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International Women’s Day – Chih Hu

Women in Big Data is spotlighting amazing women

By Chih Hu

I’m a technical leader specializing in artificial intelligence and machine learning for robotics and recommendation systems. I’ve spent over half a decade focusing on building the brains behind self driving vehicles—perception, mapping, planning, and simulation. Currently, I’m an Engineering Manager at Level 5, Lyft’s self-driving division, leading a strategic team specializing in simulation evaluation for autonomous vehicle deployment. At Lyft, I also led the engineering team critical to the delivery of Lyft’s next generation routing engine, which was core to powering accurate ETAs for rideshare.

Previously, I held Engineering Manager and Software Engineering roles at VMware, Uber, Drive.ai, International Computer Science Institute, and Symantec, where I developed products and published research papers in the areas of network security, software-defined networking, mapping, and distributed deep learning. I hold an MS in Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE) from Carnegie Mellon University and BS in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (EECS) from University of California, Berkeley.

I’m passionate about mentoring and giving back to the tech community. In 2014, I was featured in the Wall Street Journal for my technical achievements in distributed systems and focus on driving diversity and inclusion at VMware.

My career journey

I started out working on large-scale distributed systems, beginning my career on enterprise software at VMware, building a product for data center disaster recovery and storage solutions. It has been fascinating to see the impact our product had on enterprise customers as unpredictable and unavoidable natural disasters (hurricanes, fires, etc.) occurred globally over the years. High availability is critical for companies who offer consumer platforms and products, and we backed their services, virtual machines, and data storage platforms.

I continued school part time to explore additional topics such as cloud computing and entrepreneurship. In grad school, my research areas were in distributed computing, specifically focusing on machine learning on edge devices. This led me down an exploratory path, where I devolved machine learning applications prototypes for image recognition, video tracking, q&a, speech, nlp[c], and more on commodity devices such as phones, compute sticks, and drones. I also partnered with startups such as Uber and Drive.ai to build systems critical to their technology.

Over time I’ve honed my technical skills and strengths and grown into a technical leader building teams, coaching engineers, and establishing large impact for organizations. As a multiplier of my team, I strive to enable my team(s) to deliver their best work and achieve more than each one of us could accomplish individually. It’s very rewarding to see my team and mentees achieve their goals, and even surprise themselves at times.

What motivates me

I’ve always been drawn to the mission and impact of technology. The ability to improve the user experience[d] and unlock new features for customers continues to drive my product and technical vision. Personally, I enjoy reading, learning, and problem solving. I’m fortunate to trailblaze my own career in technology and spend my time building, tinkering, and productionizing technology that enables people. I believe there’s a lot of potential for machine learning and artificial intelligence to have broad impact in personal recommendation systems, robotics (great examples in surgical fields and self driving), healthcare, etc., and I look forward to the future we are able to create, with the new set of interesting problems in AI ethics and explainability.

What bothers me 

Does anyone else wonder why we’re bound by schedules if time is but a human construct? There’s so much I want to do with the limited time I have. I hope that one day we’ll be able to beat time—from time travel to teleportation to longer lifespans—so that we may enjoy all that the world has to offer. In all seriousness, I’m thrilled to see how the next stage of AI devices will unlock new technical areas and influence change in human habits. It’ll likely lead us to revisit some of the assumptions we’ve made to get to where we are today. Reach out if you’re excited by this and want to explore some interesting opportunities at the frontier of technology.

Quotes or inspirations I live by

I have several, a few that come to mind recently:

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment, until it becomes a memory.” This is particularly relevant for us now during trying times where the world looks very different and we may not be able to spend time with loved ones. Spend time where you can make a difference; and spend that time well, even virtually.

“Don’t let anyone speak for you, and don’t rely on others to fight for you.” — Michelle Obama. This is a personal one for me. The road in tech hasn’t been an easy one, but has been one filled with great mentors, friendships, and learnings along the way. With that said, the most valuable learning I will always take with me is my authentic voice.

Message that I’d like to share with an awesome one community of 17,000+ women worldwide

It’s an honor to be able to share my story with this group. If there’s anything that we can collaborate on or help out with, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Lastly, I leave you with a classic quote that has been with me throughout my journey in life:

“I dwell in possibility.” — Emily Dickinson.

 

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