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Women’s History Month: Cat Culkin

This March, we celebrate National Women’s History Month, and we are proud to highlight the women on our team who are leading at Pronto and in their communities.

Pronto Chief Technology Officer Cat Culkin is a foundational innovator in autonomous transportation, having engineered and deployed autonomous hauling systems used globally. Cat is leading the charge on the ground and showing what our world can look forward to in our driverless future.

We sat down with Cat to reflect on her career and celebrate her accomplishments at Pronto and beyond!

Cat Culkin, CTO of Pronto

How did you get into this role?

I previously worked with Pollen’s VP of Engineering, Oscar Argueta, who was working at Pronto and had a role open for me as a controls engineer. Later, I began leading the Pronto software team to create autonomous solutions for on-road and off-road trucks. In 2021, I was elected to CTO, heading the company’s technology division.

What is a typical day like for you?

One of my favorite parts of my job is that there is no typical day! Some days I am out at a work site, collaborating with our engineers to get a deployment up and running. On other days, I could be visiting an OEM partner facility or checking up on a new truck that’s going to be deployed. In the office, I sit down with our team to write code, tinker with new parts and solve problems.

What excites you about working at Pronto?

The people I work with are incredibly talented, intelligent, and motivated. This team makes it easy to get into the office every day. Together, we can build anything.

What is next for Pronto? 

We’re very focused on providing autonomous solutions for the mining industry right now, which will deliver extraordinary value for future autonomous vehicles, such as on-road applications. By delivering technology that is being deployed today, we get to stress test our technology in edge cases such as extreme weather and difficult terrain. That gives us a massive head start on public roads in the future.

What keeps you excited and busy outside of work? 

I am big on biking! You’ll find me on the road with friends on weekends, somewhere around the Bay Area. I also love painting, and in my free time, I paint pet portraits for friends, family, and strangers in exchange for donations to various animal rescues, including San Francisco SPCA.

Could you share a story about a woman who helped you as a leader or mentor and what she meant for your career today?

While studying physics at the University of Michigan, one of my classes had 40 students, and I was the only woman. Our professor, Dr. Christine Aidala, fostered and developed an academic environment where no student felt singled out. As the year progressed, she stepped into a mentor role for me – she pushed me to intern at the National Accelerator Lab to learn how to code, and she always had her door open for me if I ever needed any advice or help on my academic path.

Today, when I’m out at a worksite for work, I think of Dr. Aidala’s teaching methods to offer advice, help, and guidance but to let our engineers and operators be their own leaders.