A seat at the table is always yours to take if you so wish to and are ready for the responsibility. When you stop being your own blocker, things fall into pieces.
Alexandra Petrus is an AI Product Strategist, building and contributing to shape tomorrow through AI. Looking at everything from different lenses: AI community CoFounder, Podcast Host, Innovation & Strategic Transformation Advisor, Council Member at World Economic Forum and more.
In a Nutshell: Tell us a bit about your job and what role technology plays in it?
I wear a few hats, but they all revolve around AI Product Strategy. I am on a mission to help shape tomorrow through a multidisciplinary use of deep tech technologies.
I co-founded Bucharest AI, a community in Eastern Europe, of around 2,300 members. Bucharest AI helps me stay in touch with a variety of AI perspectives and projects.
Head of Products, at Eyeware a deep tech Swiss startup building eye tracking solutions and giving devices, computers and robots the ability to understand human attention for applied industries like: automotive, robotics, retail, gaming and more.
Advisor to companies, and government officials on topics of innovation and strategic transformation.
Podcaster on the Applied AI Pod a podcast of real AI talks with real people.
Technology is at the very center of everything I do in my professional life. Building our tomorrow, regulating our tomorrow and preparing our workforce and society of tomorrow.
Where did your professional journey start and how did you get to where you are now?
There was a lot of exploration until I found my own set of strengths. First professional door was at a financial newspaper, then Communications & Marketing, then SaaS ranging from cloud apps to offline data backups, with everything counting from customer support to product management. Then joining the AI-driven products democratization, all in a human-centered perspective.
How I got here: with plenty of learning sprints and curiosity. Add a few other things like: focusing on my strengths, less on weaknesses; allowing space for failures and exploration; developing early a compass of my own values ( KIFF – Kaizen for continuous improvement, Innsaei for co-creation with the environment, Friendship and Fairness); not neglecting my personal life and getting inspired and support from my personal life; having mentors and inspiration in the little things. They all played their part.
What is the greatest transformation in technology you’ve witnessed in your career?
Technology gives us, humans, time back. The question is: How do we opt to spend this time we win back?
I cannot pick one, all are equally important and make me excited for a better tomorrow. I count:
- Autonomous driving and putting the human-in-the-loop human-machine interaction in the spotlight,
- Space shuttles built by private parties and finding cost efficiency in reusing shuttles
- Voice technologies being adopted by consumers
- DeepMind’s AlphaGo becoming the world’s Go champion
- Cryptocurrency and Blockchain
- CRISPR – DNA sequencing & digital biology
- Neuroscience – particularly neuromodulation. Paralyzed people to use thoughts to direct a robotic arm.
- 3D printing
They particularity they all bring: time. It gives us, humans, time back. The question is: How do we opt to spend this time we win back?
When you think about ‘women’ and ‘technology’ what comes to your mind first?
Collaboration. Women are genuinely open to collaboration and building together, with empathy towards multiple stakeholders. This particular aspect is what we’re missing in the new AI era. This is why New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, a young woman, manages to lead with empathy so well. This is why Ursula von der Leyen, mother of 7, leads in a strong and empathic way and the examples start showing up more.
We always hear there are not enough women working in Tech. What needs to happen to change that, which steps should be done to achieve gender equality in tech?
A girl is its own hero, can fight its own fights and can sail its own boat. She can, she will, she does. She is a force.
First seismic shift: Stop thinking ‘if you’re here, who takes care of your children.’ It’s a whole mindset change. Instead think ‘if you’re here, we’re stronger, let’s get the ball rolling.’
Second shift: Stop thinking in genes traits ‘if you are a woman, you have less physical power’. Think in strengths rather than weaknesses.
Third mindset shift: Encourage young girls to believe in themselves without waiting for a Prince to save them from a tower, for a hero to fight for them or exposing them with a recurrence that girls are all about external beauty. A girl is its own hero, can fight its own fights and can sail its own boat. She can, she will, she does. She is a force.
That means our mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, our society and work environment, all need to contribute in doing this much needed mindset seismic shift. It takes a whole village to raise a child is an African proverb. So, it takes an entire world to change a mindset.
Which was the best decision in your career?
Grace Hopper said: “A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” That was my best decision, always reinventing myself, always striving to understand and learn more, do more, go the extra mile. My best decision was and is to never settle from learning even when you get to a decently good spot. Learning never ceases.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your 14-year-old self?
No one knows what they’re doing, just have more self-confidence, worry less, follow and produce your path more. And read those Isaac Asimov and Dale Carnegie books earlier. Also, seats at the table don’t have names on them. A seat at the table is always yours to take if you so wish to and are ready for the responsibility. When you stop being your own blocker, things fall into pieces.
Alexandra Petrus is an AI Product Strategist, building and contributing to shape tomorrow through AI. Looking at everything from different lenses: AI community CoFounder, Podcast Host, Innovation & Strategic Transformation Advisor, Council Member @World Economic Forum and more.
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