Celebrating International Women’s Day: Meet the Women Building Uber’s Global Platform

March 9, 2020 / Global

Around the world, Uber’s technical teams build the platforms that power our dynamic suite of mobility services, from food delivery and freight to ridesharing and scooter rentals. These engineers, data scientists, product managers, program managers, and many other technologists both ship the products our customers rely on and support the operational needs of our rapidly growing company.

Part of what makes Uber special is the diversity of perspectives and backgrounds that make up our workforce. To celebrate International Women’s Day, we spoke with women from across the company whose work helps deliver impactful experiences for Uber’s global users:

Saranya Nawaemwiliai, Software Engineer, Aarhus

How did you first get interested in technology and engineering? 

I took my first programming class in high school, during which I learned how to program in Pascal. Beyond that, however, I’ve always liked problem solving, and engineering is all about solving problems.

What do you work on at Uber? 

Currently, I work on the Web UI for a platform that provides a global view of the current state of Uber’s infrastructure. The UI provides insight into the state of the data sources that are connected to the platform, making it easy for internal teams to see different signals that inform us on the state of our data sources.

What makes your work at Uber particularly rewarding? 

At Uber, everything moves so fast. In my previous work experiences, I’d have to take requirements from someone else and just implement them, slowing down our software iteration and feedback cycle. At Uber, software development is much more dynamic so I need to constantly think on my feet on how to solve the problems at hand and in what ways every update or change will bring value to our users. On top of this, I also get to work with extremely talented engineers who are constantly teaching me new ways to improve my craft.

Anne-Laure Huin, Engineering Manager, Amsterdam

When did you first become interested in technology and software development?

From an early age, I was always interested in video games and computers. My older cousins introduced me to software engineering when I was in elementary school, and I immediately fell in love. Ironically, I’m the only one in my family that actually studied computer science in college, received a masters degree in the discipline, and then pursued a career in engineering.

Why did you decide to join Uber Engineering? 

I joined Uber almost three years ago, after spending more than a decade in the technology industry. After spending some time in China and Canada, I decided to move to the Netherlands to be closer to my family in France. When I saw that Uber was hiring an engineering manager for their payments engineering team in Amsterdam, I decided to apply, curious about the technical interview process. I wasn’t looking to leave my current role. During the interview, however, I spoke with so many great engineers and product managers about the interesting challenges the team tackled on a daily basis, and the monumental impact our work had on users across the globe. By the end of my day of interviews, I couldn’t wait to get started! Fortunately, they offered me a job, and the rest is history.

Describe the products you have worked on since joining Uber in 2017. 

My first role at Uber was the Driver Payments team engineering manager, focusing on ways to improve the driver payments experience and driver trust through improving reliability of our payment systems. We built both mobile and backend systems that gave drivers different payment options, from cash and digital wallets to Instant Pay. From there, we started working on a larger Payments Platform that focused on all users, many of whom were both earners and customers. This marriage of solutions has allowed us to leverage existing synergies between systems to create a bigger, stronger platform. 

Currently, I’m leading the Digital Wallet teams within our Payments Platform organization, contributing to what we call the Wallet Payments core systems. We’re building the entire digital wallets payments stack from data secure storage up to what users see in the apps when it comes to adding their payment preferences and managing their payment profiles. 

What advice would you give to individual contributors deciding whether or not they want to venture into people management? 

Managers are multipliers, and if we’re good managers, we’re multiplying the impact of our team by growing the potential of our direct reports. To accomplish this, we not only need to know how to build cool technology and drive roadmaps, but also invest in people by helping them improve their technical abilities and develop complementary soft skills so they can excel in their careers. 

Elena Morara, Senior Software Engineer, Uber ATG

How did you first get interested in technology, and then more specifically, self-driving cars? 

My interest in technology was first piqued while I was in high school. I enjoyed both math and physics and I was definitely more inclined towards the implementation and hands-on side, so I naturally gravitated towards engineering. Once I started studying engineering, I became fascinated by robotics because it requires science to connect the digital and the physical worlds. From there, it was a natural progression to working on self-driving cars, as I was very inspired by the vision of making the roads safer and positively affecting people in their day-to-day lives.

