Continental Intelligent Transportation Systems | Continental AG
What attracted you to the auto industry? I've always enjoyed opportunities to build businesses in different industries. When I took my position on the Google self-driving car project, it was a sandbox of scientists. The attraction was the chance to take this burgeoning technology and develop it in an affordable way for everyone.
First automotive job: I was the senior manager of global business development for Google's self-driving cars project, and I was responsible for partnering with both automotive and nonautomotive companies to build the first platform. I joined at the end of 2010, and the first prototype was released in May 2014. I left that July.
What is the major challenge you've faced in your career? I get bored easily. I have this problem of seeing things before they happen and trying to make them happen sooner. And then it bothers me because we're not there yet.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career? All the people who have made me feel confident that I can handle a very complex, challenging situation. My mom, my brother and my dear friend Dr. Anna Patterson, who's in charge of artificial intelligence at Google, for supporting the belief that I can lead technology forward without formal engineering training.
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? It starts with getting girls to stay in STEM subjects. They might enjoy science, but by the time they leave school, they don't necessarily go into engineering.
Tell us about your family. I come from an immigrant family. My father was given a green card in the early 1960s to practice heart surgery in this country. He always believed strongly in education, and that's why both of my siblings and I were given the opportunity to get an education, and we all went on to do good work in the field of science and technology. My brother is a world famous doctor, Dr. Oz. He lives in New York. My sister lives in Istanbul. My family has a pharmaceutical company there and she runs part of the factory operations.
What's your favorite weekend activity? Spending time with my daughter and her friends. Every weekend when I'm home, I try to have a sleepover. We have this oversized trampoline outside my house that takes up half my yard, and the girls eat popcorn and watch movies and sleep on the trampoline. I enjoy spending time listening to them, learning from their banter and how they communicate.
What keeps you up at night? The thought of missing out on the great inventions that'll happen after I'm dead. All this stuff is coming, and I'm not going to be here!
Name one thing about yourself that most people don't know. I love the water. I'm happiest when I'm on the water, which is funny, because I'm in the auto industry now. Every year, I take an extended sailing trip on the Aegean Sea with my family and my extended family. It's where I refresh myself.
Name one talent you wish you had. I wish I could code. I feel that if I had been born a generation or two later, I would have learned to do that. When I see other people coding, I look over their shoulder and just wish that I had the skill set to be a great coder. Great coders can be revolutionary.
By Gabe Nelson