This Mother’s Day, we’re celebrating all of the hard-working, thoughtful, and amazing mothers who bring their best to Aurora—and to their families—every day. Parents can offer unique skills to leadership roles, such as time management and critical thinking. These skills are invaluable at Aurora, as we reimagine the future of transportation for the next generation and beyond.
Today, we’re spotlighting a few key players who are responsible for developing and commercializing our autonomous technology—all while tackling one of the most demanding and fulfilling jobs there is: being a mom. Ossa, Sophie, Kendra, and Khobi each lead large segments of Aurora’s business and workforce. We asked them to share what motivates them to drive our mission forward.
What is it like leading a cutting-edge tech company while also being a mom?
Kendra Phillips, Vice President of Service Delivery: Leading a cutting-edge tech company while also being a mom means you get to be a really cool mom.
My kids and their friends get so excited when I talk about self-driving trucks and cars. During my son’s Career Day, I presented on Aurora and the technology we’re building. The class and their teacher went crazy for it. We’re changing the world and it is exciting personally to be a part of it, but it is also exciting for my family. My boys love learning about Aurora and the cool tech we’re bringing to the world!
Ossa Fisher, President: I am fortunate that both roles give me energy and allow me to show up as my full self. They also seem to reinforce each other—the maternal caretaking skills carry over well to being a more empathetic leader at Aurora and the more structured, strategic problem-solving skills from work help me to coach my teenage girls as they begin to navigate real-world decisions and opportunities.
How do you describe your job to your kids? How do you humanize a nascent technology?
Sophie Wang, Vice President of Simulation, Test, and Validation: As a family, we enjoy taking road trips together and unfortunately spend a lot of time in traffic. During the pandemic, we drove over 2000 miles to Aspen and visited several national parks along the way.
On those long drives, my kids can easily see the benefits of autonomous vehicles and their potential to reduce traffic, increase efficiency, improve safety, and ultimately change our lives in a meaningful way.
Khobi Brooklyn, Senior Vice President of Communications: My son is three and is obsessed with trucks, so I keep it simple and tell him I work with trucks!
The amazing thing about kids is that they haven't developed a bias around how things should be, including how vehicles are driven. It's wonderful to see how my son understands and accepts different ways of making things go from here to there.
What do you think the future of transportation will look like for your kids in 5, 10, or 20 years?
Ossa: Autonomous vehicles will fundamentally change the mobility paradigm. I can see a world where navigating daily carpooling is a thing of the past, studying for your driver’s license is simply unnecessary, and spending time with friends from across the city is as easy as if they lived next door. More than anything, we’ll sleep more soundly at night because the roads will be safer than they’ve ever been before.
Khobi: I hope we see cities become more accessible and safe for bikes and other forms of public transportation that increase efficiency and decrease congestion and emissions. Ultimately, as the need for personal vehicles decreases, I look forward to there being more ways of getting around that are less harmful to society and the environment.
Sophie: In five years, I predict transportation will continue to become more accessible and cheaper. In 10-20 years, we will see an influx of electric vehicles and cleaner energy across different modes of transportation. Autonomous vehicles might not completely replace all transportation in 20 years, but it will become a greater part of how we get around, just like any other transformational technology.
Kendra: I want my kids to learn to drive, but I see a world where that is less and less important: a world where we have a family car but it drives for us, where ride-sharing is the most frequent mode of transportation, where most of our goods and products travel in self-driving trucks. My hope is that this makes transportation safer and more efficient, benefiting all of us.
What actionable advice do you have for other working moms to move up in their careers while also prioritizing their families?
Khobi: Embrace the qualities and strengths you’ve developed from being a mom and apply them to your work. The incredible lessons we learn and qualities we build as mothers are applicable and so important to our professional selves. I think we, and all people, should consider mothers as an incredibly valuable addition to the conversation and the workforce.
Being a mother has helped me find more patience, learn how to be present in the moment, and set boundaries for myself and my work. While these are super critical for being a good mom and partner to my family, they are also so valuable to being a good teammate and leader in the workplace.
Kendra: Something that really matters to me is establishing contracts with myself about my time. It is rare for me to deal with anything personal during my work time, and the reverse is also true. I’m not checking my email or Slack between 6:30-8:30 p.m. because that is dinner and bedtime for my family and I want to make sure I am present for my kids and my husband. That separation between my two worlds keeps me sane and helps me focus and prioritize what is important in life. This is what works for me, but it won’t be the same for everyone. Find what works for you and your family, make that contract with yourself, and stick to it as much as you can.
In general, the best career advice I can give is to take lateral job moves into different areas of the company. You’ll learn a new skill, grow your understanding of the company and yourself, and become more valuable as an employee. Also, don’t be afraid to stretch yourself just because you’re a new parent or because you have kids. Be willing to take on new challenges and see where they may take you.
Sophie: If you love working like I do, then it’s important to make the choice with your family. It should be a collective decision that your family enthusiastically supports. In general, as you progress in your career and assume leadership roles, you tend to acquire valuable insights and experiences that facilitate your personal growth, as well. In my case, my career was advancing during the same period that my kids were growing up. Over the years, this has helped me improve my time management skills and become more efficient at multitasking and prioritizing while dealing with unexpected disruptions.
I feel being a parent makes me a better manager and being a manager makes me a better parent. With both groups, I try to be supportive, listen, let them explore their options to come to their own conclusions, and most importantly, take their input in decision-making.
Ossa: Life goes in chapters—and in some chapters, we are not the main character. Especially when kids are young, most parents would agree that many days are spent harried, exhausted, and with food-stained clothing. The beautiful thing about accepting that readily is knowing that despite those tradeoffs, early parenthood is still one of the most amazing chapters of life. Determining how career progression should fit in is a very personal decision, and fundamentally depends on your support structure at home, what brings you joy, and which chapter of life you find yourself in.
To remind myself of this, I try to live by the mantra: Seek joy in the moment. Spark laughter to cure a tense moment. Prioritize sleep to show up more fully. Spend time with others to help pay it forward. Inspire the next generation by leading through example.