Carlos Miguel Lasa graduated from the School of Information with a Master’s in Information Management and Systems in 2016. He has worked in technical program management roles at Twitter and Cruise, and now leads cross-functional programs and initiatives that scale operations for Waymo's fleet of autonomous vehicles. Prior to the I School, Carlos completed a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science at the University of the Philippines.
What was your I School Research or focus?
I had a variety of interests coming to the I School, summed up by this question: How do we use information to connect and enable the disadvantaged and powerless in society? I found that taking up courses in ICTD, human-computer interaction and product management at the I School helped me answer this and gave me a deeper understanding of how to build technology products for social good. A sampling of the projects I worked on at the I School included a system for way-finding and navigation for the blind, as well as an ICT platform enabling outreach and community-building for domestic workers. During that time I also worked as a teaching assistant for product management and social entrepreneurship courses at the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology.
What is the I School’s advantage?
The I School provided me with all the resources needed to become a successful information professional. It was at South Hall where I had access to professors that are recognized leaders in their fields, a host of leading research units in academia and a diverse student body where each student brings their unique industry experience to every class. In my time at the I School, I worked and debated with engineers, designers, philosophers, policy and nonprofit advocates, all of whom shared their unique perspectives to paint a bigger picture of how society must responsibly use information. The I School is also at the doorstep of Silicon Valley, which has given me access to some of the most innovative companies in the industry, and the school’s sprawling alumni network definitely helped me get a foot in the door of the career path of my dreams.
Why did you choose the I School?
Our global society has progressed in the past few decades largely due to the growth of the information economy, where the use of information and communications technology has connected the four corners of the world. The fact that something so intangible as information can wield such power has always intrigued me, particularly in the ways it can be used to uplift the lives of the less powerful in society. I chose to study at UC Berkeley because the I School provides a holistic approach to understanding information, looking at it from multiple angles - from the technical to the sociological. This holistic approach enables the I School to respond to the dynamism of our industry, adapting the curriculum to prepare students for the pressing needs of the information economy while also allowing the pursuit of interests in specific areas whether it be human-centered design, data science or information policy.
What has been your favorite class at the I School?
One of my favorite classes at the I School was Information Visualization (Info 247, aka InfoViz). A key challenge we face as information professionals in this day and age is that we have an abundance of data in our hands, but translating this data into actionable information and mining it for insights isn’t easy. This is why visualizing the data and making it presentable to a lay audience is a key skill everyone in our field must have. InfoViz equipped me with both the theory behind great information visualization and the practical skills I needed to apply them in the workplace, as the course gave us access to the leading tools and techniques that are currently used in the industry.
What are you doing now?
As a Technical Program Manager at Waymo, I work every day with engineers, product managers and designers to build products that enable our fleet of autonomous vehicles to operate at scale across various driving domains and geographies. My role also involves streamlining processes across teams to drive and track execution of key engineering initiatives that improve the operation of the Waymo Driver. I also advocate for equity, inclusion, and diversity in my spare time. I co-founded a non-profit that cultivates Filipino representation in the technology industry, and have volunteered with employee resource groups at the places I've worked at such as TwitterAsians, Cruise API, and Hyphen at X/Waymo.
Do you have any advice for aspiring information professionals?
For those aspiring to become professionals in this field, the best advice I can give is to have a good sense of what your strengths are and what you are most passionate about. They say that success in one’s career is all about being in the right place, with the right skills, at the right time. The I School is definitely the right place, and there is an abundance of resources that’ll help you develop skills in multiple areas. At the end of the day though you need to determine what those right skills are, and focus deeply on them to enable you to work on the things you are most passionate about.