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A Dream Come True: Mentoring with Aicha Evans

“If you had to make a list of the top 1-3 relationships in your life (personal or professional) that you want to start, grow, or rekindle, what/who would they be and why?”

This was a question on an email I received from my Account Director at Acceleration Partners (AP). The first people that crossed my mind were Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion, because they are my besties in my head and who wouldn’t want to start a relationship with them? But as I pondered on the question some more, I realized I have not fostered many professional relationships outside of my company. Who I wanted to foster a relationship with was someone I did not see enough of in my life and the career field—a successful Black woman who I could learn from and could guide me on navigating a successful career and achieving my goals, based on their own personal experience.


Attending 2022 AP Summit: Dream Awards

AP Summit 2022 rolls around and I am enjoying my time meeting and connecting with coworkers from all over the globe. We’re all gathered on turf underneath bright stars and surrounded by a still lake. This night was special, as it was the last night we’d all be together and also the night of AP’s awards ceremony.

Acceleration Partners has an annual, special awards segment that happens at the end of every AP Summit awards ceremony: AP Dreams. AP Dreams are unique awards that are given to select employees to make their dreams and goals come true.

AP’s founder Robert Glazer got up to the podium to present some of these Dream awards, when I suddenly heard my name called with a slideshow that read “AP Dream Gift: Lunch Meet and Greet in San Francisco with Aicha Evans, CEO of Zoox.” I was stunned and kept questioning “who submitted me for an award?!”

Then the next slide appeared with an explanation for the award: “Shakiria, you shared that you would like to meet a successful Black woman, and to learn from their accomplishments and how they navigated their career.” Tears streamed down my face as the dots connected that the email from my Account Director had led to this very moment, along with the realization that AP genuinely cares about its employees and fostering future leaders.


Experiencing Zoox Vehicles with Aicha Evans

My time spent in San Francisco is an experience I will never forget. The day started off with a tour through the streets of San Francisco inside a Zoox vehicle that had been programmed for autonomous driving. Yes, autonomous, as in no human operating the vehicle, (but there was a licensed driver in the driver’s seat for safety measures).

My mind was blown that I was riding in the backseat of a vehicle that was driving off the intelligence of computers. The vehicle knew when cars were backing up, when pedestrians were jaywalking, where a stop sign was and when a traffic light was changing—essentially all the different types of traffic patterns a driver would need to navigate. The vehicle was able to perfectly mimic what a human’s reaction would be when driving. The vehicle even navigated Lombard Street, and if you know, you know.

I was honestly astonished at the innovation and complexity of the vehicles. But Aicha Evans, CEO of Zoox, reminded me that airplanes can also be considered autonomous modes of transportation, since most planes go on autopilot once they reach a certain altitude. This put into perspective that having autonomous taxis isn’t so far-fetched. Though the vehicle I rode in is used for testing, the actual Zoox taxis will have no steering wheel, no gas pedal, and no brakes – just seating for riders. Once the tour concluded, it was time for Aicha and I to have lunch and really connect.


Tidbits of Wisdom from Aicha Evans

Getting to connect with Aicha and bond over our shared experiences and career goals meant a lot to me. We discussed our families, favorite vacation spots, my nonexistent dating life, and of course, work life. Aicha made sure to validate that I was on the right path to success with my current endeavors at AP.

One piece of wisdom from Aicha that stuck out the most to me was her advice to never shrink myself when I’m in a room with those who do not look like me. In the affiliate space, I do not see many women of color. When I take client or affiliate calls, I am sometimes hesitant to raise my voice and even feel a little bit of imposter syndrome. Aicha made me realize that I deserve a seat at any table, as I have worked hard and earned my place; by being different, I can provide a different perspective for solving problems. Those were the words I needed to hear most.

This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I was fortunate to have experienced. Connections are so important, and you never know what you will gain from them. So, if you had to make a list of the top 1-3 relationships in your life (personal or professional) that you want to start, grow, or rekindle, what/who would they be and why?


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