As a trade negotiator, how did you end up in Silicon Valley?
Lia: I was given an opportunity to move to the private sector and apply my experience to help a fintech company navigate a complex regulatory landscape and expand globally. I have worked for a number of pre and post IPO tech companies, in various capacities. Everything from leading global government and regulatory affairs, to opening international markets for new products in Europe and Asia, to building partner ecosystems from the ground up, and leading technical partnerships to develop, deploy, and evangelize autonomous vehicle technology and mobility services.
Each role has presented a new opportunity to bring different worlds together to drive impact. Whether political parties, foreign countries, engineering teams, banking, automotive, or tech business executives, the challenges are similar, and the skill set is the same.
What excited you about joining Aurora?
Lia: The improved safety and accessibility that self-driving technology will bring and Aurora’s unique technical ability to deliver it. I also believe that the only way autonomous vehicle technology will be deployed is if each stakeholder focuses on what they do best and works closely, and humbly, with partners to get products to market together. It was clear to me that the Aurora leadership team shared those beliefs.
The founders also recognized the value of my multidisciplinary background and carved out a role and a function that would make use of my experience, acting as the bridge between partners, business, and engineering teams. They not only recognized the importance and need for the role, but they trusted me to build out this new function and bring in the team to execute it.
Describe what you do at Aurora.
Lia: I lead a growing team that is responsible for defining the products that we build for our partners, and running the programs that deliver those products. Tactically, we do everything from leading engagements with our partners, driving vehicle programs and fleet planning, and working with our business, operations, communications, and policy teams to ensure Aurora is best positioned to deliver on our mission.
Why do you think Aurora is positioned to succeed?
Lia: We have an experienced team who have worked on various elements of self-driving technology and saw the opportunity to take it to the next level at Aurora. Based on our collective experience, we’ve built our business, partnership model, and technology to be agnostic, which we believe positions Aurora to successfully deliver the Aurora Driver safely, quickly, and broadly. We can’t predict what the future will look like, but we’re nimble and ready to take on whatever comes our way.
What is your advice for women who may want to pursue a career in autonomous vehicles?
Lia: It’s not easy being a woman in any male-dominated industry, autonomous vehicles included. It’s especially difficult to be a leader in the space because there are few other women to look to as examples or for support. However, it’s absolutely possible!
My advice is to not fixate on the fact that you may be the only woman in the room. That will happen. Don’t think of it as a vulnerability — seize it as an opportunity to share your unique voice even if it’s different or occasionally makes others uncomfortable. You are there for a reason. Always come prepared and put in the time and effort to learn your craft. You are paving the road for the women who will come after you.
August 18th is the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in the US. How are you honoring the centennial anniversary of women’s suffrage?
Lia: August is a meaningful month for the history of voting in America. Both in passage of the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965, and the ratification of the 19th Amendment on August 18, 1920. I will be volunteering (virtually) to help people register to vote and request absentee ballots.
Outside of work, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Lia: I am still involved in policy work, serving as a Fellow on the Truman National Security Project, an organization of current and former political and national security professionals that collaborate on policy initiatives, give guidance to campaigns, and support rising leaders.
At home, I really love making and eating pasta. I can pretend to say exercising, but truthfully, pasta and politics are how I spend my time outside of work.
What is your favorite pasta?
Lia: It depends on the hour! I find the best pasta is made with the simplest ingredients. (See below!)