Describe your role at ATG. 

I’m the technical lead of the engineering team responsible for one of the major neural networks in Uber ATG’s perception architecture. We create machine learning models that allow our self-driving vehicles to perceive the environment through actors’ detection, velocity estimation, and semantic segmentation, including other vehicles, pedestrians, bicycles, vegetation, or even weather elements like raindrops or snowflakes. The team continuously experiments with new architectures, training losses, data representation, and optimization techniques to deliver new features and improve perception’s performance.

What makes your work at Uber ATG rewarding? 

Most of the questions we’re trying to answer to build self-driving cars are unsolved ones. Self-driving is a very new field in which there’s a lot of progress month-by-month, year-over-year. In particular, perception modeling is challenging and interesting because we don’t know which features we are going to be developing a year from now. It’s our responsibility to leverage both public literature and our own internal research to focus on the most promising models for our self-driving system at every point in time. 

The more accurate and comprehensive our neural networks are, the better our self-driving vehicles operate, as they can react to a wider variety of scenarios and situations. For instance, when our system was unable to classify vegetation as such, we were limited to driving on roads without bushes protruding into the lane. Our models help improve system performance, and the more features we can incorporate into them, the closer we are to solving self-driving hard problems.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career? 

A few years ago during a Women of Uber ATG Employee Resource Group (ERG) meeting, Uber ATG’s Head of Software Engineering, Jon Thomason, spoke to us about best practices for excelling as a technical leader. His advice was to focus the early years of your career on getting in-depth technical expertise, and then, once you’ve carved out a niche for yourself as a subject matter expert, cultivating your leadership and people management skills. Even if you do not choose to become a personnel manager, it’s important to know how to effectively communicate, scale your knowledge, and in turn, extend your impact for the benefit of your company.

Rupal Khare, Senior Software Engineer, Bangalore

Why did you decide to join Uber?  

For users across the world, Uber has become an integral part of everyday life. The tech which makes it possible for Uber to work at this scale really fascinated me and, when the opportunity presented itself, I thought it would be interesting to work with a team that has such a direct impact on the physical world. I also wanted to work at a global company that would expose me to a diverse environment where I can learn both technical and soft skills. For those two reasons and many more, Uber certainly fit the bill! 

What do you work on at Uber? 

I work as a senior software engineer in the GSS Tech team. We build tools to support the Global Scaled Solutions (GSS) team, which provides a variety of services to various Uber organizations to optimize and scale their operational logistics. One such tool is a software platform that provides a work orchestration solution for workflows requiring skilled operators. Another solution my team works on scalably collects annotations for labelling ML models easily and quickly. Since rollout, the tool has been adopted by multiple teams across several use cases, including improving maps for drivers and pick-up instructions for riders.

What is the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received? 

One of my previous managers once told me, “always create your own definition of success.” This mantra has really helped me develop a clear understanding of what I want to achieve in all areas, from my professional career to my personal life. It also forces me to consider how I’m progressing towards this definition and how I can fill the gaps preventing me from achieving this success. 

Ariel Quinn, Software Engineer, Uber ATG

What sparked your interest in technology and engineering? 

I pursued a career in engineering because I wanted to do something that could help people. Using automation to do away with this or that pain point might not seem like a big deal, but those tiny improvements add up. Maybe engineering a slightly better search result or a slightly better interface saves somebody somewhere two minutes. The typical Uber user probably won’t know I made that improvement.

But two minutes is long enough to watch a sunrise or share a hug. Two minutes is long enough to say a prayer, count your blessings, and enjoy the majesty of the mountains. Life is lived in two minute increments. I became an engineer to rescue those two minutes.

What makes your work on Uber’s self-driving vehicles particularly challenging? 

On any given day, I have a dozen different things to do in a dozen different domains. I learn something new every day! One day I’ll be learning a novel feature of C++ (because goodness knows there are always new features to learn in C++) and the next I’ll be on the other end of the stack working in JavaScript. It is really challenging to keep up with our tight deadlines, but it has been a grand adventure. 

What is the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received? 

