Cruising along with autonomous vehicles
Jonathan Wilson ’09 earned a degree in mechanical engineering. He went on to the University of Pennsylvania for a master’s in engineering (in integrated product design), which combined coursework from the School of Engineering, School of Design and Wharton School of Business. Today he is senior manager of fleet management at Cruise, a leader in the field of autonomous vehicle development. Jon leads a team that functions as liaisons between the engineering teams and the 24/7 autonomous fleet operations, to ensure allocation and prioritization of on-road testing aligns with the company’s objectives.
What are/were the most challenging aspects of your career? What are/were the most rewarding?
Working at Cruise has been amazing in many ways. The beginning involved scaling our team through dramatic hyper-growth, which was challenging, but also incredibly rewarding as I was witness to seeing peers grow into leaders. At that stage we also had so many problems to solve and processes to design and implement that every day was a land of opportunity. Identifying, prioritizing and tackling them felt like solving puzzles with an inspiring cross-functional team. As things calmed down, it became a time to harden the operation and chip away at the many continuous improvement opportunities. Today we are a well-oiled machine in some regards, but in the big picture it’s still the early days. The next chapter is going to be an order of magnitude larger and I cannot wait to begin the cycle anew.
How has your engineering degree been useful in another field?
My engineering degree has provided me with a creative and methodical problem solving skill set that I’ve put to work in a variety of fields including architecture, product design and Fleet Operations.
What was your most formative experience at Union?
My most formative experience at Union was unquestionably participating in the SAE Baja program. It provided the most tangible and applicable engineering design, planning and project management experience at Union, while at the same time being incredibly fun and rewarding. It was a highlight of my time at Union and I’m still proud of what our small team was able to accomplish.
What’s the best piece of advice (professional or personal) you ever received?
A co-worker told me a story about one of his former bosses who wrote “Attitude and Effort” in indelible ink at the top of his whiteboard. It resonated because there is a lot outside our control, but attitude and effort are always up to us and are critical if you’re to be a good teammate and make a difference in the world.