Aiming high and soaring in the marketing landscape, this Bengaluru hudugi, Aakriti Srikanth, has been in the spotlight for many reasons. She is making headlines after winning the Forbes 30 Under 30 Honouree for 2019, under the marketing and advertising list. The 26-year-old chief marketing officer for artificial intelligence (AI) at Red Hat has been involved in leading new AI initiatives. From being the only girl in her Computer Science class to becoming a strong feminist and perfectionist, the high achiever lets us in on her forays into the world of AI, and how this is just the beginning for her.
On her recent achievement, Aakriti says, “I couldn’t have achieved anything without the support of the people around me. Over the years, I have realised that it isn’t about passing around business cards, but taking the time to recognise the people behind them. I do believe that small things matter. And of course, it is impossible to achieve anything if you don’t give it your all and work persistently towards it.”
Aakriti studied at the Kellogg School of Management North-western University and also holds a Computer Science degree from the Ohio State University. The enterprising girl started her career at Deloitte and DE Shaw & Co, where Jeff Bezos served as the VP of Technology before starting Amazon.
She draws inspiration from her father, Srikanth Vasantharaj who has himself held key positions of general manager, VP and director at Sodexo.
She was born and raised in Bengaluru. and moved to the US to pursue her masters. She is currently staying in St Francisco.
About her work life, she says, “I think that doing impactful work for high growth rocket ships are often an answer, and I have had the opportunity to drive key initiatives at Red Hat and IBM Watson, Deloitte and DE Shaw & Co in my career. I drove key initiatives in the capacity of Head of AI Product at IBM Watson in 2016 and was hired by Red Hat for their AI initiative as the CMO for AI in 2017. Recently, IBM acquired Red Hat for $34 billion which is the largest software acquisition ever in the history. Prior to that, I won the IBM Watson competition and was a national finalist back when Watson first won against the grand champion on the Jeopardy game in addition to launching products at IBM Watson as one of their first and youngest product team members.”
For women rising to prominence in tech, much of the past 20 years has been spent trying to emulate the Bill Gates, Zuckerbergs and Steve Jobs of the world. As a woman in artificial intelligence (AI) and marketing, who has been involved in AI initiatives for major Fortune 500 companies such as Red Hat and IBM Watson, Aakriti is a strong feminist and is often seen promoting women to enter into the world of AI and technology.
“I was a rebel growing up. As an only child from India, I saw other women in my country suffer and be denied their basic human rights. Even here in the US, women sometimes underestimate themselves, but I was raised with the notion that nothing is impossible. Under the guidance of my parents, I grew up to be a feminist, with the belief that women can do whatever men can do. I learned that if you really want something, you have to go get it. Today, more and more tech workplaces are starting to recognise the skills we offer and the importance of traditionally feminine traits.”
She is also a Zumba instructor, a fitness addict and an Indian classical dancer who wished to be a pop star when she was in eighth grade.
On her plans for the future, she says, “I am launching something called Venture Amalgamator where I connect venture capitalists to entrepreneurs to help start-ups grow their business.”
About her secret to seeing success at such a young age, she says, “Believe in yourself and own your success. Understand the goals of the person you are getting to know and try to help them. Build your personal brand and strong working relationships: The idea for a marketing initiative is very important, and has to be presented while keeping the audience in mind.”