“Here in the US, the quality of talent you are surrounded with is unmatched”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Ashutosh Garg, CEO & co-founder of Eightfold.ai, the first Talent Intelligence Platform to address the talent gap by harnessing the power of AI and search, and founder of Bloomreach, a leading vendor for Digital Experience Platforms. Prior to founding multiple enterprises, Ashutosh managed Search and Personalization efforts at both Google and IBM Research. With 6000+ research citations, 50+ patents, 35+ peer-reviewed research publications, and the outstanding Ph.D. thesis award from UIUC for his Ph.D. thesis in Machine Learning, it’s fair to say that Ashutosh Garg is one of the world’s experts in machine learning.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Growing up in a small town in India, my parents raised me to believe that education is the most important thing and that I should do whatever it takes to have the best education possible. My father traveled constantly for work and my mother stayed home to encourage my studies. I’m grateful to them for giving me the work ethic I have now and the opportunity to receive a world-class education both in India and in the US.
Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the US? Can you tell a story?
The search for the best education prompted my move to the US. I accepted a PhD program in 1998 after I realized that a degree from the US would help me solve bigger issues in the industry that I’m in. Out of all the computer science and machine learning programs in the world, the US had the absolute best opportunities.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?
My friend, Manish Sharma, who was already studying at UIUC when I arrived, had arranged a place for me to stay upon my arrival, which helped me settle in and make the move more manageable. He also connected me with Thomas Huang, my PhD advisor who provided invaluable professional and personal guidance in my life, from advising on research to helping me adapt the new culture.
So how are things going today?
While there are certain parts from home that anyone would miss, including being close to family, things are going very well for me professionally. I’ve now founded multiple companies, both of which are doing well. I’m especially proud of Eightfold.ai, my newest venture that is applying AI to solve the talent gap, a societal problem I’m deeply passionate about. I’m also thrilled to be able to provide for my two children (ages 1 and 4) with the best healthcare and education.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
The biggest thing is that I have an opportunity to influence many people’s lives here, more than I would have been able to if I had stayed home. At Eightfold.ai, we’ve created a team with incredible, driven people who are also concerned about the talent gap and are passionate about addressing it.
You have first hand experience with the US immigration system. If you had the power, which three things would you change to improve the system?
- Transparency — Because of the lack of transparency, most people don’t even know what will or will not get them through or how the system works. As a result, many of the people who could have an enormous impact on the society / economy, are not able to contribute.
- Decision making is extremely slow — I’ve met many people who have a great idea, funding, a team, but ultimately are not able to follow through because immigration can take anywhere from three to ten years. On top of this, it’s difficult to see people in their 20s struggle with immigration as they aren’t able to take advantage of the most relevant professional years of their lives.
- Proactive immigration — If the US wants to bring the best people in the world to build the best economy, why not proactively reach out to bring them here?
Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.
- Hard work –
- Perseverance — Don’t give up, even if you’ve been told “no” a few times.
- Optimism — Imagine things that have never been done in the past
- Paranoia — Unless you are constantly trying to course correct, you won’t get there. Stay optimistic but stay paranoid as to improve yourself.
- Community — Nothing impactful has happened by without a community to support the idea.
We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?
- The quality of talent you are surrounded with is unmatched
- The US has the most meritocratic society
- Giving back to society. That feeling I’ve never felt more strongly in any other society in the world than the US, but in monetary and service contributions to charities. People here like to engage and are generally willing to help other people.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
Muhammad Yunus — To me, he is the ultimate VC and entrepreneur. While a typical VC tends to go after someone who has already found success, he makes an entrepreneur out of anyone. I heard him speak while I was at Google and one of the things he mentioned in his talk was that hard work and money do not always go hand-in-hand. Being poor is not by choice. Circumstances and a lack of confidence by society keeps people in that position. To me, the ultimate idea of entrepreneurism is to give everybody purpose and a reason to work hard, something that encouraged me to build Eightfold.ai.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
If you would like to see the entire “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me” Series In Huffpost, Authority Magazine, ThriveGlobal, and Buzzfeed, click HERE.
Originally published at medium.com