Transitioning from Consulting to the Autonomous Driving World with Yiwei Zhao

KeystoneNext member Yiwei Zhao recently spoke to the Keystone community about her role as Senior Product Operations Manager at Cruise.
By Isbah Bandeali, Associate at Keystone Strategy
August 27, 2021   /   2 Minute Read
Yiwei Zhao Headshot

As part of our KeystoneNext Speaker Series, one of our former Consultants joined us to share her experiences transitioning from consulting to the autonomous driving industry. Yiwei Zhao worked at Keystone from 2016 to 2019, rising from an Associate to a Consultant during her four years at the firm. Born and raised in China, Yiwei attended Brown University for her undergrad and majored in International Relations and Economics. Following her graduation, Keystone welcomed Yiwei to the firm’s San Francisco office where she remained until her role at Cruise commenced. While she was at Keystone, she co-founded KeystoneNext—Keystone’s alumni network—with Jeff Marowits in 2019. 

While at Keystone, Yiwei got the full experience of consulting at Keystone, working on both strategy and expert-related projects. Yiwei remembers working on a wide range of projects focused on emerging technologies and came to really enjoy it. During these cases, she recalls she absorbed a ton of knowledge and industry expertise through senior executive interviews, mostly around cloud platform adoption for Azure. A highlight of her tenure was attending a trial for one of the antitrust matters she supported during her time at Keystone.

Yiwei joined Cruise in 2019 and currently serves as a Senior Product Operations Manager at the self-driving car company. In her day-to-day, she works to understand the scope of challenges and to solve these problems alongside a team of machine learning (ML) engineers. In this session, Yiwei shared about misconceptions around self-driving, the self-driving industry, and her perspectives on these topics. She also spoke about how Keystone helped shaped her professional journey to get to Cruise and her motivations for exploring the tech industry.

Cruise has been focusing their R&D on the core technology, but they have recently launched more videos to demonstrate their progress publicly. There are a lot of machine learning applications that power an autonomous vehicle, including those surrounding localization and mapping, perception and navigation, planning, and controls. Yiwei works for the perception team, specifically working on data operations, product development and operational excellence. Some of her daily tasks include working closely with engineers to work out the semantics of different ML objects.

“My exposure to emerging technologies at keystone helped me kind of cultivate a passion for learning and problem solving and really just staying curious,” said Yiwei. Her insight on the self-driving industry has been invaluable. She continues to enjoy searching for the why behind everything, a Keystone habit that has followed her to her present career.

For more information about our KeystoneNext programming, contact us: [email protected]

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