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July 9, 2020

Q&A with Shaka Senghor, TripActions’ New Head of Diversity, Equality & Inclusion

The TripActions Team
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We are delighted to share that Shaka Senghor has joined the TripActions team as head of diversity, equality & inclusion. Shaka is a speaker and advocate for shifting societal narratives through storytelling. His memoir, Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death and Redemption in an American Prison, debuted on The New York Times and The Washington Post Best Seller Lists. Shaka is a former MIT Media Lab Director’s Fellow and a former Fellow in the inaugural class of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Community Leadership Network. His 2014 TED Talk was featured in their “Year in Ideas” roundup and has more than 1.6 million views.

Shaka is a leader who builds and executes global strategies, develops thought-focused leadership, and envisions cultural campaigns as a consultant for businesses and non-profit organizations internationally. We sat down with Shaka to learn more about him, his experience as a storyteller and road warrior, and how his new role at TripActions will help us support a strong, diverse, and inclusive team worldwide.

TripActions: How did you come to learn about TripActions?

Shaka: I first met Ariel and Ilan at dinner with Ben Horowitz [principal at Andreessen Horowitz, investor in TripActions.] As someone who travels a lot, I found the product interesting and I could easily see how TripActions would be successful. I’m a frequent traveler and understand how frustrating travel can be, between airplane delays, schedule changes, and other challenges. There’s nothing worse than finding out your flight is delayed and not knowing how you are going to get where you need to go. It’s great to have a team of travel agents you can reach out to when you need help. Getting a proactive and real-time response is incredible.

From there, Ariel and I kept in close touch, and I began consulting with TripActions about a year ago, helping them foster a strong and open culture here as TripActions has been growing rapidly. Over that time I’ve become passionate about the company, its vision and mission, and it became clear that I could have the greatest impact by joining and leading the way towards a more diverse and inclusive culture.

TA: Why did you decide to join TripActions full-time?

Shaka: I decided to join TripActions because I believe in the vision, leadership of the company, and how the product supports business travelers. I think it's an exciting time to work in an industry that is being challenged by a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. Where many see chaos and confusion as it relates to the future, I see an opportunity to innovate in a space that serves the world and create first-class travel experiences with an eye on the future. I’m excited to bring a different level of expertise to the company. This is my first corporate gig, and there’s an opportunity to learn from experienced leaders as well.

TA: What are the opportunities you see in diversity, equality and inclusion in today's business world and in TripActions?

Shaka: The opportunities I see in diversity, equality, and inclusion as it relates to TripActions is to be a leader in acquiring often overlooked talent, promoting talent within the company while emphasizing the importance of recruiting in areas that other companies aren't actively thinking about. I’m also looking forward to helping to create employment pathways for untapped talent pools for opportunities in the tech and travel industry. As someone who has led an organization whose goals were to foster and grow women, non-binary, and people of color leaders, I have first-hand knowledge of the magic created when everyone contributes to building the proverbial table that people want a seat at.

TA: Following the recent protests that have dramatically increased awareness and conversations about equality, what progress do you think we will see as a society?

Shaka: I believe and hope we will see considerable progress as a society. For the first time in recent history, the world has been challenged to solve a series of global problems. While things are uncomfortable at the moment, I am confident that we will work through the discomfort and arrive on the right side of history. Systemic racism, sexism, and the exclusion and/or displacement of people from diverse backgrounds is slowly but certainly being undone by protest and policy changes in an unprecedented way.

It’s going to take an incredible effort from both the public and private sectors to create a more inclusive world both at work and throughout society.

TA: Shifting gears, what do you value most about travel?

Shaka: The thing I value most about travel is the spiritual connectivity I experience when flying through the air. Traveling has shown me the majesty of the universe and the beautiful tapestry of humanity that exists throughout the world. I have met some amazing people on flights--people who have become instant and lifelong friends. There is nothing more inspiring or empowering than soaring through the air, while dreaming of ways to make the world a better place.

TA: What's the one thing you can't travel without?

Shaka: Headphones. I love music, so headphones are a must for me. I enjoy vibing to a variety of music as I write. Beyond headphones, the thing I always pack for a trip is a fly pair of sneakers. I am a sneakerhead and make sure to bring at least one cool pair of sneakers on each trip.

TA: Favorite travel destination?

Shaka: This one is pretty tough. My favorite travel destination outside of flying to my hometown of Detroit, has been Ghana, which I visited in December. It was a powerful, beautiful, and spiritually rejuvenating trip.

TA: Window or aisle?

Shaka: I am definitely a window person. I love to dream and visualize the things I want to happen during my lifetime. Watching the clouds or stars at night from the window seat is a true joy for me.

TA: Best book for a long flight?

Shaka: I recommend Segu by Maryse Condé. It’s a beautiful book about a tribe called Segu and their journey from an independent kingdom to enslavement to religious persecution, and it’s ultimately about family.

TA: What question do you wish I had asked, and what's the answer?

Shaka: What is a hidden talent of mine? The answer is I am a pretty good interior designer.

Thanks for sharing more about yourself with us, Shaka. We’re thrilled to have you as part of the TripActions team, growing and supporting our employees. Individuals interested in learning more about working at TripActions should visit the careers page.

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