Our Community of Business Leaders, Education Innovators and Youth Mentors

Shaku Selvakumar

Founder & CEO, Activateen, Marketing Innovation Leader and Former VP of Marketing at CognitiveScale

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Shaku Selvakumar is the founder and ceo of Activateen, a collaborative innovation zone for teenagers. She is a marketing innovation leader with multi-country, multinational and start-up experience having worked for Fortune 500 companies like IBM, Shell, and fast growth companies like CognitiveScale and Webify Solutions. She also currently serves as the Community Impact Advisor at CognitiveScale, a fast growth enterprise AI company.

Prior to this, she was the Vice President, Marketing for CognitiveScale. Here she led the company’s marketing strategy and execution from its inception and was instrumental in positioning it as one of the leading core AI startups garnering awards, influencer endorsement, and driving demand with Fortune 500 customers and partners. A prolific writer, her articles have appeared in various publications globally.

Previously, Shaku was the Customer Advocacy Leader for Social Business. Before this, she was the lead social and content strategist for IBM WebSphere.

Before IBM, Shaku managed the marketing and communications for Webify Solutions and played a key role in building awareness and demand leading to its acquisition in August 2006. She also worked as a brand and corporate communications strategist for Shell in Dubai.

Her work has won various awards including Forrester Groundswell, Hermes, and SIA. Shaku was recognized by IBM as top talent and is an alumni of the company’s Leadership Development Program. Most recently she was named Volunteer of the Year for Innovation by the Austin Chamber of Commerce.

Shaku holds Bachelor’s in Arts in Literature and Sociology, a Post Graduate degree in Mass Communications and a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Bradford.

She serves on Austin Chamber’s Programs and Partnership Council. She is  passionate about education reform. She is also an avid hiker, and her poetry is often inspired by the trails of Central Texas.

David Conover

Game Guru & Serious Video Games Learning Experience Designer

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David teaches the groundbreaking serious game design program at Connolly High School in Austin. He has been recognized for consistently breaking ground in the area of student engagement through the use of serious games.  He was recently nominated by The White House as a Maker of Change. IBM has designated him a Champion of the Cloud and EdCast calls him a Global Influencer.

David believes in making innovation an academic discipline.  After launching several entrepreneurial ventures, he seized on serious games as a movement he would like to be involved in and took on the challenge of using this new alternative educational tool for one of the toughest categories of education: at-risk youth.

Taking advantage of both open source and commercial database tools, David has introduced such innovations to his high school students as the first Medical Minecraft game; health games for children, produced by students; and more recently, a global cultural curriculum that has his students talking to other classes of students in Norway, Chile, Lithuania and other countries about serious issues like health and wellness, blockchain, and immigration.

David’s serious games curriculum design incorporates STEAM and PBL learning, instruction, innovation, and entrepreneurialism.  It is designed to equip students with the knowledge, skills, and perspectives that are needed to lead in the 21st century.

Deborah Kariuki

Award winning software engineer, developer and computer science educator

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Deborah is a visionary educator at Connolly High School, committed to an equitable education for all students by increasing computer education in K-16. Her belief is that every student should know and understand how to write code. Computational thinking is a key to survival in this technological world which will allow all students to become creators of technology and not just consumers of technology. She is a software engineer, programmer and software designer.

She teaches IB computer science HL 1&2, IB computer science SL 1&2, computer science 1, AP computer science, computer science III, IB Information technology for a Global society HL 1&2, & SL1 &2, Project Lead the Way CSE, Dual Credit University of Texas CS302, and Independent studies in Computer Applications She has also sponsored several clubs at her school which include TAME-Texas Alliance of Minority Engineers, Skills USA, NTHS- National Technical Honor Society, Computer Science and Computer Applications UIL, all in hope of giving students a social interaction place in order to recruit more girls in computer science and engineering.

Currently she serves as the Director of Round Rock Academy of Media and Arts and Technology (RRMAT). She is also UT Faculty/Staff Affiliate OnRamps/UTeach at University Of Texas

Deborah is a Siemens STEM Fellow. She is also a Board Member of Texas Alliance of Minority Engineers and a ACET (Alliance of Computer Science Educators in Texas) Board Member. She services as Vice Presidents of CSTA- TACSE (Computer Science Teacher Association Central Texas Chapter
STEM Academy Lead) and is a UIL Computer Science Coach. Other roles include National Technical Honors Sponsor and a Skill USA Advisor

Phaedra Boinodiris

Activateen Emerging Tech Advisor
IBM Blockchain Leader, Author, Serious Games Entrepreneur

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Phaedra Boinodiris is a member of IBM’s Academy of Technology where effectively she is an INTRA-preneur, kicking off internal startups that range from IBM’s first Serious Games and Advanced Simulation program to IBM’s first K-12 program- influencing curriculum in traditional and non-traditional learning spaces through entrepreneurship and social impact. She is keenly and wholeheartedly invested in Tech for Good and Ethics. Today, as a member of IBM’s Blockchain team, she is responsible for strategy and engagement.

Boinodiris happily mentors startups around the world as well as business school students at her alma-mater UNC-Chapel Hill where she is an active Adam’s Coach.

