the average worker.
During an eight-hour shift, Ahmed typically carries between 15 and 20 passengers, who come from different backgrounds and professions, from doctors to gym goers and retirees. “I learn a lot about the countries where people come from, their way of life and even the foods they eat,” he says.
Such learnings extended beyond cultural awareness to broaden her skill set. Talking to passengers all day has boosted his confidence and communication skills, he says. A passenger even inspired him to take a free online coding course. “Now I’m in seven weeks of classes,” he says. “If I worked elsewhere, no one would have told me about it. This course will be useful to me in the future when I run my own business. »
Other passengers inspired him with their bravery. In February, when he picked up a nurse who was working seven days a week in intensive care with Covid-19 patients, he felt excited to help his community as well. “I was so happy after hearing that she was doing her best to protect the community. It showed me that there are people living in this world who put themselves in danger [for others]. It was a great example for me to help others.
Ahmed feels that he provides a valuable service to many members of the Birmingham community, such as the elderly and the disabled, not only through transport but also through his business. “I’m here to help them,” he said. “I particularly like talking to retirees [about their week]who often have no one to talk to.
In 2021, Uber introduced additional protections and condition improvements for all drivers, regardless of how often they work, treating drivers as workers. This includes the payment of holiday pay – an additional payment of 12.07% on top of weekly earnings – and access to a pension scheme. These are not currently offered by any other major app-based carrier. In addition to these protections, Uber also offers other benefits such as access to new parental payments, health coverage, free courses from the Open University, and more.
Ahmed says holiday pay helps cover his fuel costs and helped him tremendously during the pandemic when he was out of work for two years. When Uber introduced holiday pay in 2021, it backdated payments to drivers, he says, and Ahmed received a one-time payment of £3,500 under it, providing him with crucial support, as well as his family.
For Ahmed, driving with Uber helps him earn money while pursuing his long-term career goals, but it also improves his social skills and broadens his understanding of the world, which will undoubtedly come in handy once that he will become an entrepreneur.
“Every trip, every day, I feel like I’m learning something new from people,” he says. “I learn outside of university. I would say Uber is like a school for me.