Women in Autonomy panelist Bonnie Datta is passionate about disruptive technologies. As Founder of Plug to Grid Strategies, an advisory firm with a mission of decarbonization with a focus on the autonomous, electrified, and connected transport ecosystem, Bonnie is an expert on transport electrification and grid modernization. She is also the co-founder of a charging infrastructure start-up currently in stealth. Prior to our upcoming virtual panel, From Ambition to Reality: The Path Toward a Carbon Free Future, we sat down with Bonnie to get a sneak peek on the issues that will be discussed, from infrastructure and regulatory, to materials and scalability - as we push toward an electric future.
WIA: What is the single biggest challenge to widespread EV adoption?
BD: Reliability and availability of public charging is the single biggest hurdle we face today for EV adoption beyond the early-adopter segment. The number of chargers installed is a misleading statistic – the right data would be how many functional chargers are available at any point of time for drivers. A recent study conducted by the University of California, Berkeley found that almost 25% of public chargers in the San Francisco Bay Area were non-functional, and a recent New York Times article revealed that reliability of a leading charging provider was at only 61%.
How many times have you gone to a gas station for your ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle and found that the pump was not working? While there is regulatory work underway to ensure a 97% uptime assurance from EV service providers, how the regulation will be enforced – especially for chargers that are being publicly funded – is the multi-billion dollar question.
The average miles driven daily for light-duty vehicles is around 40 miles. Today, most EVs come with a 200+ mile range, with approximately 80% of charging taking place at long dwell sites, such as at home or places of work. However, reliability of public charging is a psychological barrier that is critical for widespread adoption, as well to provide the peace of mind required for those occasional long-distance drives.
WIA: What needs to happen in 2023 to advance electrification?
BD: I believe that the key to ICE-EV driver conversion is:
In terms of fleet adoption, we require:
WIA: Is the future fully electric?
BD: As a powered-by-electrons advocate, I would like to say yes – however, there are certain use cases where other zero-emission fuels may be appropriate, such as long-haul aircrafts.
Join Bonnie and the rest of our expert panel as they discuss the issues and opportunities of EVs and electrification during the upcoming Women in Autonomy virtual panel From Ambition to Reality: The Path Toward a Carbon Free Future on Thursday, March 2nd, 2023 at 9:00 AM PT / 12:00 PM ET.
Learn more and register here.
Whether you’re looking for your first job or have been in your field for years, it can be incredibly difficult to determine if you’re on the right track for the career you want.
During the Women in Autonomy virtual panel, Driving Your Career, women from various autonomous vehicle companies discussed their paths and advice for finding the right career fit. There’s no single prescription for job success, however, there are common practices anyone can employ to build a meaningful career.
Watch the recording of Driving Your Career, here.
The panel — moderated by Faryl Ury, Director of Communications at Aurora — featured Julie Derence, Co-Founder of TBD Robotics, Jessica Smith, Senior Software Engineer at Aurora, and Apoorva Sachdev Lakshmanan, Technical Program Manager at Waymo.
While each panelist differed in background, interests and job role, they took similar steps to find a career they were truly passionate about.
Forget ‘Climbing the Ladder’
The panelists agreed that, as you build out your goals, one of the most important perspectives to keep in mind is that career trajectories aren’t linear.
Success doesn’t necessarily mean climbing the corporate ladder. Rather, discover what you’re truly interested in working on and seek out roles that fulfill those requirements.
“Create your own definition of success,” Derence said, adding that discussing your ideas with people you trust, like a partner, family member or friend, can help develop that definition over time.
Smith said she learned that lesson through experience, when she was promoted to a management role early on in her tenure at a company. While it felt good to be trusted as a manager, Smith said she was quickly overwhelmed with the requirements and had less time to spend on what she enjoyed working on.
As a result, she moved back to an individual contributor role, working on projects that sparked her interest alongside other engineers.
“Build boundaries around your expectations,” Smith said. “It’s important to apply the lessons you learn from past mistakes and experiences to really grow.”
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
While career growth can stem from both promotions and lateral moves, the panelists said it’s also critical to continuously challenge yourself.
Companies offer opportunities — both large and small — for growth and to expand outside of your current role. Derence’s advice: take them.
“You should strive to feel uncomfortable at work,” she said.
Lakshmanan echoed Derence, adding that it’s important to always be learning on the job and not let yourself be “boxed in” to your title. As you progress through your career, reflect on the aspects of the job you like and those of other roles you’re interested in.
Reaching out to those in your company whose work you admire is a useful way to learn more about these opportunities as well as build out your network.
“There’s no harm in making the connection,” Lakshmanan said.
Build a Community
In addition to a personal network, panelists said building a community within your company or industry is an invaluable resource for continual career development.
Find out if your company has employee interest groups, or if there aren’t any that fit your goals, start your own.
“Seek out diverse groups of people to interact with,” Derence said. “It’s important to provide a space where women can speak freely and have an environment to talk and share experiences.”
Smith added that her career has significantly benefited from collaborating with fellow engineers, as well as mentors outside of her specific role or area of expertise.
Industry groups and conferences such as Women in Autonomy and Grace Hopper Celebration provide these opportunities for community building and mentorship.
Finally, don’t hold yourself to impossible standards. No one can do it all, and finding balance between work and life is key to finding fulfillment in your career.
“You’re balancing balls in the air, and each ball is either glass or plastic,” Lakshmanan said, referring to both work and life responsibilities. “Every day you’re deciding which balls to drop, because you’re human and you can’t keep everything in the air. If it’s plastic, it’s OK, it will bounce back up.”
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