How ActivaTeen came to be

This post was originally written by me for LinkedIn last December, 2017. 

Change and I are friends. Not best buddies though. Other than the truly evolved and enlightened, anyone who has grappled with change constantly will know what I mean when I discuss that twisty, bendy feeling in the pit of your stomach. I have worked in three continents, multi cultures, emerging technologies, big companies and seen start ups being birthed. One thing we know for sure is that the human was made to evolve, adapt, disrupt continuously. Willingly or unwillingly.

The AI Spring

In the spring of 2013, when very few people were talking about practical artificial intelligence, I reconnected with the founders of CognitiveScale. I thought I was over my tech days, but there was something else happening with cognitive computing movement.

Everyday we are overwhelmed by information. Everyday we are swimming in an ocean of data. Everyday we walk into meetings not having immediate access to critical insights that could impact our decisions.

For the first time, we could envision how like the internet, AI had the potential to change the way we work by breaking down silos across the enterprise, by using declared input to make inferences, observations and recommendations, by reducing risk, fraud and eliminating wastage through machine learning and discovery.This to me was the inherent promise of intelligence. Not to replace us. But to truly serve the human. To eliminate the confusion and provide clarity.

In short, I was hooked. The next four years were a wild ride as the company grew from seven to seventy to one hundred and forty. From Austin, to India to Europe to New York. From unknown to successful Series B funded, award winning top ten core AI start up, serving multiple Fortune 500 enterprise customers and partners.

It is also clear that like the internet, AI will continue to spawn, fragment and specialize in 2018. Myriad vendors with mega promises.

Caveat emptor.

The Shift

I had the good fortune to attend Whitney Johnson‘s Dare Dream Do inaugural circle in 2012 where she mentored us over a few weeks. She spoke about vision, timing, disruption and discipline.

“Disrupting yourself is critical to avoiding stagnation, being overtaken, and fast-tracking your personal and career growth.” ~ Whitney Johnson

It was time to shift gears. You know it. You feel it. You dream it. When you sense your fear of it, that is a good indication that it is right for you. After a few great conversations with CognitiveScale’s leadership team, we came to a decision. To move out of my full time role as VP of Marketing to an advisory position as their Community Impact Ambassador. Austin is known for its ability to unite business and community locally and globally. One of my first appointments this year will be to serve on the Austin Chamber of Commerce‘s 2018 Programs and Partnership Council.

The Talent Wars and Generation Z

Something else had started to happen during the last 24 months. I began mentoring high schoolers across various entrepreneurial competitions. I was also involved in CognitiveScale’s internship program since the company was founded. In addition, as a mother to three Generation Z girls, I was watching these digital natives swim in their natural habitat with ease as well as overload. There was a curious polarity with this generation. They were naturally entrepreneurial, practical realists, adept with the fluidity of their environment but also secretive collaborators. Connected yet increasingly isolated. They could navigate between private and public worlds with ease (I will be writing more about Generation Z in future posts).

I was witnessing first hand that schools are unable to keep up with the pace of disruption. The heavy cost of higher education and the widening talent gap where your four years, your debt and your unemployment was equating to a sub zero sum game. It was becoming apparent that this industry was in the throes of “outside in” disruption. It was going to be led by a “bottom up movement as technology shifts, vocational skilling, economic needs, mobility and distributed learning coalesce.

The path ahead takes me to a new venture, Activateen with other edtech partners focused on GenZ, integrated learning that combines emerging tech, digital fluidity, game thinking while increasing socio-emotional literacy. I hope to share more about my evolving journey with you in the following months and I would like to invite anyone who is passionate about edtech to inbox me.

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

#edtech #entrepreneur #careershift #artificialintelligence #cognitivescale

Walk on Water, Austin Townlake pic rights @ShakuSelvakumar

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