Zipcar has a new leader. The Boston-based hourly car rental service, owned by global rental giant Avis Budget Group, announced it had hired Tracey Zhen as president in January. Zhen’s a native New Yorker, but she’s stuck around Boston for a bit now: She comes to Zipcar from another local consumer-facing company, TripAdvisor. Less than three months into the new job, she’s still getting up to speed. Zhen spoke recently with the Globe’s Adam Vaccaro about her career, Zipcar’s future, and her preferred modes of transportation.
1. Zhen went to school for finance and is a veteran of the travel-tech industry, working for Expedia before joining TripAdvisor. So her first few months with Zipcar have entailed learning about a new industry: transportation.
“It feels much longer. I’ve been learning a lot about the mobility industry, which has been fascinating, and I think I spent my first month just really getting my arms around the business.”
2. It was nice not having to move very far for the new gig.
“It makes life a little bit easier. I’ve been in Boston for four years. It’s been great. It’s my new home now, and I’m really embracing [the] New England lifestyle. Being able to be in a city where you can walk outside your doorstep and there’s plenty of opportunity in consumer tech, it’s a great place to be.”
3. At TripAdvisor, Zhen oversaw the company’s short-term rental service, a structure similar to Airbnb, so she has spent time dealing with the “sharing economy.” Some people consider Zipcar an early stalwart of the sharing economy, though Zhen notes there is one major difference between Zipcar and companies such as Airbnb and Uber: The company controls its inventory.
“There’s a whole operations and vehicle side of the house. The whole supply chain, fleet management, it’s all new to me.”
4. She believes driverless-car technology will have a major effect on Zipcar.
“It’s definitely on our radar, and we’re keeping close tabs on what’s happening there. I think the notion of ride-sharing — which is Uber and Lyft today — and car-sharing, where we operate, those two industries will merge with the advent of autonomous vehicles. The difference between ride-sharing and car-sharing right now is that one you drive yourself, the other you don’t. When you have autonomous vehicles, there will be no driver.”
5. Zhen has never owned a car and takes varied approaches to her commute — alternately walking, taking the T, using Uber, or using Zipcar. She was a Zipcar user before she started at the company, joining a few years back when she lived in New York. One difference: The service is a little cheaper for her now.
“Our employee discount is very, very friendly.”