A Black Woman is Building Your Self-Driving Car
We’ve all heard about the future full of self-driving cars. The day is coming when we can sit back and enjoy the ride, a cup of Starbuck’s and maybe get some work done on the ride to work. Ask anyone who owns a Tesla; that day is not far away. And you can thank Aicha Evans.
Evans is the CEO of Zoox a company who’s stated mission is “reimagining mobility in dense urban environments and redefining the customer experience through the creation of the first purpose-built, fully autonomous, electric vehicle.”
Imagining such a future is one thing but to take on the task of making it happen is a whole other challenge. Evans is prepared for it. Before joining Zoox Evans was working at Intel corporation. There she transformed a computer chip maker into a data focused company as the Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer.
We all know that autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence and all that techno-nerdy stuff that Silicon Valley is famous for is a white, male dominated world. Aicha is a cat of a differnet color…literally.
Evans took over Zoox in January of this year and she had a “bold and ambitious” vision on her mind when she took the job.
Zoox is perhaps the most ambitious autonomous vehice company in the industry. The company has raised more than $750 million and is planning a commercial robot taxi service that may hit the roads as early as next year. While other companies have chosen to focus on one speciality Zoox, under Evans leadership, is looking for market domination. Zoox intends to not only design and build self driving cars but create software for autonomous driving and to compete with Uber and Lyft as a a ride-hailing service.
Although Evans is a black woman she was decidely the best man for the job. According to board member and Zoox investor Heidi Roizen she saw one thing that caused Evans to rise above the field of candidates, “It’s her EQ — her leadership ability, her ability to relate to people.”
Of course being a black woman at the top in the tech sector is not normal or easy. Evans does not let this bother her. She iunderstands who she is and where she is.
Evans reflected on her own experience in an industry with notoriously intractable diversity problems. She believes that life has been harder for her than it would have been for a man. But Evans added that this experience has become an advantage that allows her to see things differently than her peers.
Describing her own personal method for handling her minority position Evans believes that she is representing others like herself who are not present.
In a coaching video produced for the American Management Association she said, “We’re the only one in the room so we’re the only one who maybe has the possibility of bringing a different perspective and a different set of ideas. I had to overcome a lot, and women around me and behind me have too. But I’m also asking us to look at the opportunity. We’re in one of those golden ages in technology right now . . . We don’t want to leave 50 per cent of the world behind.”
Aicha Evans is a graduate of George Washington University with a degree in Computer Engineering.
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