The Women in Autonomy (WIA) Steering Committee is made up of passionate leaders and change makers in the automotive and autotech industries. Their guidance and expertise enable us to develop and execute thoughtful, engaging programming, as well as to extend our impact to ensure female voices are better heard and represented.
Steering Committee member Jennifer Haroon is Chief Operating Officer at Nauto. Prior, she was at Waymo, where she spent three years as the Head of Business Operations at what was formerly known as the Google Self-Driving Car Project.
Jennifer became involved with Women in Autonomy early on, speaking on the panel at our first event, Driving the Future of Transportation. Since then, Jennifer has imparted her business acumen to help transform WIA from a grassroots organization to a thriving movement. Jennifer provides invaluable strategic direction: from helping shape our mission, to charting our yearly goals and offering expert advice on networking strategies and outreach.
Read on to learn more about why Jennifer chose to get involved with Women in Autonomy, where she sees the most growth opportunities in the industry, and her encouragement to women.
Q: Why did you choose to get involved with WIA?
At the highest level, I love being able to connect with, learn from, and help other women in business. I do believe that women sometimes face unique challenges and that's particularly true when they work in an industry that is very male-dominated. On top of that, the autotech space is a dynamic and exciting one, so having a way to connect with others is a great way to ensure I keep up-to-date on everything happening.
Q: What's the biggest obstacle women face in the automotive and autotech industries?
I don't know if I can claim to know the biggest obstacle women face. One that I often see is women being under-estimated and under-appreciated. I tend to see that happen in industries such as automotive and autotech where there are not a lot of women. Sometimes you can turn being under-estimated into an advantage, but I think all too often it is demotivating and leads to this downward spiral of women then leaving the industry, and people making the wrong assumption that women can't "hack it.” Having a forum like WIA, where women in this industry can share the obstacles they face and share ways they've been able to overcome them, is super important.
Q: What's your encouragement to women?
Don't give up! But it's more than just that because every person's situation and thought process is different. So, utilize your family, friends, colleagues, network (men and women) to bounce ideas, learn, share troubles, collect information, etc. and realize you are not alone and you have options.
Q: We know the importance of role models and mentors. Who has been your biggest advocate or teacher?
Personally I've never loved the advice, "go get a mentor." I always wondered: how do I do that? Where do I find one? Why do others make it sound so easy? However, I have been lucky enough to have worked with some great people who I've learned from and who have been supporters. And even if they aren't mentors who I'm talking to on a regular basis, I continue to learn from them when we are able to connect.
I really admire Claire Hughes Johnson, who I worked with for 6 weeks at Google. She left a big impression during that short time and though I don't get to speak with her often, I still follow her career at Stripe. One of the things that Claire taught me is how important the human aspect of work is - she has a wonderful talent for connecting with people.
Another person who I greatly admire and who has been a tremendous mentor is Karen Francis, a member of Nauto's Board of Directors. She has deep automotive experience and has advised a variety of companies at different stages and in different industries. She's great at bringing a different perspective that I may not have considered.
Lastly, at the very start of my career, I worked for a woman named Sarah Singer who encouraged me to go for whatever I wanted to do and not be constrained. Even though I had no background in finance, she encouraged me to try investment banking as a way to learn about business fundamentals. And while it was not my long-term career path, it was an important learning experience that really kick-started the rest of my career and I developed that confidence that she had in me.
Q: Where do you see the most growth opportunities in the industry?
Even though some people have been working on autonomous tech for over a decade, I think we're still in the very early stages, and therefore, there is a lot of opportunity for growth. But it has not been (and I don't expect it to be) smooth sailing.
I am clearly biased because I joined Nauto, and I joined in part because I believed and still believe that there's a big growth opportunity before we reach full autonomy. There are technologies that are part of autonomous technology that can be used along the way, like we do at Nauto - such as AI to help and enhance drivers. This is not the only growth opportunity out there that utilizes autotech before we reach full autonomy.
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