Alumni Snapshot: Diana Yu

  • B.S., industrial management, Carnegie Mellon University, 1999
  • B.S., information systems, Carnegie Mellon University, 1999
  • M.H.C.I., human-computer interaction, Carnegie Mellon University, 2008
It might seem like a long way from writing HTML and Javascript to overseeing construction projects on one of the nation's busiest commuter railroads. But for Diana Yu, the journey is one of only a few yards inside the Los Angeles headquarters of Metrolink, which serves six California counties, including Los Angeles and San Diego.

Yu is transitioning from a role in the agency's communications department to becoming an engineering program management analyst. "It's really interesting, and I'm excited," she says. "We're still going through a lot of changes, and it feels almost like a startup in some ways. It's a really good time to be here to contribute."

Metrolink's 512-mile transit system carries more than 38,000 passengers a day. A new CEO was named in 2010, and set as his goals improved safety procedures, expanded service and upgraded communication with riders and the general public.

Social media has provided important tools to spread the news about the new Metrolink, says Yu, who joined the agency two years ago. Working with a tiny budget, Yu conducted a needs assessment using accumulated customer feedback. "Customers wanted service alerts so they would know the status of their trains, they wanted train schedules in specific formats, and they were interested in special offers," she says. Yu says she was able to draw heavily on lessons she learned from Shelley Evenson's Designing for Service class at Carnegie Mellon.

The result was a brand-new website (designed in only three months) especially for mobile phone users, Yu says. "We received a lot of positive feedback," she says. "Our riders really appreciated a mobile site where they could go to for train service information."

Metrolink also now uses Twitter to provide system updates so that riders don't have to check a website, she says.

Yu's new job utilizes her undergraduate experiences at CMU, where she earned degrees in business and information systems, as well as her eight years as a consultant with IBM Corp. "In general, this role is working with our engineering project managers when they start new projects to ensure that they run within budget, and on schedule," says Yu, who also providing user experience expertise for a complete redesign of Metrolink's website.

In her free time, Yu enjoys canoeing--lately as part of a six-person team that paddles an outrigger canoe in races up and down the Pacific coast. A former member of the CMU crew team, Yu has loved working out on the water since her college summers in Boston, when her sister, then an MIT undergrad, used to take her out on the Charles River. "One of the nicest things about living in southern California is that I'm only 10 or 15 minutes from the ocean," Yu says.
For More Information: 

Jason Togyer | 412-268-8721 | jt3y@cs.cmu.edu