The IUP Graduate Business Student Association was given the
opportunity to tour Uber’s office in Pittsburgh, where self-driving car research
is being conducted and technology is being developed. GBSA Vice President Liam
Carlin coordinated the visit. Our host
was Pranav Bhatkhande, Control Systems engineer. Bhatkhande is an Uber
veteran who had the distinction of helping build Uber’s first self-driving car
and has been involved in each subsequent generation of their efforts—including
top secret future versions that we were not able to see.
In such a sensitive technology site, we were not able to
take pictures, but, describing the facility, if one were to visit, they would
see a facility that is full of energy and innovation. Uber provides many of the
perks that tech companies are famous for, such as ample free snacks, comfortable
lounge seating, and what was described as the life blood of the facility,
The Uber self-driving car effort is only 2½ years old, but
already the team has developed a very strong culture. Looking around the
office, one can see many artifacts of a work hard/play hard culture.
Interestingly, the stereotype of a tech company is a bunch of 20-something young
employees working crazy hours. The Uber team has a mix of the expected young
dynamism mixed with experience and gray hair. Engineers were observed working
with an air of intensity; but, as our group moved through the facility, everyone
readily looked up and greeted us with a genuine smile.
GSBA President Yash
Agarwal commented that, “it was amazing how strong the culture was and how
committed all the small teams appeared. It was obvious that the teams had
What surprises did the IUP students see? We were introduced
to the engineer tasked with designing the Uber flying car (really? or were they testing these inquisitive
MBAs?). Uber has artist renditions of future self-driving cars that look more
like a rolling living room with docking stations to carry bicycles on the back
and land drones on the roof. They clearly are seeking to demonstrate to customers
that it makes more economic sense and offers better service to use Uber versus
owning a car.
John Lipinski, the GBSA advisor, was also impressed with how
quickly a strong culture has developed. It seemed like every corner of the
building had a nickname. There were video screens in the facility serving two
purposes. One was showing the status of various initiatives for self-driving
technology to provide both status updates and a little peer pressure to
motivate the various teams. The other was flashing anniversary dates.
observation reminds one A) how new of a company Uber is, and B) how fast they
are growing. The screen first welcomed new employees, NUbers. Then it
congratulated a number of employees celebrating their first anniversary, their second anniversary—and then there is a precipitous
drop-off for third and fourth anniversaries. Finally, the
screen congratulated one employee on his fifth anniversary.
Bhatkhande reflected on how far Uber has come very
quickly in Pittsburgh. This new, super-modern facility is only about 2½
years old (Uber has been in Pittsburgh for about 3½ years). He reflected on
his time in their original Pittsburgh facility where the ceiling dropped
detritus into his coffee if he left it sitting uncovered on his desk.
MBA students had a wonderful experience glimpsing a piece of the future of
Eberly College of Business and Information Technology