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Uber CEO's advice for his 22-year-old self: 'Get the hell out of investment banking'

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi
Michael Cohen | Getty Images
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi

When Uber's new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi visited India earlier this year, the president of Uber India asked him what advice he would give to his 22-year-old self, and Khosrowshahi offered a candid response, The New Yorker reports: "To get the hell out of investment banking sooner."

Khosrowshahi, 48, who was brought on as the CEO of Uber to get the ride-sharing giant back on track after a turbulent 2017 led the board to push out company co-founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick, started his career in finance. After graduating from Brown University in 1991, he took a job as a junior investment banker at Allen & Co.

The job had its perks: After his first year, "he received a twenty-thousand-dollar bonus and an all-expenses-paid African safari," The New Yorker reports, and he met his mentor, Barry Diller, who almost immediately began grooming him for leadership.

He stayed at Allen & Co. for seven years before taking an executive role at USA Networks/IAC in 1998 and then becoming the CEO of Expedia in 2005.

Khosrowshahi is not alone in leaving a prestigious Wall Street job to pursue, and succeed in, another career. Bestselling author Michael Lewis walked away from a lucrative job at Salomon Brothers to pursue writing full-time. And Amazon founder Jeff Bezos left a comfortable spot on Wall Street to launch an Internet bookstore that would become Amazon.

While Wall Street can offer eye-popping salaries and bonuses, even those who have made their fortunes in finance have questioned the career path. Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone, who made billions after launching his own investment firm in 1974, says that working on Wall Street is no longer the best way for young people to get ahead.

Because of the increased automation of the financial sector, employees don't gain the exposure they need to learn about business, he tells CNBC: "The Wall Street game is over for all intents and purposes. More electronic, less hands."

Rather than finding banking jobs, he thinks grads should get their hands dirty: "Go out and go to work for a company and learn the business. Learn what drives a customer, learn about cost, learn about margins, learn about inventory, learn the basics of the business."

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