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Win together: Here’s what we learned at Aurora’s Girl Geek event

July 26, 2019 | 3 min. read

By the Aurora Team


Here at Aurora, we have a set of values that guide our company and our culture. One of these values is "win together."

"We are building a company, and in turn technology, to serve people and communities broadly. We derive strength from the unique perspectives and experiences that reflect the diversity of the world we live in. To benefit from this diversity, we seek to listen as often as we speak and challenge each other to think and act in new ways."

"Win together" means working and succeeding as a team—a team with different viewpoints and comprised of people with diverse backgrounds. In our mission, we talk about delivering the benefits of self-driving technology broadly, which means serving a diverse population. And that means we need a diverse team building our technology.


This week we had the chance to highlight the work of many of Aurora’s women when we hosted a Girl Geek event in our San Francisco office. The evening included tech talks, a panel on personal and professional brands, and, of course, lots of networking.

Software Engineer Jessica Smith spoke about simulation, Technical Operations Specialist Haley Sherwood talked about our machine learning datasets, and Mapping Operations Lead Elizabeth Dreimiller spoke about how we are building maps at Aurora.

We held a panel discussion about how our personal brands—intentionally or not—play a larger role in our careers. The panel featured women leaders from teams across Aurora. You can watch a video recap of our event.


Pictured from left to right: Khobi Brooklyn, VP of Communications; Chethana Bhasham, Technical Program Manager; Jessica Smith, Software Engineer; Lia Theodosiou-Pisanelli, Head of Partner Products & Programs; Catherine Tornabene, Head of Intellectual Property.

Here are the top 10 things we heard and learned

  1. When it comes to our machine learning data sets, Aurora prioritizes quality over quantity, so we’re training our models using the highest-quality annotations.

  2. Simulation is used for offline virtual testing and can range in fidelity from a simplified model of the world to physically-based replicas of real-world scenarios. We use simulation as a developer tool, for regression testing, and for problem space exploration.

  3. Aurora’s simulation team is an integral part of the company and is integrated into the development work done by the perception and planning teams.

  4. At Aurora, we’re creating maps to allow the Aurora Driver to navigate from point A to point B. The mapping engineering and operations teams work closely to turn highly complex real-world road networks into digital maps. These maps are vital—they tell the Aurora Driver where it is in relation to the world around it, and how it should interact with that world.

  5. A brand is about building an emotional connection. It’s how we’re perceived. You don’t need social media to build a brand, you can build your reputation based on the work you do, how you show up to a meeting, and even how you write your emails.

  6. When you take a new job or switch industries, the learning curve can be steep. One advantage to working in the self-driving industry is that we’re all figuring out new challenges together. Be willing to learn and don’t be afraid to say you don’t know something.

  7. When you get feedback, dig in a little. You don’t have to accept every piece of advice you get, but at least collect some data and get context. For example, maybe the label “aggressive” isn’t fair—but it might be masking something else you could improve. Also, try to assume positive intent when you get feedback.

  8. It’s easy to be frustrated by conflicting advice. One panelist was told not to smile as a student-athlete so she could focus on winning. Then in the workforce, she was told to smile more to get colleagues to like her. Another panelist was told by one boss not to use exclamation points in emails as it makes her seem like she’s not serious. Her next boss said her communication style was too direct and she needed to add more emojis. At the end of the day, listen to the different viewpoints, but ultimately decide what feels authentic to who you are!

  9. When thinking about your career, don’t just think about your next job—think about your next, next job. That will help you better understand where you want to go and what you want to do.

  10. Once you start down a path, it doesn’t mean you’re there forever. One panelist started her career as an engineer and then went to law school, ultimately building a brand as a lawyer who understands highly technical issues. Sometimes the meandering that seems to take you away from your path is actually the most valuable experience of all.

Here at Aurora, we take career growth seriously and we were honored to have more than 150 women attend our event. We’re always looking for more great people to join our team. If you’re interested in our open roles, you can learn more here: https://aurora.tech/careers.1a653499-8671-49e2-b514-76454d23ad41_Girl-Geek_temp-collage

This week we had the chance to highlight the work of many of Aurora’s women when we hosted a Girl Geek event in our San Francisco office. The evening included tech talks, a panel on personal and professional brands, and of course — lots of networking.

the Aurora Team

Delivering the benefits of self-driving technology safely, quickly, and broadly.