The best piece of advice I ever got was a reminder that no one has more control over my life than I do. If I have a problem with someone at work, I can address it with them. If I hate the way a certain interface works, I can fix it. 

Bad things may happen from time to time, but I am not a victim. I am a doer, a fixer, an addresser. I am an engineer. My mom reminded me of that. Thanks, Mom!

Julija Semenenko, Software Engineer, Vilnius

How did you first get interested in technology and engineering?

As a child, I was keen on astronomy, the beautifully strict logic of maths, and the freedom and expression of art. I was super happy to learn that programming combines both logic and freedom, allowing you to make everything you want, as long as you communicate it to the machine properly.

What do you work on at Uber? 

I am part of a team whose  service is super low on the stack—one of the lowest services to run on start-up. This means a lot of responsibilities. Also, scalability always has to be kept in mind, as we run on every host in the fleet.

What makes your work at Uber particularly rewarding? 

We are the guys nobody hears of while everything is working. And we are part of automation processes that require as little human interaction as possible. Scale is enormous, and that is truly thrilling.

What is most rewarding about working at Uber? 

Fulfillment. Once code changes turn out great, it feels amazing to be part of the team and part of the Uber infrastructure that provides a stable and reliable foundation for others to work on.

Theodora Tosheva, Software Engineer, Sofia

How did you first get interested in technology and engineering?

My road to engineering began when I was accepted in a High School of Mathematics, where I began studying a lot of math and information technologies. Probably the most influential part of my decision was going to the Telerik School Academy where I saw how fun it is to be an engineer. After graduating from the academy I landed my first job as a Junior Software Engineer. I’m always passionate about all challenges and I haven’t stopped working and studying since then.

What is your role at Uber? 

I am part of the Receipts team and one of the things that makes our work  challenging is that there are different compliance and legal requirements for different countries and cities, and finding elegant solutions is not trivial.

What makes your work at Uber particularly novel or challenging?

What I find to be interesting is that we have thematic days like “no-meetings-Wednesday”. Another thing I value is that you never see a manager telling people what to do, but rather people, even interns, deciding to act on an idea and finding a way to pursue it with the guidance of the manager. There are many cross-team initiatives that encourage people to share their passions and interests.

Kim Asenbeck, Software Engineer, Seattle

How did you first get interested in technology and engineering? 

In college, I started off as an Econ major. I spent the year before college with a gap year program called Global Citizen Year living in the northeast of Brazil. I came away from that interested in studying poverty, inequality, and economic development in college, but eventually I found myself frustrated with the speed at which economic research progresses. Soon thereafter, I started exploring computer science, and found myself thrilled with the speed and scale at which the tech industry operates. I realized that many of the same problems that motivated my interest in economics can be addressed with software solutions, as well.

Why did you decide to join Uber?  

My choice to join Uber came from a longstanding interest in transportation technology. I’m fascinated by the effect that the health and strength of a country’s transportation infrastructure has on the well-being of an economy. Uber was a natural fit given that the mission of “igniting opportunity by setting the world in motion” aligns so well with my own mission of working in service of global economic growth and empowerment.

What products or projects do you work on as a member of the Vehicles team? 

I am a full stack engineer on the Vehicles team. My team focuses on creating access to vehicles for those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to drive on the Uber platform. Uber provides meaningful earning opportunities for people around the world, but access to these opportunities can be limited by the high cost of a vehicle. I’m proud of the impact my team’s work has on increasing access to this opportunity.

What is most rewarding about working at Uber? 

Shortly after I started at Uber, I had the chance to represent Uber at a community resource fair hosted by United Way of Seattle. The event served as a one-stop shop for people in need to access housing resources, employment opportunities, and get other needs met (e.g. haircuts, showers, and access to clothing donations, among other things). Uber was present at the career fair, and my team’s product presented a means for creating earning opportunities for those who don’t have access to a car. On that day, we managed to sign up dozens of new drivers. For me, it was rewarding to see the impact that our product can have, and the doors we can help open for people.

Gayatri Iyengar, Engineering Manager, NYC

How did you first get interested in technology and engineering? 

