Aicha Evans led the $1.3bn acquisition of Zoox by Amazon – Here is her story from Senegal to the Silicon Valley

BY Ben Ebuka Oji January 12, 2024 6:08 AM EDT
Aicha Evans
Aicha Evans. Credit Steve Jennings/Getty Images/TechCrunch

Aichatou Sar Evans, professionally known as Aicha Evans, is the CEO of Zoox, a tech company that is revolutionizing the transport system in America and looking to scale over to every part of the world. The Senegalese-American executive stands out as one of the most prominent Black women leading a technology company in Silicon Valley.

Evans was born in Senegal in 1969 but spent her formative years in Paris. As a child, she was inspired by the famous scientist Marie Curie, and that fueled her dreams. Little did she realize that these aspirations would not only shape her future but would put her in a place to impart the technology worldwide.

She also acknowledges her parents for putting her early on the tech path:

First of all, there is an element of luck. I really thank my parents, my dad, for being in the telecommunication space and seeing from the very beginning what technology could do. And then my mom for reminding me that even though I like to tinker with things, I like math, I love philosophy.

She was enrolled at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where she laid the groundwork for her extraordinary career. In 1996, she obtained her first degree in computer engineering. The determination that drove her from that point forward would see Evans rise to the top of American tech business.

Success-filled Career

Evans began her professional journey, holding esteemed engineering management positions at renowned companies such as Rockwell Semiconductor, Conexant, and Skyworks Solutions before making significant contributions to Intel Corporation.

In 2006, she joined Intel Corporation as the SW Integration and Test Manager. Throughout her impressive 12-year tenure, she climbed the corporate ladder, assuming various positions, including senior roles. These included Senior Vice President – Senior Corporate Strategy Officer; Corporate Vice President – Communication & Devices Group GM; Vice President – Platform Engineering Group; Vice President – Wireless Platform R&D and GM for Mobile Wireless Group.

The influential and transformative leadership at Intel offered her the opportunity to manage a diverse and talented global team of over 7,000 engineers.

Evans played a pivotal role in steering Intel’s transition from a PC-focused to a data-centric organization. She spearheaded the advancement of wireless engineering and the development of cutting-edge multi-communications products and platforms, such as Radio Frequency transceivers (RF), cellular LTE, and 5G modems, as well as Wi-Fi, Wi-Gig, GPS, and Bluetooth technologies.

Historic Career Moment

In 2019, she took over the reins as CEO at autonomous vehicle manufacturer Zoox and a year later, she orchestrated the groundbreaking $1.3 billion acquisition of Zoox by Amazon.

The deal between Zoox and Amazon signaled Evans’ innovative thinking and visionary leadership. It was not merely a transaction but a huge deal that sent shockwaves throughout the tech industry.

Industry analysts note that the acquisition significantly amplified the competitive influence of Amazon in the autonomous vehicle sector. Furthermore, others have noted this success to Evans’ strategic decision to pursue patent coverage in the mobility industry. The high-quality patents in Zoox’s portfolio, as measured by the Patent Asset Index, played a crucial role in favor of the acquisition.

Despite her career success, Evans cautions that her taking the reins of a startup came with many challenges.

“My first piece of advice is only take the role if you are really interested in it. Startups are hard. And when it’s tough, you find a way, you make a way, you back up the boat, you reassess, you pivot. And so if you don’t have that irrational belief and pull, don’t do it,” she noted in an interview.

Other Endeavors

When she is not excelling in her role at Zoox, she actively contributes to various developmental initiatives. In addition to her responsibilities at Zoox, she holds prominent positions such as a member of the Supervisory Board of SAP and a trustee for the Anita Borg Institute for Women & Technology. Furthermore, her exceptional achievements have earned her a place in the prestigious George Washington University Engineering Hall of Fame.

Evans’ journey in the constantly evolving realm of technology is a prime example of creativity, innovation, boundless ambition, unwavering determination, and steadfast faith in a more promising and sustainable future driven by technology. And more than a few eyes will be watching to see where she goes from here.