AZ Leadership: Drena Kusari

Twenty years ago ridesharing was a foreign concept. Now, with a simple touch in an app, Lyft has given users a quick and easy way to get home safely. Drena Kusari, general manager of the Southwest region and Hawaii, has made a name for herself in growing the driver and passenger base, as Lyft has added over $59 million in economic value in Phoenix.

Born and raised for most of her childhood in Kosovo, Kusari has always had a heart to serve in her community.  After the Kosovo War she became a translator/tracing officer for Save the Children, an organization that helped reunite families separated by the war, among other things.

She moved to the United States at the age of 17 to complete high school. “I came to the U.S. to attend my final year of high school in Southern California,” she said. “I continued into college and then decided that the U.S. was a pretty great place to live.” From there, Kusari went to work on Wall Street and one thing led to another for her to land her current role at Lyft.

Arizona has embraced Lyft, which has seen a 150 percent boost in ridership under Kusari’s leadership. “The secret to success is being a local player and connecting with our communities in so many ways,” she explains.  “I feel like the community has really appreciated Lyft for the company that it is and for what it stands for.”

Along with bolstering Lyft’s presence in Arizona, Kusari is active in the community. Recently named to Valley Leadership Class 40, she has also been involved with the Junior Achievement board, Arizona Women in Philanthropy, a board member of Harvard Business School of Arizona, the Girls in Tech Phoenix Chapter, and has been involved with the Girl Scouts. “I personally think that there is a large responsibility for me and for other peers of mine to motivate, to mentor and encourage, but also to lead by example.”

With all that she is involved in, along with being a mother and wife, Drena Kusari is no stranger to a busy schedule. It’s not so much a balance, Kusari says, but rather, how to best prioritize. “You know my children and my family are everything but work also matters to me. I get a lot of enjoyment out of my role and leading my team and being a part of the important fabric that we’ve talked about.”

As she continues to lead and inspire, Kusari says that she is motivated by two things, “There’s no substitute for hard work, no matter what role, what position, you know when you go above and beyond to show that you are committed and willing and able to add value then there’s no substitute to that,” she says. “The other one is don’t be afraid to ask for the role that you really want, that you believe you can do.”

Morgan Carr

Graham Bosch

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