I’ve been fascinated with these fields since I was very young. My very first memory of being excited about STEM was when I would look at the license numbers on cars and analyze how they were related to each other. I would figure out if they were prime numbers and calculate if they were divisible by each other. I would do that anytime I was on the road. I was also a very creative person growing up, and I still am. I realized that I could combine that creativity with my love of STEM to build products, so engineering seemed like the obvious choice. 

Why did you decide to join Uber?

There are two main reasons I decided to join Uber: its outstanding products and its company values. 

First of all, Uber is a once-in-a-lifetime transformative company. Our products truly change the world. It’s changed the way I operate and the way families operate everywhere. For example, with my five-year-old, we were doing three-letter word exercises and he asked me, “what is a cab?” He had never heard of one. I had to explain it to him by saying, “you know, like an Uber,” and then he understood. Uber’s pervasive technology is changing the world of transportation. I wanted to be involved in that change as an engineer. Second, when I joined Uber, I heard our CEO, Dara, speak about how the company wanted to make positive changes, be transparent, and really do the right thing. Uber’s integrity is very close to my heart, and a major reason I decided to work here. 

What makes your work on Uber’s Infrastructure Team particularly challenging?

Millions of trips take place across the Uber network every day. These trips help move products, people, and services from one place to another. Infrastructure is the foundation for Uber products like Driver, Eats, and Freight, and thus the scale of Uber’s infrastructure challenges matches the size of Uber itself. My team’s applications help engineers monitor and debug their services. Our applications have to meet many users’ unique needs all at once but still be scalable, resilient, and reliable. In addition, we want to mobilize our partners to build their products efficiently, but in a controlled fashion. Managing these contrasting needs makes my role very challenging! 

What is most rewarding about working at Uber? 

I love seeing the results of my team’s work make a difference to other engineers. At the end of the day, when I see Uber launching products faster due to improved developer velocity it makes me very proud of my team’s work. I also get the chance to work with some very talented, creative, smart engineers and leaders and learn new things everyday. And finally, change is the only constant at Uber and every month that I have been at Uber, I have been challenged to push myself more! 

Flavia Rangel, Software Engineer, São Paulo

How did you first get interested in technology and engineering? 

My passion for technology began in high school. I took a special exam and was accepted to a technical school within UNESP (Sao Paulo State University) in my hometown, Guaratingueta. I originally wanted to go to this high school because I thought it would help me have a more successful future, but over time, I developed a true passion for technology. 

In my program, I took normal high school courses in the afternoons and technical courses in the evenings. I studied electronics fundamentals, industrial automation, and software development. I enjoyed learning about software, hardware, the relationship between both, and what I could do to improve an industrial process or society. For example, I learned how to program an elevator’s logic and automate traffic lights. 

These courses helped awaken a sense of curiosity in me and made me more aware of my capabilities. I was proud of what I could accomplish as an engineer. After I graduated from high school, I took an internship developing Java Desktop Applications and earned a certificate as an industrial technology technician. At that point, I was certain that my future was to work with technology.

Why did you decide to join Uber?

I decided to join Uber because of our valuable product, our unique company, and the exciting challenges I would face in my role. On the product side, I’m a big fan and heavy user of Uber’s ride-sharing platform. I really believe Uber’s efficiency can help solve mobility problems in cities.  As far as the company goes, Uber is known for being one of the greatest places to work and has created many open source technologies. Open source technologies are inspiring for me because they encourage the larger coding community to evolve and contribute to technological advancements. I also wanted to push myself to improve and take on personal challenges at Uber. I knew that speaking English (which isn’t my native language), creating technology on such a large scale, and dealing with global use cases wouldn’t be easy, but I was excited to rise to the occasion. I was also thrilled to work with some of the greatest professionals in tech at Uber.

What makes your work at Uber particularly novel or challenging?

Given Uber’s global reach and growth, most of the engineering challenges I face are related to scalability. Since Uber reaches so many customers and we are, as we put it, customer-obsessed, scalability is particularly challenging. My team and I must take on the important task of delivering an excellent experience to all users at the same time around the world.

Shabnam Embadi, Senior Software Engineer, Uber Elevate

Why did you decide to join Uber? From there, how did you decide to join Uber Elevate? 

