Insight from A3Venture's Shahidah Rashid
How do well-known and established businesses make sure their products continue to meet the needs of the future?
We recently sat down with Shahidah Rashid—Director of Marketing at A3Ventures, the innovational lab and capital investment engine of AAA Northern California, Nevada, and Utah (AAA NCNU)—to discuss just that.
"AAA has been a reliable, dependable brand for over a century," explains Shahidah. "Through A3Ventures, AAA NCNU invests in ideas and products that will continue to serve our Members and communities over the next 100 years.
Originally from Singapore, Shahidah came to the U.S. to attend the University of Chicago, studying economics.
She enjoyed learning why humans make their choices through the economic lens but noted a frustrating limit. "Economics is all 'in theory,' 'all other things being equal,'" Shahidah said. "But in practice, people are not that rational all the time. What about with all else not being equal?"
After a career in investment banking, Shahidah doubled down on her studies, pursuing an MBA at UC Berkeley.
"In grad school, my discipline was human-centered innovation and design, which is where psychology meets business," she said.
Shahidah launched a start-up project via a hackathon while in business school. She got bit by the entrepreneurship bug and wanted to impact a large group of people immediately. So when she saw a job opportunity at A3Ventures and learned that it was ticking off all her boxes, she applied.
During her career at A3Ventures, Shahidah has worked on projects including:
● AAA Smart Home, an extension of AAA's commitment as a leader in safety and service to the home through professional home security services.
● GIG Car Share, an on-demand car-sharing service that operates more than 1,000 hybrid and electric vehicles across the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento, West Sacramento, and Seattle.
● AAA House Manager, a service that helps homeowners keep up with home maintenance and maintenance planning.
● AAA Identity Champion provides identity monitoring services that protect against fraud and cyber-attacks.
● AAA Car Subscription allowed consumers to enjoy the benefits of vehicle ownership without the unknown costs of buying, leasing, or long-term renting.
Creating a culture of continuous improvement
Shahidah is always thinking of what is new and what is yet to come. Here are three habits she has developed to help her successfully do this:
1. Ask questions often. She learned that asking questions and seeking feedback can result in insights that help you succeed. From her manager's manager to her team, Shahidah frequently asks questions such as, "What would a successful outcome look like to you?", "How can I help you do your job better?" "Where would you like me to improve?" or "Are there any questions I haven't asked that would help us succeed?"
2. Don't give in to micromanaging. Shahidah attributes her team's success to their ability to work together and independently. "No one has a monopoly over good ideas," she said. "I have a diverse team with different strengths that I try to leverage and complement at every opportunity. I succeed when they succeed."
3. Find inspiration from everywhere. "In human-centered design, you will ask a lot of questions to a variety of stakeholders, from potential consumers to potential partners that help you gain a plethora of insights, and then you converge on what you think the solution might be," Shahidah explains. "Then you ask for feedback and focus on areas for improvement and so on. This divergence always brings inspiration."