Meet Product Manager Doug Bright
Written by Karen Sampson
Doug Bright has firsthand knowledge of the impacts a lengthy commute to school can have on a student. As a child, he endured a 90-minute commute to the magnet school he attended. As a Product Manager at HopSkipDrive, he now uses his analytical thinking and planning skills to help inform the development of HopSkipDrive products that help school districts optimize their transportation operations, enabling more students to get to school efficiently, reliably and on time.
Where are you located, how long have you worked for HopSkipDrive and what exactly do you do for the company?
I live in San Francisco, and started as a Transportation Analyst at HopSkipDrive in November of 2022, and am now a Product Manager. My work at HopSkipDrive has involved building a model for strategic routing that takes in priorities, constraints and the transportation needs of school districts, then spits out a package of optimized routes. This empowers busy transportation professionals to apply their expertise to a set of recommendations, rather than having to build all their routes from scratch.
Because the model uses advanced analytics to design a fully optimized system and find efficiencies that individuals don’t always see, it helps school districts resolve bus driver shortages and meet budget and climate goals.
I spend time talking with school districts to understand their needs and data, working with a developer to test and improve our model, and running that model to generate outputs for our clients. It’s exciting to be part of this new venture!
Tell us about your professional background, and how it fits with your current role.
Most recently, I worked as a transportation planner in Durham, NC. I had been brought to the area by my master’s program in city planning at the University of North Carolina, where I focused on transportation and human-centered design. Prior to that, I spent a few years working in education, in tech as a program manager and for a criminal justice nonprofit.
Have you had any personal experiences in your life that relate to the work we do?
My work is built on the premise that school buses aren’t always the best vehicle for the job. By optimizing vehicle use, we can reduce the impacts of transportation including cost, emissions and ride length for students. This last bit is personal to me. From second through eighth grade, I attended a magnet school far from my home. I endured a 90-minute one-way school bus commute, and I experienced firsthand the impacts of an excessively long daily school bus ride.
What do you think about HopSkipDrive’s mission, and the company’s efforts to modernize school transportation?
Given that I grew up with two teachers for parents, education has been a central part of my life since the start. It’s the best way to invest in people, and it has the power to change lives. I’m grateful the work we do at HopSkipDrive allows more students to get to school, enabling more dollars to be spent in the classroom.
Is there anything specific about the company culture at HopSkipDrive that is of particular importance to you?
Work-life balance is extremely important to me. While everyone I’ve worked with has proven to work hard and deliver, I have felt very comfortable with the boundaries between work and the rest of my life. I’ve never felt pressured to take work home with me. I am grateful to have experienced a much better-than-average attitude, for an American company, towards time off.
What has your experience been like working with HopSkipDrive colleagues across the organization?
I haven’t had a negative experience yet. Everyone I’ve worked with has been warm, well-intentioned and trustworthy. I particularly appreciate the transparency and humility that the leadership team has demonstrated.
What are your interests and hobbies outside of work?
I love to cook and learn about nature, including wild sources of food. While living in North Carolina during the pandemic, I cautiously began foraging, mostly for mushrooms. On the flip side, I also geek out about cities — the politics, history, culture — especially in my hometown of Chicago.
What are your thoughts about the future of the company?
I’m optimistic about where we’re headed, fueled by internal business updates at our weekly town hall that have thus far signaled constant growth. My outlook is only further bolstered by my trust in company leaders, as well as trust in my own team’s work towards the expansion of our business.
Interested in joining the HopSkipDrive team?