I joined Uber because I wanted my work to make an impact and I believe fiercely in the mission of making cities better. Elevate’s goal is to leverage Uber’s ride sharing network to make urban air mobility accessible and to further the mission of improving cities by decreasing traffic congestion. The opportunity to be at the forefront of the urban air mobility space was exactly the type of impact I was looking for. 

What is your role at Uber? What products or projects do you work on as a member of Uber Elevate?  

I am a back-end engineer on the Airspace Systems team. We are responsible for building all of the technology we need to manage this network of aircraft, both drones and passenger-carrying vehicles. More recently, we built and launched the company’s very first multimodal product, Uber Copter, which required integrating first and last mile Uber ground legs to and from the heliports, along with the helicopter ride itself, into one seamless journey.

What is most rewarding about working at Uber? 

Launching Uber Copter has been both the most challenging and most rewarding thing I have done at Uber. It is our very first multimodal product, something that had been on the company’s roadmap for years, and we implemented it in a matter of months with an extremely lean team. Paving the way for future multimodal integrations makes it even more exciting. The icing on the cake was sharing our engineering path to multimodal at our annual Elevate Summit this past June with over a thousand external attendees.

What is the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received? 

Always come in with solutions. Complaining is certainly cathartic but it will only get you so far. Be open with the problems but be a part of the solution. Another bit of advice I’ve always liked is to become the go-to person for something, anything. 

Rajni Gupta, Software Engineer, Hyderabad

Which products or programs do you work on within Uber? How do they improve user experiences on the platform?  

I have worked mainly in two areas. Initially, I was a part of Risk Investigations, which builds tools for the Operations team to identify fraud. The service I worked on combines data from different microservices within Uber’s stack and is being used for gathering signals that might indicate a fraudulent transaction. Currently, I am working with Risk Governance, which helps risk analysts configure rules that prevent fraud on our platform. I am working on a project to deploy these rules more quickly. Preventing fraud at Uber helps ensure that legitimate transactions go forward with fair pay for customers and earnings for drivers.

What makes your work at Uber particularly novel or challenging?

Since I joined Uber, I have worked on multiple languages and database technologies including Golang, Cassandra, and HDFS. It’s both challenging and exciting to learn and work on new technologies for different projects. 

What is most rewarding about working at Uber? 

One of the most rewarding things is that I get to work with very talented engineers. I also got to own the projects that I worked on from day one. Additionally, I found opportunities to take responsibility for things beyond regular projects. For example, I helped out on our campus hiring efforts, which involved interviewing Computer Science students and helping the Hyderabad team to grow.

What is the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received? 

Don’t be afraid of committing mistakes. Sometimes, people in the corporate world are so conscious about doing everything right that they are afraid to take on new projects where they have to learn new things. We should be willing to take a risk, make mistakes, and learn from them to achieve our goals. 

Madhu Ravichandran, Senior Software Engineer, Uber Freight

Why did you decide to join Uber?

I was excited to interview with Uber because I loved the product, the challenge, and its huge impact on transportation. I loved the interview process, learnt so much, and enjoyed talking to everyone. I liked that engineers had autonomy and felt passionate about working here.

What do you do at Uber? 

I am an engineer on the Freight Pricing team. I lead a group of engineers building platforms for pricing prediction, products for shippers, and tools to help the Operations team acquire new loads for the freight marketplace.

What makes your work on the Uber Freight team unique to other roles you’ve held? 

Getting to know the unique challenges of the trucking industry, learning the many different terms, and gaining empathy for shippers and drivers is one of the first challenges when starting out on Freight. The industry is somewhat resistant to change and technological innovation so finding the right balance can be tricky. We run a lot of experiments to see what works. The product I’m working on now offers a simple solution for the majority of the users, but a small percent use it in a more complex manner, so staging the right architecture has been a fun challenge.

What is the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

One of my favorites was to not obsess over my areas of improvement. It’s tempting to focus on filling knowledge gaps at the risk of losing out on strengths. Building up my strengths is just as important.

If tackling challenging technical problems as part of a talented, global engineering team with appeals to you, consider applying for a role with Uber!