She is also the author of Serious Games for Business, published in 2014 by Megan-Kiffer press. Boinodiris’ earlier work in serious games are being used in over 1000 schools worldwide to teach students the fundamentals of business optimization. Boinodiris was honored by Women in Games International as one of the top 100 women in the games industry. Prior to working at IBM, she was a serial entrepreneur for 14 years where she co-founded WomenGamers.Com, a popular women’s gaming portal. There she subsequently started the first scholarship for women to pursue degrees in game design and development in the US.

Emile Kowalski

Design Engineer, IBM
Activateen Youth Mentor

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Emile Kowalski is a hardware design engineer at IBM with a master’s in electrical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. Emile is passionate about mentoring and has played an active role in the community in various volunteer positions. Recently, Emile lead a group of young students at the IBM sponsored, powHERful conference hosted in Austin, Texas.

As a sophomore in high-school, Emile was involved in a solar powered project which drew him to pursue a career in engineering. By the time he graduated from college, Emile had designed many side projects, ranging from a solar powered backup generator, sensing circuits for his room (temperature, light, movement) to game development. Emile’s current interests are internet of things, AI, cognitive computing, quantum physics, travel and last but not least, chess.

Amrish Chaubal

Activateen Guest Speaker: Artificial Intelligence
Product Architect, Industry Solution @ CognitiveScale

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Amrish is a performance driven and strategic thinking professional with strong product development and consulting experience in IT. A proven leader, with 19 years of experience, focused on revenue growth and customer engagement in banking, telecom, and healthcare. Currently at CognitiveScale, Amrish works with Fortune 500 customers to deliver AI technology to increase user engagement, improve decision-making, and deploy self-learning and self-assuring business processes. Amrish is also a Wharton MBA Program incumbent.

Prior to CognitiveScale, Amrish led the Watson Sports program at IBM Watson Labs and successfully delivered first-of-a-kind solutions for Masters Golf, US Open Golf and US Open Tennis using Watson technology and services. He also led project “Numerati” with mission to enhance IBM Watson’s capabilities to understand questions related to structured content such as human readable tables/charts in PDF or HTML format and provide answers from that content. Extensive experience with developing customer relations and business development. Specializes in IBM Watson (cognitive computing) technology and services, Business Process Management (BPM) and Distributed computing technologies such as J2EE, Service Oriented Architecture (SOA).

Lakshana Pant

Activateen Guest Speaker: Entrepreneurship
Co-founder and Director, IincoreLabs Inc

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Passionate entrepreneur and technologist with over 18 years’ experience converting complex business problems into flexible, scalable technology solutions for the customers. Lakshana established IINCORE as an xcubator to provide E2E solution for new startups from top business schools. Defined business strategy to align with company’s vision and mission. Established and developed successful clientele from scratch to six. Hired and managed the team to 15+ practitioners.

She is a successful software technologist and leader with extensive experience in defining and managing technical strategy and roadmap. She has demonstrated success in a range of technical and managerial positions with companies of all sizes ranging from startups to $100B global enterprises. Broad international experience working with customers in USA, Europe, and Asia. Lakshana is passionate about helping young adults find their path around innovation and personal leadership.

Susannah D. Kirksey

Activateen Emotional Wellness Leader
CEO @Kirksey, High-tech marketing executive and licensed professional counselor
@susannahkirksey https://www.linkedin.com/in/kirkseyco/

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Susannah D. Kirksey is a former high-tech marketing, PR, and leadership development executive with over 25 years’ experience achieving industry leadership and worldwide recognition for global Fortune 500 to early-stage start-ups. With deep expertise, broad experience and a proven track record of delivering results, Susannah has been at the forefront of emerging technologies throughout her career—from the Internet to the Cloud to Gaming and AI.

Her personal passion is the human mind. Susannah is now bringing to market solutions that combine technology, neurobiology and psychology. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Texas. As an executive coach and psychotherapist, she combines her technology experience with licensure in psychology to provide a new psychodynamic model for change, which enables rapid, effective and lasting results.

Susannah draws from integrative therapeutic modalities to provide mental wellness to a broad population: from individuals, couples and children– to adolescents, families and seniors. She integrates cognitive, psychodynamic, mindfulness and somatic methods such as EMDR to ensure the most effective treatment options. Susannah’s adolescent program helps teach teens learn mindfulness, healthy coping skills and interpersonal communications.

Susannah’s life purpose is to help people find freedom, meaning and fulfillment in their lives. Susannah holds a Masters of Arts in counseling psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute in California. She holds a Master of Arts from Middlebury College In Vermont and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Texas at Austin.

Randell Blankenship

Activateen Education Advisor
CEO, Crestcorp Group

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Randy Blankenship brings to ActivaTeen over 30 years of professional experience in the higher education and creative sector. He has served for multi campus corporate, privately owned and publicly traded firms as Executive Director, Campus Director, and Director of Admissions. He was co-founder of a college bound lead generation and scholarship platform and owns Crestcorp Group, a consultancy firm specializing in private school operations.

He is a founder and board member of Mediatech Ventures and serves as consultant and international Council Member for Gerson Lehrman Group. Randy enjoys helping others achieve success and excels in creating affordable solutions to attaining vocational and career goals.