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Advice / Career Paths / Career Stories

How This Tech Leader Is Driving the Future of Transportation

A photo of a smiling person dressed in a white shirt and blue jeans. The person has long brown hair.
Megan Prichard, the Vice President of Ridehail and Delivery at Cruise.
| Courtesy of Cruise

Megan Prichard’s career in technology has unexpected origins. “I’m actually a lawyer by trade, but I never practiced,” she says. After graduating from USC Gould School of Law, she worked as a consultant for the international consulting firm McKinsey & Company in São Paulo, Brazil. There, she was able to build upon the valuable communication skills that she acquired as a graduate student.

“Both law school and McKinsey gave me a solid foundation to comprehensively think about a problem and influence a complex group of stakeholders to agree on a solution,” she says.

After five years with McKinsey, she took on leadership roles at Uber and Ford Motor Company. Today, Prichard is the Vice President of Ridehail and Delivery at Cruise, a pioneering self-driving car company.

Here, she shares why she’s passionate about Cruise’s forward-thinking mission, how she helps foster an inclusive work culture, and what it takes to become a successful leader.

What attracted you to Cruise, and how did you know the company would be a good fit?

Transportation planner Daniel Burnham once said, “Make no little plans.” At Cruise, we set our sights on revolutionizing the transportation of people and goods to be safer, sustainable, and cost-efficient all around the world. In partnership with General Motors, Cruise is positioned to continue evolving and mass-scaling autonomous vehicle technology.

As a mission-driven leader, I knew that Cruise would be a great fit.

What do you find especially interesting about working within the ridesharing industry?

From an early age, I’ve been obsessed with mobility and transportation. When I was 11, I snuck out and drove my parents’ car to a friend’s house; I got caught by the neighbors down the block.

For me, transportation is key to unlocking community and opportunity. Throughout my career, I’ve worked with mobility service providers that include airlines, ride-hailing, scooters, electric bikes, helicopters, and flying cars. Working with so many different modes of transportation before Cruise gave me a library of experiences to draw on when thinking about how to creatively solve new challenges that arise with Cruise’s self-driving, all-electric fleet. I love what I do so much that I feel like I’ve never worked a day in my life.

What are your core responsibilities as the Vice President of Ridehail and Delivery?

As a leader, I’m responsible for bringing our self-driving technology to market and providing amazing ride-hailing and delivery experiences for the customers and communities we serve.

Why does this work excite and inspire you?

The way we see it, the status quo of personal transportation is broken. More than 40,000 people in the U.S. are killed in car accidents every year, and our packed roads are the biggest contributor to carbon pollution, making it unsafe for people and the environment.

Getting to play a role in this game-changing technology and providing people with a safer, cleaner, and more accessible transportation option is what motivates me. This is transformative technology, but at the end of the day, it’s about people and the positive change we can make in the world.

You’ve been at Cruise for three years. What’s one highlight of your tenure at the company thus far?

I will never forget hailing my first ride in a fully autonomous Cruise vehicle. Seeing an empty Cruise pull up to me made me realize that we’re building a game-changing product. I got in, buckled my seatbelt, and the rest was pure magic. Experiencing the car as it navigated the streets of San Francisco while I relaxed and listened to music changed my perception of what transportation could be. Self-driving cars will give people their time and money back, transforming something that’s often tedious into a delightful and low-cost experience.

Tell us about your involvement with the internal community group LGBTQruise. What does your advisory role entail, and why is this work important to you?

As an advisor to LGBTQruise, I help organize community events and also advocate for community issues at the senior leadership level. I didn’t see a lot of people like myself in leadership roles when I was younger, so it’s important to be visible and let other members of the LGBTQ community know that they can achieve anything they put their minds to—and that I’ll be their advocate along the way.

Why are groups like these critical for Cruise’s work culture? What impact has it had on the overall employee experience?

Cruise Community Groups like LGBTQruise, Empowering Women of Cruise, and others are critical to creating a sense of community at Cruise. When people can authentically be themselves, they produce their best work and ideas.

When we first launched our driverless ride-hail service to the public in San Francisco, we did so hand in hand with our Community Groups. They were excited to share the driverless experience with their broader communities, and we were able to grant early access to many groups of the public that don’t typically get first access to new technologies.

How would you describe your leadership style? What steps have you taken to be successful?

As a leader, I consider myself to be a strategic executor. I recognize that strategy and operations are integrally linked and must be considered jointly. In launching self-driving cars—previously thought to be the stuff of science fiction—it’s important to have both a vision and a realistic plan to overcome the challenges of launching in the real world.

I like to set a bold goal and empower the strengths of my teams to achieve it. I also believe in an open, transparent feedback culture. I try to give as much feedback as possible to help develop my team, and I ask that those around me provide the same gift.

What’s been your biggest challenge as a woman in a leadership role, and how did you overcome it?

I’m often called “aggressive” or “scary” when I advocate for my ideas and share contrarian viewpoints in the office. I won’t hesitate to share my opinion directly and respectfully, even if it’s unpopular, as I believe that all leaders should. I do feel like this behavior is celebrated in men while negatively labeled in women.

What’s one thing that most people would be surprised to learn about you?

I’m not scary! I’m the first person to lend a hand and be a sounding board. I’m really friendly and will be your biggest fan.

What are some of your hobbies and interests outside of work?

I love to surf and spend time in the ocean. As a Southern California native, I grew up surfing. My favorite thing to do after work in the summer is go to my favorite break (Thalia Street in Laguna Beach) and catch some glassy waves as the sun sets. My wife and I have surfed all over the world together, from Bali to Chile. Surfing in a new country is a great way to get to know the local culture and see places that are off the beaten path.

When there aren’t waves, I also enjoy freediving and kayaking. Being in the water grounds me and lets me clear my head.