Today we’re excited to welcome Claire Hughes Johnson to Aurora’s Board of Directors. Claire brings more than 15 years of experience in evolving businesses for scale and delivering enterprise-ready products at leading companies, including Stripe and Google.
Claire brings a passion for building companies and products that challenge the status quo, and her expertise is incredibly valuable as we commercialize our technology and deploy the Aurora Driver at scale. Here’s more about her fascinating career, her perspective on how technology drives societal change, and what interests her about the self-driving industry and Aurora.
You’ve played a key role in bringing several transformational technologies to market. Can you tell us about your career journey?
I’ve always been drawn to careers with the potential to make a broad impact. I saw how technology was becoming the epicenter of societal change, driving job creation and economic access, so I decided to pursue a career in tech and business.
I got my start in tech at Google where I was in a variety of roles overseeing Operations, Sales, Product, and Support for products like Gmail and Google Apps. While there, I had the pleasure of working with Chris Urmson on Google’s self-driving project. I then served as Stripe’s Chief Operating Officer for seven years, helping grow the team from 200 employees to more than 6,000. Currently, I am a Corporate Officer and advisor at Stripe, and serve on the boards of the renewable energy company, Ameresco; the multi-platform publication, The Atlantic; and Milton Academy, the school my children attend and where my father taught for decades.
What drew you to the self-driving industry, and why did you join the Aurora Board of Directors?
Self-driving technology will create a future with safer roads and improved efficiency – it also has the potential to vastly redistribute economic opportunities in the transportation landscape. Transportation is a massive part of any country’s GDP and it represents a wide variety of jobs. I’m interested in guiding self-driving technology to create new jobs and opportunities, and what better place to be a part of this critical evolution than from a Board seat with one of the most promising self-driving companies?
When it comes to self-driving, it’s challenging to get all the dimensions right - the tech, the business model, the ecosystem - and I think Aurora has the best multi-dimensional approach. And most importantly, Chris is an inspiring leader, technologist, and visionary.
What are some parallels you see between Stripe and Aurora?
Companies like Aurora and Stripe don’t accept the status quo, whether it’s how we move money, or how we move people and goods. Both companies saw an opportunity to change a system that was no longer working, and we’re building mission-driven, best-in-class businesses tackling big challenges.
As Aurora looks to deliver a commercially viable self-driving product at scale, what does Aurora need to get right over the next couple of years?
First and foremost, with building a safety-critical system we absolutely need to get the technology and the safety systems right. We also need a smart business model that doesn’t just capture the value created from the technology but also participates in a transportation ecosystem such that partners and customers share in that value.
There aren’t as many women on boards as there should be. What can we do to change that?
It starts with recognizing that more diverse boards drive better business results. Self-driving has the opportunity to revolutionize transportation, not just for an elite group of people but for everyone, and the Board should represent the diverse communities the Aurora Driver will serve. I also find that the best companies and leaders seek out broad perspectives to test their own thinking and belief systems. To do so, you need to extend your search to find board members who may not be represented on the traditional lists. Companies need to do the work to find the talent.
What is one piece of advice you received that has shaped how you approach managing and leading teams?
Leadership is not about accumulating all of the knowledge, and feeding your ego, but rather about knowing what you don’t know. The more self-aware you can be as a leader, the better you can access the potential of the people around you.
Tell us something about you we might not know.
The amount of time I spend driving my kids is shocking, so I am definitely looking forward to having self-driving cars. I am also really getting into gardening… but I am not very good so if there was autonomous gardening, I would be into that too!