The Hubway bike share system has grown in popularity and size since its inception in 2011. Its General Manager, Emily Stapleton, earned her undergraduate degree in psychology at Harvard in 2005, and later completed her MBA at Harvard Business School in 2011. She has also held positions at RelayRides, a peer-to-peer car sharing service and Bauer’s Intelligent Transportation, a motor coach company. Jahred Liddie, College '16, recently interviewed Emily about her interest in sustainable transportation and her journey out of the College and into the professional world.
Jahred: Let’s start broad. What motivates your interest in sustainability and transportation?
Emily: To me, transportation is fundamental. People need to get to work, to school, to the grocery store, to visit family and friends, and to explore the communities around them. Instead of being a source of major frustration, I think transportation can be active, enjoyable, and sustainable. Transportation is a sector that can have one of the largest impacts on reduction of the use of fossil fuels.
Jahred: Give us a little more information about your professional life. Where has your professional trajectory taken you since graduating from the Business School?
Emily: When I left HBS, I took a summer internship at the start-up of a fellow HBS’er, Shelby Clark (HBS ’10). He had founded RelayRides while a Business School student and by the time I joined the team full-time, the company was headed for a nation-wide launch of a service that began only in Boston-metro and San Francisco. My primary focus at RelayRides was Trust and Safety, including vetting of riders and establishing a rating system for car renters and car owners.
Instead of being a source of major frustration, I think transportation can be active, enjoyable, and sustainable.
Jahred: Why Hubway?
Emily: I personally am a bicycle commuter, and I see the huge benefit in riding a bicycle around the city. The bicycle is often the fastest way to get around, and riding also helps improve fitness and engagement with the physical environment. Hubway bicycle sharing has added a new dimension to the metro-Boston transportation network. It is an efficient mode of transportation that allows people the freedom to take one-way trips, ditch their cars in favor of linking commuter rail or T with Hubway, or take a leisurely ride along the Esplanade.
Jahred: What’s a day in the life of the General Manager at Hubway?
Emily: My days consist of collaborating with my clients, my team, and the rest of the Motivate staff operating bike share across the country. Hubway is a program owned by the municipalities of Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline, so as the operator of Hubway, I coordinate with the municipalities on strategic questions for the system, such as expansion planning. I coordinate with my team on staffing plans, inventory management, operations plans, and marketing plans; I manage the system’s budget and address its legal needs, such as creating license agreements with private property holders in order to operate on their property. Motivate operates bike share systems across the country, so I regularly share best practices with my peers in other markets.
Jahred: How do you think Harvard has equipped you in your professional life? What resources did you find useful at Harvard (and beyond) in navigating the working world?
Emily: In both my undergraduate studies as a psychology concentrator and as a business school student, the importance of data analysis was always emphasized—the ability to substantiate a hypothesis with facts gained through a combination of quantitative analysis and experimentation. Further, psychology taught me how to build successful teams and better understand others’ working styles and motivations; business school taught me how to incorporate many different perspectives into one constructive conversation.
Jahred: If you had to give one bit of advice to a student interested in a career in sustainability, transportation, or business, what would it be?
Emily: It is helpful to have exploratory conversations with many different people. In my time at Harvard College and Harvard Business School, I really utilized the resources available in Career Services and the advising programs. I also utilized Crimson Compass to reach out to alumni in my industry, who were very generous with their time and advice. Further, I cross-registered for a transportation class at the Kennedy School during grad school and took a class on cities at the Design School during undergrad. Utilize all the resources this great university has to offer, and do not underestimate the value of volunteering in your industry in addition to seeking internships and full time jobs.
Bonus Tip: Harvard offers a discounted Hubway membership for all Harvard affiliates. Learn more