I feel that the pandemic has given us a chance to celebrate the world’s unsung heroes. We are finally acknowledging essential workers who help maintain the infrastructure that sustains our daily lives, most of whom we have taken for granted in the past. I want to send a huge thank you to all delivery, grocery, restaurant, public transportation, utility plant, postal office, maintenance, facility, and our dedicated medical employees.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.
As a part of my series about how women leaders in tech and STEM are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Joana Gutierrez.
Joana Gutierrez is the Co-Founder and CEO of Aiko AI. Aiko AI is challenging traditional technology through the integration of artificial intelligence, pioneering ethical solutions to help our customers reap the benefits of AI in their work and personal lives. Aiko AI builds products with privacy, security, efficiency, design, and sustainability in mind. With multi-national and Fortune companies as customers, we were voted “Best Artificial Intelligence Company” by US Business News 2019 Technology Elite Awards; and our products have debuted at #1 on Product Hunt.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Thank you for having me Penny. Inspired by the explosion of unicorn startups and their ability to solve modern day problems, I transitioned from hedge fund management to start-up entrepreneur after receiving a front-end engineering scholarship sponsored by Google. I dove into the deep end of the technology pool, working at AI software startups, advising the first decentralized network for AI training on the blockchain, speaking at tech conferences, and being featured as a female disruptor in AI. After a few years of paying dues in the industry, my former colleagues approached me to join their growing company as their CEO, and this is how I became the Co-Founder and CEO of Aiko AI.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
We are in the fortunate position that without having launched what will be our landmark product, Aiko Mail, we have received serious interest or are in an evaluation period with prolific enterprise clients such as Samsung’s mobile business unit, French investment bank, Société General, and Merrill Lynch.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We will be launching Aiko Mail in the coming weeks. Aiko Mail is here to help you tackle information overload, and lets you breeze through your emails with the most advanced email assistance technology. Aiko Mail is an AI powered email app that works with your existing email inbox and integrates smart tools that help you manage emails efficiently; providing you with a superior email experience. Some notable features include AI summarization of your email contents in the preheader, intent detection with accompanying action item button, customizable task boards, and advanced tracking with blind copy detection. We will be initially launching with invite-only access. For more information, or to request access visit → helloaiko.com
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I hold the opinion that successful people couldn’t have gotten to where they were without having several people, experiences, and learning lessons that have helped shape their success. I won’t be able to narrow who I’m grateful for with one person. A few of the people that I would like to mention who have directly impacted my current trajectory are Marie Rocha, Managing Partner at venture capital firm, Realist Ventures; my Aiko AI Co-Founders, Priansh Shah, Chief Technology Officer, and Ruben Touitou, Chief Product Officer. Marie has been instrumental as a sound board for growth strategies, Aiko AI advocate, and influential in my decision to join Aiko AI. My Co-Founders, Priansh Shah and Ruben Touitou are amazing to work with as we are a precocious bunch. Priansh has won several hackathons, national scholastic, MIT entrepreneurial awards, built 90+ open source projects, and established his second start-up all by the ripe age of 19. Ruben became a professional computer engineer at the age of 14, when he took on his first digital design project. He has since worked with several prominent Fortune caliber companies. They are the reason why I am the CEO of such a groundbreaking company today.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman in STEM during this pandemic?
I feel that time management, balancing both professional and domestic related activities, while dealing with this underlying level of anxiety brought on by experiencing a global pandemic are some of the challenges we’re dealing with right now. We take for granted that commuting, and various locations such as offices, gyms, coffee shops, etc. created these clear boundaries that helped us prioritize what can be accomplished during a specific chunk of time. When all activities are jumbled under one roof because of a catastrophic event, you are not only forced to reprioritize “urgent” activities, you have to approach each activity with a bit of patience, taking into consideration that we’re all also trying to process these unprecedented times.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
I feel like the best way to deal with these challenges are to remember the importance of prioritizing my mental, spiritual, and physical self, because I can’t help my family if I’m not doing well. I’ve also practiced simple hacks such as sticking to a morning regimen of creating my wannabe barista level latte and reviewing some non-COVID related news. We have also decided to limit COVID related news consumption to once a day. My morning regimen sets a tone of order for the rest of my day. Working out, checking in on family and friends, and glasses of wine have also been helpful.
Can you share the biggest work-related challenges you are facing as a woman in STEM during this pandemic?
I feel like this pandemic has leveled the playing field for everyone, since we’re now all being affected by the same issue, regardless of gender or race. We’re all in the same boat. I think people in the work force have been extremely empathetic during these interesting times. I have never observed more online displays of support, and resources provided for women in tech, so I can’t attest to any work- related challenges. I just hope that this ongoing benevolence extends beyond this COVID environment.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
I have only experienced gestures of generosity from everyone in the tech ecosystem, from colleagues to investors to customers, so I can’t really share my opinion on this.
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
I’m observing that some strategies that have proven successful include: setting aside time on the weekends to create a weekly schedule designating work, kid’s activities, and house chores or errands; leveraging online educational and fitness platforms that provide several resources for parents to utilize with their kids; and recruiting other family members to elect activities and responsibilities.
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place for long periods with your family?
I find that expressing gratitude, working out, meditation, essential oil air diffusers, self-care at-home spa days, relaxing music, tasty wine, and cutting myself some slack when I’m feeling anxious, or if things aren’t going as intended, have all been tiny acts that have greatly contributed to maintaining sanity.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
My personal observations of the silver lining that has emerged during this pandemic include:
1. This global pandemic has been the single most democratizing event since the World War. Bosses and employees, friends and strangers, partners and competitors, rich and poor, all genders, all races have been affected equally. We can all empathize with health concerns and living in quarantine. In a sense, we are all unified in our victimhood.
2. I feel like people have been more open to communicating with each other (virtually and physically while at home) due to this newly found sense of unity. I also believe that since we don’t have the freedom to communicate as we once did, we find ourselves desiring connection more than we usually would.
3. This quarantine has given us an excuse to spend time with the people that we’re closest too. I treasure this once in a lifetime chance to spend quality time with the people I love.
4. I feel that the pandemic has given us a chance to celebrate the world’s unsung heroes. We are finally acknowledging essential workers who help maintain the infrastructure that sustains our daily lives, most of whom we have taken for granted in the past. I want to send a huge thank you to all delivery, grocery, restaurant, public transportation, utility plant, postal office, maintenance, facility, and our dedicated medical employees.
5. Our society is observing the true strength of our purchasing power. We now have an opportunity to rebalance where we place value. We have felt the effects of a global catastrophe, will we now take other global issues such as climate change, healthcare, mental health, etc. more seriously?
From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to your family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
In my experience, I believe that simple conversations, taking time to truly listen, and offering them a sympathetic ear or non-judgmental objective advice, is what my friends and family found most helpful for them. It gives them a chance to voice their frustrations, and not feel so isolated in their problems.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Women are like tea bags. You don’t know how strong they are until you put them in hot water.”
We are strong beyond belief; you need only test us to see the limitlessness of our power. Not only will women survive, but we will thrive in the face of this adversity.
How can our readers follow you online?
Aiko Website helloaiko.com
Aiko Twitter @thanksaiko
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!