Meet Tekedra Mawakana, the CEO in charge of the $30B self-driving company ‘Waymo’

Stephen Nartey July 05, 2023
Tekedra joined the autonomous tech company in 2017, and was drawn to the business because of its mission. Photo credit: Tekedra Mawakana via LinkedIn

Sources have shown that a lower percentage of women function in top management positions in autonomous tech companies, compared to their counterparts. It is therefore considered a win when women play dominant roles in such an emerging industry, which is slightly ahead of the estimated 8.2 percent of women managing Fortune 500 and S&P Companies as of February 2021.

For women of color, the statistics may not be satisfactory, but worth celebrating, though it is pegged at 1 percent, according to Forbes. This is why Tekedra Mawakana assuming the role of co-CEO of Waymo, is one of the pivotal milestones in her career.

Waymo was initially part of a self-driving project under an experiment by Google in 2009. However, the project was renamed in 2016 when the multinational tech company was undertaking its restructuring. Waymo services are evident in places like Arizona, Phoenix, and San Francisco, where its commercial self-driving taxis operate. The company’s priority is to offer safe driving and reduce the number of fatalities on the road, according to Waymo.

One of the personalities championing this is Tekedra. For many years, she has worked with leading global brands including Yahoo, eBay, AOL, and Startec on five continents. She joined the autonomous tech company in 2017, and was drawn to the business because of its mission. She had lost two of her uncles through a road accident and saw working at Waymo as a way of reducing such catastrophes in the lives of others, according to the University of California, Berkley.  

Picking this role, however, meant she started in an industry with no standards. She had to navigate a labyrinth of tasks while assisting to pioneer the first commercial service, inspiring what the company culture should be, and setting the priorities, according to the operator collective.

What has worked for Tekedra at Waymo is her career progression. Since the beginning of her career, she has taken on roles that allow her to step back and reflect on the next move to make. When she took up her job at Waymo in 2017, she started as chief operating officer.

It was a terrain where the regulatory environment was gray, its technological standards had not been properly structured, and getting the market to embrace self-driving had its associated challenges. However, she used her experience while guiding many CEOs in advancing their business interests to consolidate her position at Waymo. Today, the company is valued at $$30 billion, according to Forbes.

Tekedra believes one major ingredient to her success has been her ability to speak. She admits that as much as it can be uncomfortable to voice out either thoughts or concerns at a level where women of color represent 1 percent of decision-makers, it is important to make sure one stands out.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: July 5, 2023


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