Meet Associate Engineering Manager Leora Juster
Written by Karen Sampson
For Associate Engineering Manager Leora Juster, applying many of the characteristics she developed earlier in her life as an athlete and coach to the work she does at HopSkipDrive has come naturally. With her leadership skills, appreciation for teamwork, determination — and her love of problem solving — she has found a career at HopSkipDrive that enables her to contribute at a high level while being her authentic self.
Where do you live, how long have you worked for HopSkipDrive and what exactly do you do for the company?
I am located in Los Angeles, and I’ve worked for HopSkipDrive for three years. I manage wonderful engineers/people and make sure they are set up for success. I also help to steer and engineer marketplace-related projects, which can range from automating CareDriver document uploads, ride series claims and ride autobonus systems.
What was your professional and educational background before you joined HopSkipDrive?
My driving purpose from youth through the beginning of my professional career was athletics. I was a two-time all-American basketball player, and I went on to coach (as many athletes do). After finding coaching much less satisfying than playing, I took a leap of faith and went back to school for computer science in my late 20s.
What made you interested in a career in engineering?
Engineering, much like basketball, has a skill development facet that has kept me hungry to learn and improve. It’s incredibly gratifying to solve problems and learn new ways to think about what to build and how to build it.
What are the main strengths of the engineering team at HopSkipDrive?
HopSkipDrive engineers tend to be incredibly sharp, open-minded and thoughtful people. We are very connected to the users of our product, and we take the time to put ourselves in their shoes so we can identify ways to have the largest impact. Additionally, we really want the best for each other and always go out of our way to help one another.
Have you learned anything surprising from working here?
Too many things to name! From engineering leaders much wiser and more experienced, I have learned the beauty of building for the problems we face today while maximizing the ability to adapt to what tomorrow might bring.
Is there anything about your background that makes you uniquely suited to your current role and/or the company?
Going back to my sports background, I learned so much about leadership and teamwork as an athlete and a coach. It’s helped me to establish and reinforce team cultures that keep people motivated to do unimaginable things while bringing out the best in each individual.
Have you had any personal experiences that relate to the work HopSkipDrive does?
Coming from a divorced family with two working parents, I always had to spend a lot of needless energy figuring out how I would get somewhere. I can imagine how much this kind of worry is amplified for children in single-parent homes, in foster care or who are experiencing homelessness.
What is your favorite thing about working at HopSkipDrive?
I get to be an authentic version of myself. By doing so, I can create space for others to do the same while working on interesting problems that I feel very passionate about finding solutions to.
Is there anything specific about the company culture that is important to you?
Historically, “professionalism” has been the antithesis of creative expression, but I think HopSkipDrive does a great job of finding the middle ground. A conscious effort to keep an open mind and give praise to those around you is instilled in many different ways. I think this helps people leave their egos at home and want the best for those around them.
What are your hobbies and personal interests?
It might go without saying, but I love sports and monkeying around outside. My age is catching up with me, so I might have to retire my basketball shoes soon! But you can often find me playing beach volleyball, tennis or a paddle sport. I also paint!
Do you have any causes you are passionate about and/or support through volunteering or charitable efforts?
The recent conflict in Ukraine struck a chord, and with the leadership efforts of our previous Chief Technology Officer Sophy Lee, I worked with others to build a site — pledgeukraine.org — to help people sort through hundreds of organizations to make a donation they can trust. Additionally, I always look for opportunities to speak to and mentor those who are underrepresented in careers in computer science.
What are your hopes for the future of the company?
After taking a ride with a CareDriver a few weeks ago, I realized that HopSkipDrive isn’t just building a transportation solution — we’re building a community. I really hope that as we scale, we can find ways to keep this feeling of community alive so that CareDrivers never lose the sense that we understand they are doing much more than simply taking someone from point A to point B.
How important do you think HopSkipDrive’s mission is, and why?
Life is about experience, and experience is the result of accessing the opportunities that are available to us. I love, love, love the fact that the work I do helps thousands of children move towards opportunities each and every day.